BC3. Basque centre for climate change – Klima aldaketa ikergai


Knowledge Based Climate Mitigation Systems for a Low Carbon Economy perseus logo

The science of complex systems distinguishes linear from non-linear dynamics. Simpler systems can often be satisfactory described by linear models, but complex systems require non-linear models that can capture more of the characteristics of such systems, such as thresholds, feedback loops, avalanche effects, and irreversibility.

Linear systems can be validated by aligning models to the past and using the model to predict the future. Non-linear systems, however, are often time-asymmetric - they can be explained with the wisdom of hindsight, but are not always predictable. For example, systems may respond sharply to minor perturbations, and the quality of this response is a measure of the system resilience. In practice, non-linear dynamics are significant both at the micro-scale of small history and at the macro-scale of deep time. The brilliant young scientist, for example, may experience a series of epiphanies that change his/her understanding and behaviour in an unpredictable and irreversible way. The scientific community as a whole may experience an innovation-cascade that has a similar effect on a much larger scale.


Current models of climate change and carbon emission assume the immediate past is a reasonable guide to the future. They struggle to represent the complex causal structures and time-asymmetries of many socio-natural systems. COMPLEX will integrate the quasi-classic models of meso-scale processes with our best understanding of fine-grained space-time patterns and the system-flips that are likely to occur in the long interval between now and 2050. We believe the sub-national region is the key point of entry for studying climate change and its cause-effect interrelations. It is small enough to be sensitive to local factors, large enough to interact with supra-national agencies and stable enough to be historically and culturally distinctive. In addition to undertaking case studies in Norway, Sweden, Netherlands, Spain and Italy, We will develop a suite of modelling tools and decision-support systems to inform national and supra-national policy and support communities across Europe working to make the transition to a low-carbon economy

Start date: October 2012

End date: September 2016

Call: FP7-ENV-2012-two-stage (European Commission)

Partners in the COMPLEX consortium:

University of Newcastle Upon Tyne (United Kingdom) - Coordinator
Universitet Twente (Netherlands)
Sigtunastiftelsen (Sweden)
Sveriges Lantbruksuniversitet (Sweden)
Universita degli studi di Padova (Italy)
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (France)
Sintef Energi As (Norway)
Internationales Institut fuer Angewandte Systemanalyse (Austria)
Observatorio para una cultura del Territorio (Spain)
Stockholms Universitet (Sweden)
Scientific foundation Nansen International Environmental and Remote Sensing Centre (Russian Federation)
Nederlandse Organisatie voor Toegepast Natuurwetenschappelijk Onderzoek (Netherlands)
Institut National de Recherche en Sciences et Technologies pour l'environnement et l'agriculture (France)
Electricite de France (France)
University of Sussex (United Kingdom)
BC3 Basque Centre for Climate Change (Spain)
Max Plank Gesellschaft zur foerderung der Wissenschaften (Germany)

Key people involved in BC3:

Prof. Anil Markandya
Dr. Mikel González 
Dr. Iñaki Arto 
Dr. Kishore Dhavala
Dr. Xaquin García

Objectives and concepts: The transition to a low carbon economy requires the EU to cut its domestic GHG emissions by 80% between 1990 and 2050. Transforming Europe into a low carbon economy will involve major scientific, technical, economic and cultural changes. Our principal objective is to make information and knowledge accessible in a way that will facilitate innovation and reconciles the Roadmap to a Low Carbon Economy with the Innovation Union initiative. The involvement of a wider range of stakeholders and institutional actors is particularly significant because our task requires us to characterise threats and, where possible, convert them into opportunities for economic and cultural innovation.

Cause-effect relations in climate / energy / economy systems are complex and non-linear. COMPLEX will develop an integrated suite of climate-energy-economy models, which will trace feedbacks between systems on various scales. Specifically, we will

  • modify and upgrade existing models;
  • Develop new modelling tools and techniques and
  • solve problems of subsidiarity and knowledge integration to facilitate innovation.

This modelling effort will include better representation of the impacts of climate change at different geo- political scales, estimate of the potential supply of alternative energy sources in the changing environment and under different mitigation policy regimes, and potential penetration of low carbon technologies within the EU economic arena. We will focus on the detailed modelling of impacts on economic sectors, non-marginal changes in demand on alternative energies and subsequent emission of GHG. 

We will also address the interplay between institutional processes, including policy-making, economic and cultural phenomena. We will acquire new knowledge and develop the modelling tools needed to represent it. We will consult disciplinary and stakeholder communities and integrate findings with state-of-the-art quantitative models with new qualitative, statistical, participatory and agent-based approaches. The modelling suite we develop will include a set of tools that focus on underlying large-scale phenomena - non-linear climate responses, regime shifts in economic-ecological systems, technological change and its implications, development of economic opportunities arising from climate mitigation, enhanced resource efficiency and effective cost-benefit evaluation.

Website: www.complex.ac.uk/

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