Incorporating human behaviour into Earth system modelling


Climate change and other challenges to the stability and functioning of natural and managed environmental systems are driven by increasing anthropogenic domination of the Earth. Models to forecast the trajectory of climate change and to identify pathways to sustainability require representation of human behaviour and its feedbacks with the climate system. Social climate models (SCMs) are an emerging class of models that embed human behaviour in climate models. We survey existing SCMs and make recommendations for how to integrate models of human behaviour and climate. We suggest a framework for representing human behaviour that consists of cognition, contagion and a behavioural response. Cognition represents the human processing of information around climate change; contagion represents the spread of information, beliefs and behaviour through social networks; and response is the resultant behaviour or action. This framework allows for biases, habituation and other cognitive processes that shape human perception of climate change as well as the influence of social norms, social learning and other social processes on the spread of information and factors that shape decision-making and behaviour. SCMs move beyond the inclusion of human activities in climate models to the representation of human behaviour that determines the magnitude, sign and character of these activities. The development of SCMs is a challenging but important next step in the evolution of Earth system models.

Publication Type
Journal Article
Brian Beckage, University of Vermont
Frances C. Moore
Katherine Lacasse, Rhode Island College
Nature Human Behaviour

Related Content