Articles | Volume 7, issue 6
Development and technical paper
06 Nov 2014
Development and technical paper |  | 06 Nov 2014

On linking an Earth system model to the equilibrium carbon representation of an economically optimizing land use model

B. Bond-Lamberty, K. Calvin, A. D. Jones, J. Mao, P. Patel, X. Y. Shi, A. Thomson, P. Thornton, and Y. Zhou

Abstract. Human activities are significantly altering biogeochemical cycles at the global scale, and the scope of these activities will change with both future climate and socioeconomic decisions. This poses a significant challenge for Earth system models (ESMs), which can incorporate land use change as prescribed inputs but do not actively simulate the policy or economic forces that drive land use change. One option to address this problem is to couple an ESM with an economically oriented integrated assessment model, but this is challenging because of the radically different goals and underpinnings of each type of model. This study describes the development and testing of a coupling between the terrestrial carbon cycle of an ESM (CESM) and an integrated assessment (GCAM) model, focusing on how CESM climate effects on the carbon cycle could be shared with GCAM. We examine the best proxy variables to share between the models, and we quantify how carbon flux changes driven by climate, CO2 fertilization, and land use changes (e.g., deforestation) can be distinguished from each other by GCAM. The net primary production and heterotrophic respiration outputs of the Community Land Model (CLM), the land component of CESM, were found to be the most robust proxy variables by which to recalculate GCAM's assumptions of equilibrium ecosystem steady-state carbon. Carbon cycle effects of land use change are spatially limited relative to climate effects, and thus we were able to distinguish these effects successfully in the model coupling, passing only the latter to GCAM. This paper does not present results of a fully coupled simulation but shows, using a series of offline CLM simulations and an additional idealized Monte Carlo simulation, that our CESM–GCAM proxy variables reflect the phenomena that we intend and do not contain erroneous signals due to land use change. By allowing climate effects from a full ESM to dynamically modulate the economic and policy decisions of an integrated assessment model, this work will help link these models in a robust and flexible framework capable of examining two-way interactions between human and Earth system processes.