Integrated modelling of global environmental change. An overview of IMAGE 2.4

09-11-2006 | Publication

New IMAGE model integrates global change for sustainability.There is an increasing recognition in science for policy making that problems of human development and the state of the natural environment are intimately linked. This will mean creating a careful balance to achieve a more sustainable future. Enhancements to the IMAGE framework are increasing the possibilities at MNP to meet the challenges of investigating complex issues. The MNP book on IMAGE 2.4 reflects these enhancements.

The IMAGE framework update

A shift towards broader sustainable development issues in policy discussions in the last few years has provided the inspiration for the series of improvements, enhancements and extensions applied to update both the IMAGE (Integrated Model to Assess the Global Environment) model and the models, TIMER (energy) and FAIR (climate policy).

Sustainable development

One of the key elements of sustainable development included in the IMAGE-TIMER-FAIR models is affordable energy. At the same time, air pollution and climate change have to be kept under control. Other factors to be considered are management of water systems in support of agriculture, industry and human settlements; increasing agricultural production, while protecting soil, groundwater and surface water quality, and slowing down, and eventually halting, further loss of biodiversity. More generally, these issues can be described as the challenge in striking the balance between human development and the goods and services provided to humans by the natural and managed ecosystems, which are put at risk by human activities.


This book concentrates on the data and models used in IMAGE 2.4, illustrated with a number of applications. IMAGE 2.4 assumes such basic drivers as demographics and economic development, energy consumption and production, and agricultural demand, along with trade and production. Important elements addressed here in the biophysical modelling of land-cover and land-use processes are current and historical land cover and land use, the global carbon and nitrogen cycles, management of nutrients in agricultural systems and, finally, climate variability (including interaction with land use). And last but not least, there is a presentation of how IMAGE data and information are used to feed broader policy tools for exploring biodiversity and climate mitigation.

The IMAGE network

Valuable steps are being taken in the development of IMAGE 2.4 to secure the position of IMAGE as one of the leading frameworks for integrated assessment of global sustainability issues. Further developments initiated within the network of collaborating institutes offer excellent prospects for the future, in which the IMAGE model framework will make its contribution to the analysis of crucial interactions between human well-being, and ecological goods and services.