Prospects and challenges of regional modeling frameworks to inform planning for food, energy, and water systems: Views of modelers and stakeholders

Seth P. Tuler, Thomas Webler, Robin Hansen, Charles J. Vörösmarty, Jerry M. Melillo, Donald J. Wuebbles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Multisectoral models of regional bio-physical systems simulate policy responses to climate change and support climate mitigation and adaptation planning at multiple scales. Challenges facing these efforts include sometimes weak understandings of causal relationships, lack of integrated data streams, spatial and temporal incongruities with policy interests, and how to incorporate dynamics associated with human values, governance structures, and vulnerable populations. There are two general approaches to developing integrated models. The first involves stakeholder involvement in model design -- a participatory modeling approach. The second is to integrate existing models. This can be done in two ways: by integrating existing models or by a soft-linked confederation of existing models. A benefit of utilizing existing models is the leveraging of validated and familiar models that provide credibility. We report opportunities and challenges manifested in one effort to develop a regional food, energy, and water systems (FEWS) modeling framework using existing bio-physical models. The C-FEWS modeling framework (Climate-induced extremes on the linked food, energy, water system) is intended to identify and evaluate response options to extreme weather in the Midwest and Northeast United States thru the year 2100. We interviewed ten modelers associated with development of the C-FEWS framework and ten stakeholders from government agencies, planning agencies, and non-governmental organizations in New England. We inquired about their perspectives on the roles and challenges of regional FEWS modeling frameworks to inform planning and information needed to support planning in integrated food, energy, and water systems. We also analyzed discussions of meetings among modelers and among stakeholders and modelers. These sources reveal many agreements among modelers and stakeholders about the role of modeling frameworks, their benefits for policymakers, and the types of outputs they should produce. They also identify challenges to developing regional modeling frameworks that couple existing models and balancing model capabilities with stakeholder preferences for information. The results indicate the importance of modelers and stakeholders engaging in dialogue to craft modeling frameworks and scenarios that are credible and relevant for policymakers. We reflect on the implications for how FEWS modeling frameworks comprised of existing bio-physical models can be designed to better inform policy making at the regional scale.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1067559
JournalFrontiers in Environmental Science
StatePublished - 2023


  • climate resilience
  • coupled models
  • food-energy-water systems
  • integrated assessment models
  • regional planning
  • stakeholder engagement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science


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