Workshop: Sustainability in the Digital Age I - Resilience facing Global Changes


Tuesday 21 May 2019
From 8AM To 6:30PM



Organized by CIRANO, CRM, Future Earth, Ouranos, RCM2 and RMA - Christiane Rousseau (CRM) and Bernard Sinclair-Desgagné (CIRANO) - this workshop was the first of a series on the theme “Sustainability in the Digital Age”, organized under the leadership of Future Earth. The purpose of the workshop was to seed a global initiative around sustainability in the digital age.

Scientific description:

The Earth is a complex system of systems, ecosystems, socio-ecosystems, where multiple components and stakeholders interact often through feedback loops at different scales thus inducing numerous nonlinearities and uncertainties. As the world population is projected to increase to 9.8 billion by 2050 and we have already crossed four of the nine planetary safe boundaries (Rockstrom et al 2009) including climate and biodiversity ones as a result of human activity, we are increasing our risk of large-scale disruption of nature and driving the Earth system and Mankind into new and non viable states and trajectories. Achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals will require systems change and adaptation: major shifts in how we produce and consume goods, on how we account for climate, biodiversity or ecosystem services in the public policies and assessments, on how we balance present and future and in how we build societal resilience. In particular, to transform a system, we must identify what systems scientists call, “leverage or tipping points.” These are places within a complex system where a small shift in one thing can produce big changes in everything. The digital age is opening new opportunities for identifying leverage points, management and governance promoting sustainability of planet Earth and Mankind.

The workshop focused on listing some problems worth solving and some transformative opportunities that can lead to systems change for addressing climate change, biodiversity erosion and global sustainability more broadly.

Themes of the working groups:

  • (i) Operationalize the ecosystem approach in the Digital Age: Big Data, machine learning and IA for the calibration of complex and systemic models induced by environmental challenges and sustainability (climate change, biodiversity erosion, water management, etc.) and integrating multi-dimensional dynamics, non-linear, spatially explicit, multi-drivers (anthropic pressures, public policies, climate, ...) and uncertainties.
  • (ii) Operationalizing sustainability and resilience in the Digital Age: Which numerical and machine learning, IA methods for multi-criteria normative approaches, balancing ecological, economic, and social goals, promoting intergenerational equity (reconciling transients and asymptotics) as well as robustness and adaptation to cope with uncertainties, shocks and risks.
  • (iii) Which governance for Sustainability in the Digital Age? Big Data, machine learning and AI at the service of strategic interactions, participative methods and cooperation via game theory and multi-agent theory.


This workshop was coupled with the World Conference on Natural Resource Modelling (WCNRM2019), which took place in Montreal on May 22-24 2019.

Luc Doyen

Luc Doyen is President of Resource Modeling Association (RMA) and CNRS Researcher at Université de Bordeaux (France). His research area includes the following topics: i) Bio-economic modeling, Ecological economics; ii) Sustainability criteria, Viability, Precaution; iii) Fisheries and marine biodiversity management; iv) Farming land-use and birds biodiversity; v) Control of dynamic systems under constraints.
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Carla P. Gomes

Carla Gomes is a Professor of Computer Science and the director of the Institute for Computational Sustainability at Cornell University. Gomes received a Ph.D. in computer science in the area of artificial intelligence from the University of Edinburgh. Her research area is Artificial Intelligence with a focus on large-scale constraint reasoning, optimization, and machine learning. Recently, Gomes has become deeply immersed in research on scientific discovery for a sustainable future and more generally in research in the new field of Computational Sustainability. Computational Sustainability aims to develop computational methods to help solve some of the key challenges concerning environmental, economic, and societal issues in order to help put us on a path towards a sustainable future. Gomes has (co-)authored over 150 publications, which have appeared in venues spanning Nature, Science, and a variety of conferences and journals in AI and Computer Science, including five best paper awards. Her research group has been supported by over $50M in basic research funds. Gomes is a Fellow of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), and a Fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
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Alexis Hannart

Alexis Hannart graduated from École Polytechnique and ENSAE (France) in econometrics and data science. He also holds a doctorate in climate science from Pierre and Marie Curie University (France). He worked for several years as a data scientist for risk management in the United States, in the academic sector as a researcher in climate science and as deputy director of a CNRS-INSU laboratory in Argentina. Dr. Hannart joined Ouranos in 2017 as a senior researcher. His dual expertise in climate science and data science is used for several local and international research projects, conducted in close collaboration with academia.
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Amy Luers

Amy Luers comes to Future Earth from the Skoll Global Threats Fund (SGTF) where she was Director of Climate. Previously, she was the Assistant Director for Climate Resilience and Information at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Dr. Luers spent a number of years at Google as the Senior Environment Program Manager. Prior to Google she led the climate program at the Union of Concerned Sciences California office. Luers started her career in Latin America as co-founder and the first executive director of Agua Para La Vida (Water for Life), working with rural communities to enhance access to potable water. She has published in both academic and the popular media on issues related to vulnerability to global environmental change, data, sustainability, climate policy, and science communication. A respected scientist and data innovator, Luers has been recognised as a PopTech fellow, a Switzer Environmental Fellow, Heinz Environmental Scholar, and has advised the California state government, the White House, and the United Nations. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and has served on committees of the National Academies of Sciences. Luers holds a Ph.D. in environmental science and an M.A. in international policy studies, from Stanford University; a B.S. and M.S. in environmental systems engineering from Humboldt State University; and a B.A. in philosophy from Middlebury College.
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8:00 - 8:50
Registration and Coffee
8:50 - 9:00
Welcoming Remarks
9:00 - 9:40
Resilience in the Digital Age
Amy Luers
9:45 - 10:25
Computational Sustainability
Carla P. Gomes
10:30 - 11:00
Coffe Break
11:00 - 11:40
Quantifying the impacts and risks of a changing climate: several cases where machine learning represents a big potential
Alexis Hannart
11:45 - 12:25
Mathematics and Numerics for Scenarios of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services
Luc Doyen
12:30 - 13:30
13:30 - 15:30
Working groups
15:30 - 16:00
Coffe Break
16:00 - 17:00
17:00 - 18:30


1130 Rue Sherbrooke Ouest, Montréal, QC H3A 2M8, Canada

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