Conference Vision

January 5-7: 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 Drawdown 2021 Conference will take a systems-approach to heat and water during this time of changeーexamining both impacts and solutions. NCSE Drawdown 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. NCSE Drawdown 2021 will highlight how science can lead the way through transdisciplinary and boundary-spanning approaches that will ensure informed decision-making and durable policies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 can we incorporate changing ecological systems into social and political institutions?

How is the pandemic amplifying the impact of environmental stressors, transforming the higher education landscape, and influencing the role of science in environmental decision-making?

Priority Focus Areas

Logo with icons representing heat, water, systems and solutions, and social and ecological sciencesHeat

  • Heat impacts—from infrastructure to food systems to health and demography
  • Heat adaptation strategies (physical, social, and behavioral)
  • Heat impacts on emergent disease and social vulnerability (e.g., COVID-19)


  • 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, environmental change, and public health
  • 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
  • Machine learning and artificial intelligence
  • Integrated approaches to complex systems, including links between environment and public health.
  • International treaties and transboundary science diplomacy
  • Navigating shifting resources through science and innovation in regional and local governments

Social and Ecological Sciences

  • Incorporating changing ecological systems into social decisions (ecosystem services)
  • Political institutions adapting to changing ecological conditions
  • Thresholds, and adaptive capacity—managing ecological and social transitions
  • Equity, access, and the environment

COVID-19 in Context

  • Pandemic as a threat multiplier (e.g., COVID-19’s interaction with heat and other stressors)
  • Transformation of the teaching and research landscape across higher education, such as innovations in teaching STEM remotely
  • Environmental health and sustainability in a pandemic and post-pandemic world (including food, water, economy, etc.)
  • Human-environment interactions in a post-COVID-19 era, integrating social and ecological sciences