Problem Formulation

During the last two decades, environmental modeling has been marked by fast and substantial development. In the same way that computing power and technology allowed to investigate environmental problems, their causes and effects, with an increasing level of detail, the level of scientific understanding has grown. Initially, the problem of acid rain and its effects on forest ecosystems in Europe was marked by a comparatively simple relationship between the emissions of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere. However, even the occurrence of high ambient concentrations of tropospheric ozone with nonlinear, location dependent relationships between precursor substances emitted (nitrogen oxides and nonmethane volatile organic compounds) and ozone levels observed was far more complex to model. In recent years, the emerging knowledge on the formation of aerosols, the better understanding of atmospheric transport, chemical transformation, and the connection to long-term global and climatic change added even more to the complexity.

In this context, policy makers are confronted with the task to identify (environmental) policy decisions, which are marked by a vast number of (often dependent) variables, various constraints and quite frequently, both synergies and tradeoffs between different options.

The case described below emerges from the research project MERLIN funded by the European Commission, with the aim to develop methods for the integrated assessment of joint air pollution control and greenhouse gas emission reduction strategies.

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