Nonlinear Processes in Geosciences

Workshop report: Mathematics of the Economy and Climate

Workshop report: Mathematics of the Economy and Climate

Just before the summer a group of about 40 scientists gathered in an old Monastery in the Netherlands (Kontakt der Kontinenten, Soesterberg) for a rather special collaborative workshop entitled “Mathematics of the economy and climate”. Mathematicians, climate scientists and economists – a group of scientists that normally does not mix and are rather unfamiliar with each other’s research – joined together for three days to learn from each other and discuss the most pressing research questions around ongoing climate change and its connections with the development of economic systems (

The workshop included high-profile speakers from Imperial College, ENS Lyon, London School of Economics and Yale. Prof. Tony Smith from Yale reported on recent research using the integrated assessment model developed by his colleague William Nordhaus (Nobel prize 2018) and presented attempts to view the global economic system and its interaction with climate in a spatially resolved way. This and many other interesting talks triggered lively discussions on, e.g., the adequacy of models in general and in particular in the different fields of research. Uncertainty in both the climate response and the economic development was one issue that was extensively discussed as it appears that economists tend to assume future climate (measured by, e.g., the equilibrium or transient climate sensitivity) as relatively well-known and vice versa.

There is still a long way to go for a good understanding of the combined evolution and interaction of the climate and the economic system. This workshop was a starting point for the different disciplines to learn to talk to each other. Participants enjoyed discussing with academics from different areas in an open-minded atmosphere. Finally it became clear that there are exciting and novel mathematical techniques available such as numerical methods for stochastic differential equations and dynamical systems to tackle the challenges ahead.

I am an assistant professor at the Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research at Utrecht University, the Netherlands. My work focusses on (palaeo-) climate phenomena and transition behaviour in climate using a hierarchy of climate models and stochastic dynamical systems approaches. Moreover I’m using state-of-the-art (high resolution) climate models to quantify the state-dependent climate response to forcing. Currently I am active in the Netherlands Earth System Science Centre (NESSC), the Centre for Complex Systems Studies in Utrecht (CCSS) and a H2020 funded project on tipping points in the Earth System (TiPES).

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