The IMAGE Sustainable Lifestyles Project

Integrated assessment models (IAMs) have become highly influential towards the design of complex policies, including for sustainable futures. Simulating both the dynamics of the earth’s climate system and the socio-economic factors of human development, they play a key role in exploring different strategies to mitigate climate change through scenarios designed to represent these strategies.

However, models do not fully reflect real life – assessment models tend to depend on multiple assumptions, and are limited in how much and what type of information they can process.  IAMs are even more limited when it comes to scenarios for sustainable lifestyles, due to the nuanced and very diverse nature of lifestyles that make them difficult to analyse quantitatively, and the additional challenges of framing them around sustainability.

The IMAGE Sustainable Lifestyles Project is a multidisciplinary collaboration between Utrecht University, Hot or Cool, and One Earth. It is designed around IMAGE (the Integrated Model to Assess the Global Environment) created under the authority of PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency. Partners in the project are interested in exploring the interactions between society and global environmental change, each specializing in different yet complementary methods.

This project brings together experts on consumer behaviour, scenarios development and modelling to use evidence-based information. Working together with project partners, Hot or Cool assists the IMAGE team in ensuring that the environmental and socio-economic processes simulated in the model code reflect our most up to date understanding of how consumption, production, and policy decisions are made in the real world – and thus become better at simulating future possibilities.  We can then reflect on the experiments conducted with IMAGE 3.0 to focus our efforts on the most effective ways of mitigating environmental harm in the pursuit of a just and equitable society of well-being.