Climate change: the ultimate complexity

Manson and Sullivan’s article raises some very interesting point about geospatial complexity, the difficulty of navigating between the very general and the specific, complexity in ontologies and epistemologies, and in computer modeling. One of the first things that caught my eye was that the authors mentioned that space-and-place based research recognizes the importance of qualitative and quantitative approaches. Disregarding qualitative data is a critique I have read often in the critical GIS literature, and I was glad to see that the authors not only addressed this, but made space for qualitative approaches in their vision for complexity studies going forward.

The article actually made me reflect on my studies in environment. Geospatial complexity as it is explained in this article is actually quite connected to environment, and I immediately thought of climate change. Environmental systems are complex systems that are often not fully understood – for example, it’s difficult to know tipping points. Climate change is also a problem that experts struggle to navigate the space between making generalizations and losing sight of the particular, which is a problem the authors address in this article. Yes, it will make wide, sweeping changes to the planet which can be generalized as warming – but different places at a smaller scale will experience unique, unpredictable changes. Manson and Sullivan state that space, place and time are all part of complex systems – and of course, they are part of the complex system of climate change.

The authors conclude that it is an exciting time to be part of the research of complexity and space-and-place, and that complexity studies is moving beyond the phase of “starry-eyed exuberance.” From my perspective of the complexity of climate change, I’d say that there is no better time than now, because complexity seems to be an essential part of trying to understand what is happening on the planet.



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