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Let’s solve N

Human activity damages the environment of Earth every day. Deforestation, freshwater pollution, scarcity of freshwater, oil drilling and fracking pose a threat to the delicate balance needed to maintain life. Nature is valuable, yet vulnerable. We must ensure that our planet remains habitable for future generations. If not for us, then for our children and successors.

We have formed this initiative with researchers and supporters around the world to solve the equations surrounding nature (=N). Having an understanding of N will enable us to ultimately resolve climate change, freshwater, deforestation, and other sustainability issues. To fully address the environmental issues we are facing, we have to understand the interconnected relationships between all organisms and the complexity of nature.

The number of variables and unknowns involved in solving N requires the development of machines capable of solving the most complex computations. In particular, emerging nature-inspired computational methods (physics and bioinspired) are considered promising for creating such machines.

Join our initiative to solve N. Towards a better future.

Climate Change and Mathematics

Climate change affects humans and natural environments today and particularly in the future. Mathematical knowhow is necessary in producing knowledge about climate change, understanding it as a phenomenon and contributing to the climate debate. Therefore, learning mathematics plays an important role in building a climate-friendly world by raising critical thinkers, active citizens and young scientists.

Climatology needs Mathematics

Scientists discovered the first signs of climate change already over 100 years ago, and ever since then knowledge of climate issues has increased and become more accurate. However, there has been a great deal of procrastination over developing mitigation strategies. This indicates that scientists alone can’t fix the problem, but solving it requires participants from all walks of life.

Learning mathematics boosts abstract thinking, which is an essential tool for anyone interested in climate issues. The senses are not the only authoritative source of knowledge and it is not possible for any individual to perceive planetary climate change. Weather and climate form a complex system affected by ever-changing conditions of the atmosphere, oceans, glaciers and land. The climate of a specific place is determined by the average weather conditions over a long period of time. In other words, climate is about weather statistics and therefore climate change is a statistical phenomenon, the effects of which are seen in the world around us. Thus climate science requires large-scale application of mathematics.

Mathematics is needed for describing and projecting changing climate and communicating those findings. In order to describe the changing climate, we need to know first of all what is “normal”. For this, we have to calculate environmental measurements concerning temperature, rainfall, snow cover, sea level, amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere etc. By calculating averages, analyzing variance and making diagrams, we can find out whether the climate has changed and how.

Predicting future climate requires mathematical modelling with differential equations and stochastic methods. Climate models are complex entities and they require, inter alia, different types of atmospheric, oceanic and cloud modelling as well as modelling of their interconnectedness. As a result, we can get many different projections of future changes in the climate. These models are useful for decision-makers, businesses and active citizens pondering action over climate change mitigation.

Climate knowledge is embodied in texts, diagrams and charts. Communicating this complex information within the scientific community and among decision-makers, planners and the public requires an audience with mathematical literacy. Thus communicating climate knowledge requires mathematical skills within both the producers as well as the consumers of this knowledge.

How Mathematics can make a Difference

Mathematics is a powerful tool for effective problem solving as well as exercising power – including political power. Therefore, mathematics is linked to human-made value assessments benefitting some more than others. Hence, mathematics is not neutral. This concerns the boundary conditions in models, algorithm design and choice of parameters. However, decision-making based on sheer mathematics excludes a number of factors that cannot be mathematized, such as human values, friendship and empathy.

To participate efficiently in a democratic society, people need a critical understanding of mathematics, its possibilities and limitations as a tool of producing knowledge. This should also apply to finding solutions for climate change, as well as playing a role as an active citizen.

Useful further reading:

NASA – Earth Math: “A Brief Mathematical Guide to Earth Science and Climate Change”
This book provides many of the quantitative skills needed to make sense out of climate change. To think quantitatively about climate change, people must become fluent in working with Celsius and Fahrenheit temperature scales. People also should understand the difference between watts, kilowatts and kilowatt hours; tons and gigatons; and BTUs and tons of carbon dioxide. All of these units appear in news stories about climate change and human impacts on the environment. The problems in this guide include basic mathematics, algebra, geometry and some trigonometric functions. The one-page assignments are accompanied by one-page answer keys.

MPE Mathematics of Planet Earth
Mathematics of Planet Earth (MPE) an initiative of mathematical science organisations around the world designed to showcase the ways in which mathematical sciences can be useful in tackling our world’s problems. It is a grass-roots movement for mathematical scientists, engineers, and anyone with a scientific background interested in learning about the past, current and future state of our planet, using mathematical and computational models and data analytics to support science-based decision making. 

Useful research papers:

Designs for learning about climate change as a complex system
This paper reports on a study in which students used agent-based computer models to learn about complex systems ideas of relevance to understanding climate change. The experimental condition used a Productive Failure (PF) learning design in which ninth grade students initially worked with agent-based computer models to solve challenge problems followed by teacher instruction about targeted climate and complexity ideas. In contrast, the comparison condition employed a Direct Instruction (DI) learning design in which the teacher instruction was provided initially, followed by the students working on the same computer models and challenge problems as the experimental group. The students in the PF group scored significantly higher on the post-test on measures of climate and complex systems explanatory knowledge and near and far knowledge transfer. Theoretical and practical implications of these findings are considered.

Mathematical Modelling of Deforestation of Forested Area Due to Lack of Awareness of Human Population and Its Conservation
Abstract: As the density of human population increases the forest density will be highly affected by population from time to time for agricultural, industrial, economic purpose, and etc. Because of lack of awareness about the importance of forestry resources, the human populations clear forests for different purposes. Keeping this in mind, a nonlinear mathematical model is proposed and analyzed to study the deforestation of forest resources due to lack of clear information about utility of the forest as well as to increase forestry resources by plantation on the conservation of forestry resources. The model is in the form of ordinary differential equations. The result of this study shows that as the density of population as well as population pressure increases, the cumulative density of forest resources decreases. Reversely, the test of supporting human awareness on the importance of forest resources for global purposes show that as awareness of human population increases the declaration of forest resources decreases. In addition to this, increasing the density of forest resources through plantation may replace the clear-cut of forest area. This help the conservation carried out to in force the pressure of human population to save the forest density and forest habit. For these findings analytical and numerical analyses are performed.

Mathematical modeling of complex forest ecosystems: impacts of deforestation
Abstract. We propose an innovative mathematical model for studying the dynamics of a complex network of forest ecosystems, in which two forest entities interact which each other through water exchanges. Our model reproduces a recently analyzed principle of constant precipitation quantity over densely forested areas. We perform a stability and bifurcation analysis and show that the distance separating two forest ecosystems can attract a part of the network to an extinction state. We incorporate a randomly generated perturbation modeling deforestation and investigate the effect of the level of deforestation on the equilibrium states of the network. We also exhibit a type of synchronization in the case of densely distributed forest ecosystems.

A Mathematical Model of Water Pollution Control Using the Finite Element Method
Abstract: The numerical solution of water pollutant transport problems arises in many important applications in environmental sciences. In this research, the finite element method for solving the one-dimensional and two-dimensional steady state convection-diffusion equation with constant coefficients of nearly closed water area is presented. The presented mathematical models as COD1DIM1 and COD2DIM1 are developed in MATLAB code. The validity of the numerical models is obtained by comparing the results with analytical solutions of testing problems.

Mathematical Modelling on Water Pollution and Its Effects on Aquatic Species
Abstract: This review is intended to summarise the harmful effects of water pollution and the threat to aquatic species to provide a solution using mathematical modelling. The recent developed models help us to predict the changes in water quality and to stop further damage. In this paper, it has been closely observed that the water bodies become polluted due to release of untreated waste, sewage, dissolved oxygen, bacteria and toxic chemical substances from Industries which is worsening the physical, chemical and biological properties of water. This has been clearly explained in the paper with the help of numerous references. The
amount of dissolved oxygen in water bodies, their pH values, nutrients, Biochemical Oxygen Demand and the process of self-purification is also discussed. The mathematical concepts used for one-dimensional habitats to solve non-linear differential equations.