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One Model to Fit All? The Pursuit of Integrated Earth System Models in GAIM and AIMES
Linköping University, Department of Thematic Studies, Department of Water and Environmental Studies. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Linköping University, Department of Thematic Studies, Centre for Climate Science and Policy Research.
2015 (English)In: Historical Social Research / Historische Sozialforschung, ISSN 0172-6404, Vol. 40, no 2, 271-297 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Images of Earth from space popularized the view of our planet as a single, fragile entity against the vastness and darkness of space. In the 1980s, the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program (IGBP) was set up to produce a predictive understanding of this fragile entity as the ‘Earth System’. In order to do so, the program sought to create a common research framework for the different disciplines involved. It suggested that integrated numerical models could provide such a framework. The paper historicizes the formation of the present ways of thinking about how the components are combined to produce policy-relevant knowledge about the ‘Earth System’. The empirical basis consists of project documentation, publications and interviews from the Task Force on Global Analysis, Interpretation and Modelling (GAIM) and the project Analysis, Integration and Modelling of the Earth System (AIMES). Within the IGBP GAIM and AIMES fostered the advancement of ‘Earth System’ modeling. The paper divides the development of ‘Earth System’ modeling up into three phases. Research of the first phase mainly concerned the interpretation of model behavior (1984-1997), in the second phase integration and ‘Earth System’ analysis was placed at the center of research efforts (1998-2003). In the third phase AIMES scientists explored the consequences of incorporating humans as a dynamic component in the ‘Earth System’ (2004-). This transition shows how the rendering of the global environment as increasing complex rearranged the roles of modelers and predictability of the ‘Earth System’.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. Vol. 40, no 2, 271-297 p.
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary Sociology Political Science
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-110651ISI: 000352520400013OAI: diva2:747913

I would like to express my gratitude toward all the interviewees for generously giving of their time; to the anonymous reviewer, Mathias Friman and Green Critical Forum for valuable comments on the manuscript; and to the Linkoping University LiU FoAss program for funding my research.

Available from: 2014-09-17 Created: 2014-09-17 Last updated: 2016-06-15
In thesis
1. Seeing and Knowing the Earth as a System: An Effective History of Global Environmental Change Research as Scientific and Political Practice
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Seeing and Knowing the Earth as a System: An Effective History of Global Environmental Change Research as Scientific and Political Practice
2014 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Alternative title[sv]
Att förstå och utforska jorden som ett system : En historik läsning av den globala miljöforskningens som vetenskaplig och politisk praktik
Abstract [en]

Previous research connecting scientific knowledge production with governing of the global environment usually start in international climate change negotiations and related assessments. From that vantage point Earth system science and models are studied as an expansion of Global Circulation Models. By tracing of the history of the present Earth system outlook this thesis offers a reflection about how scientific knowledge produce and connects problems with descriptions of desired order of things and strategies to get there. Knowledge becomes a productive power by shaping fields of possible action in relation to the global environment. The interpreted empirical material consists of scientific discussions from the International global environmental change programmes and particularly the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) and the International Human Dimensions Programme on global environmental change (IHDP). The studied period spans from the start of the planning of the IGBP in 1983 to the presentation of the new research programme Future Earth in 2013. The thesis is organised around the effects of the IGBP’s strategy to use predictive Earth system models as a tool to bring a broad range of scientific disciplines together. The results demonstrate the historicity of the present Earth system outlook by showing how ecosystems and human dimensions were attributed new and more important roles as drivers of global change. The thesis also argue for the need to approach the ‘Earth system’ as a result of a productive tension between top-down perspectives found in global modelling and bottom-up empirical research engaging with process interactions down to local scales.

Abstract [sv]

Genom att studera diskussioner inom internationella miljöforskningsprogram spårar den här avhandlingen framväxten av dagens syn på planeten jorden som ett sammanlänkat system – Jordsystemet. Kopplingen mellan makt och kunskap, styrning och mentaliteter, ligger till grund för studiens tolkande ansats. Den knyter samman sätt att betrakta och beräkna den globala miljön, grunden för jordsystemperspektivet, och de handlingsalternativ det synliggör inom politik och vetenskap. Studien baseras primärt på analyser av arkivmaterial från International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) och International Human Dimensions Programme of Global Environmental Change (IHDP). Tillsammans representerar dessa två program ett brett nätverk för forskning om globala miljöförändringar. Den undersökta perioden startar i och med planeringen av IGBP 1983 och avslutas 2013 med att Future Earth etableras som ett nytt internationellt program för forskning om globala miljöförändringar. Avhandlingen undersöker effekter av IGBPs strategi att använda prediktiva Jordsystemmodeller som ett redskap för att integrera och koordinera forskningen om globala miljöförändringar. Studiens resultat visar på historiciteten i nuvarande sätt att betrakta Jordsystemet. Framförallt studeras hur introducerandet av ekologisk och social komplexitet i förståelsen och modelleringen av Jordsystemet hänger samman med en förändrad bild av relationen människa-miljö och därmed också bilden av globala miljöförändringar som vetenskapligt och politiskt problem. Avhandlingen visar att förståelsen av Jordsystemet vuxit fram i en produktiv spänning mellanovanifrånperspektivet i globala modeller och lokalt förankrad socio-ekologisk interaktion.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2014. 91 p.
Linköping Studies in Arts and Science, ISSN 0282-9800 ; 631
Earth system, Global change, Governmentality, History of the present, history of environmental science, Jordsystemet, Globala miljöförändringar, Governmentality, nuets historia, miljövetenskapernas historia, internationella forskningsprogram, miljöpolitik
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary Environmental Sciences Political Science
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-110654 (URN)10.3384/diss.diva-110654 (DOI)978‐91‐7519‐236‐9 (print) (ISBN)
Public defence
2014-10-17, Vallfarten, Hus Vallfarten, Campus Valla, Linköpings universitet, Linköping, 13:00 (Swedish)
Available from: 2014-09-17 Created: 2014-09-17 Last updated: 2014-09-26Bibliographically approved

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