SIAM News Blog

Change the Conversation at the Local Level

The following is an output of the SIAM Convening on Climate Science, Sustainability, and Clean Energy which was funded by the NSF grant DMS 2227218. It is one of nine recommendations to federal research and development agencies for support of research and education to advance scientific knowledge, anticipate future conditions, accelerate clean energy innovations and sustainable practices, and increase resilience in the face of climate change. Download the workshop report, view presentation slides, and more below.

Big Idea

The discussion of climate change needs to be brought home to the local level. To achieve this goal, we propose the creation of a research program that focuses on (i) the development of a framework for evaluating novel metrics of data streams, and (ii) building community-level networks of local decision makers and leaders to evaluate how these new metrics can inform the development of appropriate incentives to improve climate mitigation behaviors. Such a program requires the combined efforts of mathematical, computational, and social, behavioral, and political scientists working collaboratively at multiple interdisciplinary centers.

Reasoning and Justification

With the growing threat of climate change, scientists and decision makers have proposed various policy options that may mitigate the causes of climate change. However, optimal climate change mitigation and adaptation are unlikely to occur through the introduction of scientific information and policy options alone. To enable behavioral change, a global effort to drive solutions at the local level is needed. Social behavior has both a rational and an irrational element; it is important to understand this mathematically to enable scientific recommendations for improvements to resiliency and sustainability in communities. By developing models that can explain the behavior at a local level, policy recommendations from scientific research can be transformed more efficiently into action.


We conservatively request $125 million for the establishment of five Multidisciplinary Climate Change Research Centers across the United States. This fund will provide $5 million per center for 5 years. These centers aim to help scholars in various disciplines — including but not limited to mathematics, statistics, social science, and engineering — to collaborate effectively with local community stakeholders to better understand human behavior.

Value and Impact

The proposed establishment of five geographically diverse, interdisciplinary research centers that focus on developing mathematical models that foster sustainable communities will enable mathematicians, social scientists, community leaders and other stakeholders to jointly address complex societal issues. The development of novel mathematical models that are equitable and just will deliver trustworthy information, eliminate biases toward historically underserved vulnerable communities, and support community leaders and other stakeholders to make well-informed decisions that benefit the entire community. The novel models will ingest heterogeneous data from diverse sources, including but not limited to climate, transportation, energy, water, and food sectors, and will provide actionable information that will enable the creation of software platforms and other technologies that will overall increase sustainability and resilience of our communities.

blog comments powered by Disqus