Conference Vision

Hot Water: Science and Solutions for a Planet Under Pressure

images showing flooding, dry earth, rainfall, and sun

We are living in the era of superlatives. All of the hottest years on record have occurred within the past five years. The planet is witnessing extreme drought and extreme rainfall, rising seas and sinking land, and warming oceans and shifting fish stocks. Migration, water scarcity, displacement, food insecurity, and uncertaintythese are the social and economic consequences of a global ecosystem under pressure.

The NCSE 2021 Annual Conference will take a systems-approach to heat and water during this time of changeーexamining both impacts and solutions. NCSE 2021 will explore the links between the changes in Earth’s physical systems and its social institutions. 

Human ingenuity and innovation, supported by effective government leadership, policies, and governance, are foundational to confronting these unprecedented environmental and social challenges. Science can lead the way, but the science we need to ensure informed decision-making and durable policies is transdisciplinary and boundary spanningーfrom harnessing the power of big data to driving solutions at local scales to the leading edges of social science to understand and integrate the human dimension of environmental change.

How are the pressures of extreme heat changing where people live and how they work? 

How are water scarcity and rising temperatures altering what crops can thrive, which will have ripple effects for the whole global food system?

How will markets respond to new challenges and to innovation at the leading edge of change? 

How will we address human migration and displacement by a changing climate?

Priority Focus Areas


  • Heat impactsfrom infrastructure to food systems to health and demography
  • Heat adaptation strategies (physical, social, and behavioral)


  • Water scarcity and impacts on food production, human habitation, wildlife, and ecosystems
  • Big data and transboundary water collaboration; water rights and indigenous access
  • Water quality and environmental change
  • Flooding, glacier melt, and sea level rise
  • Emergent technologies and best practices in water system management

Systems and Solutions

  • Harnessing the power of big data/open data
  • Machine learning and artificial intelligence
  • International treaties and transboundary science diplomacy
  • U.S. domestic policy: navigating shifting resources through science and innovation in regional and local government

Social and Ecological Sciences

  • Incorporating changing ecological systems into social decisions (ecosystem services)
  • Political institutions adapting to changing ecological conditions
  • Thresholds, and adaptive capacitymanaging ecological and social transitions