Deep Gaussian Processes and inversion for decision support in model-based climate change mitigation and adaptation problems (Papers Track)

bertrand nortier (University of Exeter); daniel williamson (University of Exeter); mattia mancini (University of Exeter); amy binner (University of Exeter); brett day (University of Exeter); ian bateman (University of Exeter)

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Public Policy Carbon Capture & Sequestration Ecosystems & Biodiversity Forests Causal & Bayesian Methods Uncertainty Quantification & Robustness


To inform their decisions, policy makers often rely on models developed by researchers that are computationally intensive and complex and that frequently run on High Performance Computers (HPC). These decision-support models are not used directly by deciders and the results of these models tend to be presented by experts as a limited number of potential scenarios that would result from a limited number of potential policy choices. Machine learning models such as Deep Gaussian Processes (DGPs) can be used to radically re-define how decision makers can use models by creating a ‘surrogate model’ or ‘emulator’ of the original model. Surrogate models can then be embedded into apps that decisions makers can use to directly explore a vast array of policy options corresponding to potential target outcomes (model inversion). To illustrate the mechanism, we give an example of application that is envisaged as part of the UK government’s Net Zero strategy. To achieve Net Zero CO2 emissions by 2050, the UK government is considering multiple options that include planting trees to capture carbon. However, the amount of CO2 captured by the trees depend on a large number of factors that include climate conditions, soil type, soil carbon, tree type, ... Depending on these factors the net balance of carbon removal after planting trees may not necessarily be positive. Hence, choosing the right place to plant the right tree is very important. A decision-helping model has been developed to tackle this problem. For a given policy input, the model outputs its impact in terms of CO2 sequestration, biodiversity and other ecosystem services. We show how DGPs can be used to create a surrogate model of this original afforestation model and how these can be embedded into an R shiny app that can then be directly used by decision makers.