In Cape Town, South Africa severe water shortages have forced the implementation of water restrictions on its inhabitants. In contexts such as this, climate information can be used to support decisions that can increase urban resilience of city, and make cities better prepared to manage the effects of climate change and extreme events. However, it is not always clear how climate information should be used to support decisions. A value-chain approach can improve the way climate information is understood and used by decision makers.
The process that delivers climate information from data providers to users can be conceptualised in the form of a climate information value chain as presented by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
This value chain presents an idealised model of the value creation process, starting with the generation and provision of weather and climate data, and ending with the improved decision-making by different types of users. Ideally, if the value chain operates well, investments in producing climate information will result in societal benefits, such as improved preparedness to extreme climatic events.
However, in order to ensure that climate information is used appropriately, a high level of engagement is needed at each stage of the value chain. The nature of engagement between the provider and the user has strong implications for the success of information exchange and information uptake.
A recent article from Future Climate for Africa (FCFA) hints at forthcoming insights surrounding engagement between climate information providers and users in African cities. These insights will be presented in a forthcoming paper that examines climate information use for decision-making on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in the African cities of Lusaka, Zambia and Kisumu, Kenya.
According to the findings, one of the best conditions for climate information exchange and use is interactive, multi-stakeholder engagement. This presents an opportunity for providers and users of climate information to exchange ideas in person, allowing for immediate feedback and decisions made in line with user needs. Additionally, this method allows for a two-way engagement and collaboration on how to best prepare for and respond to climatic hazards. However, climate information providers do not always have a good understanding of particular sectoral needs and of the types of climate information that is relevant for decision-making. Climate outlook forums (COFs) were found to have no effect on the approaches and actions of sectoral managers who fail to fully grasp the complexities that accompany climate information.
Evidence suggests that the level of engagement between providers and users of climate information has a direct effect on whether climate information is used appropriately to inform climate sensitive decisions. Therefore, it is vital that climate information providers and inter-city users engage openly and explore approaches that are suited to growing climate information needs under a rapidly changing climate.
By Alastair Baglee, Lael Wilcox, Brooke Larsen and Kailey Kornhauser
Brooke Larsen and Kailey Kornhauser are bicycle riding across Alaska. Unsupported and self-propelled, they recently won a ‘Lael Rides Alaska’ women’s scholarship to ride 1001 miles from the coastal town of Seward in the south, all the way to Deadhorse and the Arctic Ocean in search of stories about climate change.
The scholarship was devised by Lael Wilcox, one of America’s, and indeed the world’s greatest ultra-endurance, long-distance cyclists. With accolades that include setting the women’s record for bicycling (or bikepacking, as it’s called now) the mountainous Tour Divide from Canada to Mexico; overall (men and women) winner of the 2016 Trans Am Bike Race, a self-supported road race across America; and the fastest known time (FKT) on the Baja Divide in Mexico, Lael is a pretty unique athlete. Spectacularly, Lael rides on average 20,000 miles a year. This scholarship is her way to encourage others to challenge themselves and take on the sort of long distance bikepacking adventures that Lael loves so much.
Brooke and Kailey aren’t entirely new to bicycle journeys. Hailing from Salt Lake City, Utah, Brooke spent the summer of 2017 bikepacking for 54 days across the remote, hot, and dry Colorado Plateau—the high desert of the American Southwest. Along the way, she listened to stories about climate change and environmental justice. Kailey joined Brooke for the first two weeks of the journey. In her article “Pedaling the Plateau,” Brooke reflects on the ride and the people she met along the way. The current journey across Alaska is a new chapter in their quest. Brooke tells us more:
We were drawn to the Lael Rides Alaska Scholarship because of the inspiring work Lael has done to grow the women and girls cycling community, as well as the opportunity to grow as cyclists and climate organizers. Alaska has challenging terrain with steep climbs and gravel roads that go through some of the world’s wildest landscapes, making it an ideal place for adventure cycling. However, it also sits at the frontlines of climate change and fossil fuel extraction, providing plenty of stories and tangible examples to learn from as we work for climate justice in our home communities.
When not biking (and even when we are), we focus our academic research and community organizing on climate change and environmental justice. Because Alaska faces many threats from climate change –from rising sea levels to thawing permafrost– and indigenous communities have long experienced the negative impacts of a colonial extractive economy, we found it important to learn about these issues as we biked across the state. We hope by sharing stories from those we meet along the way that we can build empathy, inspire action, and increase awareness.
Watching glaciers melt
For miles leading up to Exit Glacier, signs note where the glacier used to reach. Kenai Fjords National Park Ranger Bill Kane has been visiting and working at the park for the past 25 years. He noted that every October he runs in the Halloween zombie race in the nearby town of Seward. It used to always snow on race day. Now he runs the race in shorts. When we asked how he emotionally copes with witnessing Exit Glacier melt, he responded, “It’s gut wrenching.” We found a mural in town titled “Remembering Exit Glacier.” For this community, climate loss is already tangible.
“What happens to marginalised folks?”
While in Anchorage, staff members from Alaska Conservation Foundation and Pacific Environment shared their thoughts on climate change. One staff member who could only pop his head in for a minute quickly said, “Three things: melting glaciers, beavers moving north, and melting permafrost.” Camille Davis, ACF’s Development Associate, said, “As a black young woman, I think about how we make this work tangible. As climate change affects our earth, what happens to marginalized folks?” DJ Tyson, Pacific Environment’s Arctic Program Assistant, discussed how 90 percent of Alaska’s state revenue comes from oil. He said, “I want to figure out how to get Alaska off fossil fuels.” He then joked, “But I have a degree in Psychology, so I’m not going to figure it out.” Michael Barber, ACF Director, then emphasized that one person doesn’t need to be “smarter than climate change.” He concluded, “Where hope comes from for me is I don’t have to be right. The only thing that matters is what people are going to work on together.”
Landslides and thawing permafrost
David Tomeo is the Education Program Director with Alaska Geographic at the Murie Science and Learning Center in Denali National Park. In 1997, David had his first adventure in Alaska when he and his wife kayaked along the state’s southeast coast for four months. When we asked about climate change in the park, David talked about oozing mud flows, landslides, and dropping roads from thawing permafrost. He also mentioned that as the tree line moves up with warming temperatures, Dall sheep habitat decreases. The park was originally established largely to protect the Dall sheep. As he looked out at the spruce trees surrounding his home, he talked about wildfires but then also concluded, “I feel pretty safe and secure up here. I know I’m not going to be as impacted as much as people in poorer parts of the world or Alaskan coastal communities. I feel lucky.”
We are currently in Fairbanks, just completing the first half of our 1,000 mile journey across Alaska. While in town, we are interviewing folks to learn more about climate change in the Arctic, challenges for indigenous communities, and grassroots organizing for climate justice, before setting off on the second half of our journey along the remote, steep and partly unpaved Dalton Highway. This will be the longest gravel ride either of us have ever done. We look forward to experiencing the Arctic tundra.
We wish Brooke and Kailey good luck on the next leg of their journey. Part 2 of their stories will be published once Brooke and Kailey reach Deadhorse, the end of their journey – stay tuned!
In the meantime, follow their journey on Instagram.
Climate change is already having serious impacts for Guyana, 90% of the population live on the coastal plain, less than 1 meter above sea level. 75% of the country’s economic activity also takes place in this region. In 2005 Guyana suffered a catastrophic flood, which affected over a third of its population and cost over 60% of the country’s GDP. Tackling climate change is, therefore, an urgent necessity for Guyana, but cutting greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate impacts requires investment.
To help with the cost of responding to climate change the Green Climate Fund (GCF) has been established under the UNFCCC. But what exactly is the GCF? who can access it? and how will it work in Guyana? To learn more we spoke with Janelle Christian, Head of Guyana’s Office of Climate Change.
The relationship between climate change, environmental degradation and tourism is a complicated one. On the one hand, tourism can be an environmental stressor, with tourists flocking to sometimes fragile environments and the sector accounting, by some estimates, for as much as 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. On the other hand, tourism is often one of the most important economic drivers of climate-vulnerable nations, bringing investment to regions that has helped them to increase their overall climate resilience.
Nowhere are these tensions more apparent than in the Caribbean. With 50 million visitors per year, it is the most tourism-dependent region on earth. At the same time, the island nations that make up the Caribbean archipelago are some of the most climate-vulnerable countries on Earth.
In this episode of the Adaptation Conversation, we speak with Samantha Bray, Managing Director of the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST), which recently published a book series exploring the relationship between coastal and marine tourism and climate change in the Caribbean.
The Bahamas’ people, economy and environment are highly vulnerable to a variable and changing climate. Research indicates that climate change impacts could cost the economy up to $500 million per year by 2025 (7 years from now). The Bahamas is also committed to pursuing a low carbon pathway. This will reduce the country’s ‘carbon footprint’, improve energy security and reduce energy costs. While preparing for such impacts and a low carbon pathway are critical, they are costly. The Green Climate Fund (known as the GCF), offers an attractive source of funding to achieve these goals. The GCF is currently capitalized at $10.3 Billion, and is the largest climate change fund in the world.
With grant funding from the GCF, the Ministry of Environment and Housing (MoEH), in collaboration with the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), is launching a project that aims to improve The Bahamas’ capacity and ‘readiness’ to access GCF funds. Project activities include developing operational procedures for Government to engage effectively with the GCF; providing training about the GCF and how to access grants, loans, equities and guarantees from it; and the development of a pipeline of potential project concepts (which align with national priorities) for submission to the fund. These activities are not one-off measures, but will form part of an ongoing process to strengthen the country’s engagement with the Fund.
The project is approximately 12 months in duration, and will follow a country-driven, participatory and inclusive approach to training and development of the pipeline. It is being delivered by a consortium led by Acclimatise, a UK and Barbados-based climate change adaptation and climate finance consultancy, including local firm SEV Consulting. By project completion, The Bahamas will have significantly increased its capacity on accessing GCF finance.
The project inception workshop was hosted by the Ministry of Environment and Housing, the coordinating institution for the GCF, on 13th March 2018. Representatives from government, academia, the private sector and civil society attended. Minister Romauld Ferreira provided stirring opening remarks and stressed the importance of The Bahamas taking a collaborative approach in its response to climate change.
NOTES FOR EDITORS
About Ministry of the Environment and Housing (MoEH)
The Ministry of the Environment and Housing in The Bahamas oversees projects, programmes, policies and other initiatives to maintain the integrity of the environment of The Bahamas and works to ensure sustainable development of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
About the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC):
The Belize-based Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) coordinates the region’s response to climate change. Officially opened in August 2005, the Centre is the key node for information on climate change issues and the region’s response to mitigating and adapting to climate change. CCCCC sought accreditation to the GCF in 2015 to undertake and scale up both mitigation and adaptation projects across the region in order to drive a paradigm shift in the region’s development patterns.
About the Green Climate Fund
The Green Climate Fund (GCF) is a global fund created to support the efforts of developing countries to respond to the challenge of climate change. GCF helps developing countries limit or reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and adapt to climate change. It seeks to promote a paradigm shift to low-emission and climate-resilient development, taking into account the needs of nations that are particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts.
It was set up by the 194 countries who are parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2010, as part of the Convention’s financial mechanism. It aims to deliver equal amounts of funding to mitigation and adaptation, while being guided by the Convention’s principles and provisions.
Dr Rhianna M. Neely-MurphyMinistry, of the Environment and Housing: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Climate Change Business Journal (CCBJ) has announced its 10th annual business achievement awards which recognise outstanding business performances in the climate change industry. This year, Acclimatise is proud to have been awarded the CCBJ Business Achievement Award for Industry Leadership.
The award reflects Acclimatise’s position as a leading consulting firm in the climate change adaptation and risk management field. The company’s CEO, John Firth said “This award reflects a lot of hard work from the Acclimatise team. The company has been working on climate resilience for more than a decade – so it is incredibly pleasing for our efforts to be recognised by a prestigious publication like the CCBJ”.
Over the last 10 years Acclimatise has worked on nearly 400 climate adaptation projects in over 70 countries. Our approach of working collaboratively with our clients, whether they be governments, development banks, major corporations, or NGOs to build lasting resilience in the face of a changing climate, has, been the secret to our success.
“From the outset Acclimatise’s mission has been to make sure the world is prepared for tomorrow’s climate” Firth said, “our clients know their businesses and industries better than anyone, our job is to help them ask questions that they’ve never thought of asking before, like, how is climate change going to affect the productivity of my workforce?”
“This award is well deserved and long overdue,” said Jim Hight, Senior Editor of CCBJ, “Acclimatise is truly one of the key leaders in consulting and strategic advisory services for climate change risk analysis and adaptation.”
Acclimatise will continue to promote and encourage action on climate resilience holding the firm belief that adaptation is necessary to avoid the most severe climate impacts and because it provides one of the biggest financial and business opportunities of our time.
The U.S. livestock industry generates more than $100 billion in annual revenues and is the world’s largest producer of beef for domestic consumption and export. Ranching depends on viable pasture and rangeland for grazing and as such, growers and ranchers must understand current drought conditions to make timely, critical decisions regarding land management. Cattle ranchers and industry stakeholders depend on the US Drought Monitor (USDM) maps and narratives to assess drought severity and make informed management decisions. The USDM is produced in consortium with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), the National Drought Mitigation Center and the US Department of Agriculture.
Having access to the USDM to monitor drought in near-real time is important to ranchers as well as a range of other industry stakeholders like livestock prospectors and traders, landowners, livestock associations, and federal and state agencies administering drought-relief. Drought poses serious concerns to livestock ranchers who depend on access to good quality pastures for livestock production. In recognition of this, several ranchers interviewed for this study highlight the importance of preserving the integrity of the land. “When we first started, our priorities were production of the livestock,” says Jim Faulstich, owner and operator of Daybreak Ranch in Highmore, South Dakota. “We soon learned that shouldn’t be where our top priority is. We switched to natural resources.”
Drought impacts the quality of pasture lands and the quality and quantity of forage availability for livestock. During drought ranchers must make management decisions such as whether to purchase additional feed, or sell of a part of their herd that they cannot afford to sustain. In order to avoid these outcomes ranchers create drought management plans, where certain actions are trigged by the persistence of drought. Rancher defer to the USDM’s drought severity rankings in order to make these time-sensitive decisions. For example, if drought conditions are persisting a rancher may decide to liquidate herds sooner than later. Further, ranchers also monitor the USDM’s drought designations to determine whether they will be eligible for relief under a federally sponsored disaster relief program.
NCEI, one of the USDM co-producing agencies, supports the USDM through the contribution of meteorological inputs and rotating authorship. The convergence of knowledge approach, whereby the USDM is produced through merging scientific inputs with on-the-ground observations, by rotating authors from participating agencies, makes this product robust and widely useful to livestock producers and federal agencies alike.
Acclimatise, in partnership with Global Science & Technology Inc., conducted dozens of interviews to identify how ranchers, and federal agencies that support drought relief efforts, use the USDM for decision-making. These findings have been compiled into a report, video and infographic:
Climate services are promoted as a solution to bridge the gap between scientific knowledge and economic and political decision making. While focusing on user needs and developing new business models can indeed support climate change adaptation and mitigation, the eager talk about climate services may hide some critical challenges.
The risks of climate change have been known for long, yet the mitigation efforts have not been on par with what we know to be necessary. And even as it becomes painfully clear that we are likely to experience dramatic climate shifts in the future, we are yet to see sufficient adaptation actions either. Indeed, statistics from the insurance sector hint that many societies are not even adapted to the climate as it is, much less to what it is becoming.
This gap between information and action has spurred interest in developing new ways to bring scientific data and knowledge about climate into action. The rise of climate services can be seen as part of this development. Climate services are defined in many ways, but typically the definition boils down to ‘providing climate science based information for end-users according to their needs’. The idea of such services has been around for a while and has been actively promoted by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) for the about ten years, with the EU joining the choir more recently.
Discourse highlights importance and potential – but what about challenges?
In my recent paper I study how climate services have been framed by experts within the WMO community: Why are climate services needed, what are they good for and how should they be organized? Several themes recur frequently in the discourse: Climate services are necessary in the face of global climate challenges; there is major demand for climate services in several industries; climate services are economically beneficial; new technology enables new, superior services; and current ways of delivering climate information are insufficient. A quick look at the EU Roadmap for Climate Services shows that it makes use of a similar logic.
While such assumptions are not necessarily incorrect, they harbour the risk of narrowing the viewpoint too much. Providing actionable information helps only little if regulation incentivizes maladaptive behavior. Tailoring climate information sounds good, but the inherent uncertainty may still render it practically useless. User centric service development also takes time and effort on both sides – it does not only require new perspective, but learning a lot of new practices as well.
Outsiders see it differently
Based on my own experiences, I find it somewhat bold to claim that there is major market potential for climate services as they are defined now. True, there are a lot of instances in different sectors where better use of climate information can improve, for instance, efficiency or safety. But, in reality, few people outside the field have even heard the term “climate services”, let alone are able to explicitly describe their needs for climate information. Climate issues are intertwined in a multitude of decisions on different streams of activities on different time scales. From the user side, the way we experts conceptualise climate services might not make sense at all.
Climate information is valuable and climate issues need more emphasis on decision-making both in public sector and private companies. But, the development of climate services, as we call them now, should be based on actual value, not expected interest or pushing theoretical concepts forward. The language and terms we use need to resonate with their audience. Since climate services have no intrinsic value for businesses or policymakers, they have to be provided with information that helps improve or safeguard their core activities; that’s valuable for sure. Finnish Meteorological Institute and Acclimatise are currently co-operating with a wide network of leading European research and development organizations in two European Union funded research projects that aim to do just this – to identify the value and find ways to deliver it.
Atte Harjanne is a researcher at the Finnish Meteorological Institute.
Monsoon rains began arriving across India in early June 2016. For many Indians, it was not a moment too soon. After three underwhelming monsoon seasons, broad swaths of the country have been gripped by drought. An estimated 330 million people have been affected by depleted water supplies.
Collectively, India’s 91 major reservoirs stood at 16 percent of their storage capacity on June 9, 2016, according to the nation’s Central Water Commission (CWC). That is about 58 percent of the water that was available in June 2015 and about 79 percent of the 10-year average. Some of the hardest hit states were Uttarakhand (storage down 77 percent compared to June 2015), Tamil Nadu (down 69 percent), and Maharashtra (down 67 percent).
Of all of India’s reservoirs, Panchet Hill in Jharkhand was among the lowest compared to the 10-year average. In the first week of June 2016, the reservoir stood at 4 percent of capacity; the average for June is 40 percent. The Operational Land Imager (OLI) on the Landsat 8 satellite captured images of the reservoir on June 10, 2015 (top) and June 12, 2016 (second).
According to the Times of India, the city of Mumbai had just 25 days of water supplies left in its reservoirs. Several water supplies—including the Upper Tapi reservoir in Maharashtra, the Kabini reservoir in Karnataka, and the Sholayar reservoir in Tamil Nadudash—were not just low; they were reported as empty. The chart above, based on data from India’s CWC, shows the water level in major reservoirs compared to the long-term average water level for that site in June.
Will Bugler is Senior Communications Consultant at Acclimatise and was chosen by ACCCRN as one of its champions promoting urban climate change resilience through their work.
“Talk more and talk better,” said Will Bugler when he pointed to other practitioners and communicators in the field of climate change resilience. “As a researcher or a scientist, you can increase the impact of your work by taking your findings to the communities that you feature in your research,” he continues.
When he was 5 years old, Will moved from London to a farm in rural Herefordshire (in the west of England on the Welsh borders). His formative years were spent on the family farm, staying up late to help with lambing in the spring, climbing hay bales in the summer, and apple picking in the autumn. “It was a good place to grow up – I appreciated the space and the freedom of the outdoors. But I think on reflection it also gave me a real understanding of how the world is shaped by nature – you can’t escape it on the farm – your days are dictated by the weather and the seasons, your crops succeed or fail, it is a good year or a bad one,” Will recollected about his childhood.
His work on communicating climate change began when he got an internship position at the UK Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, working as a researcher in their ‘adapting to climate change team’. He remembers, as one of his first jobs, being asked to write a definition paper on ‘sustainable adaptation to climate change’ for the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC). “‘Talk about an exercise in futility!’ I thought, if anyone didn’t need a paper from an over-enthusiastic, recent graduate about what constitutes ‘sustainable adaptation’ it was the highly-educated professionals at the SDC,” said Will.
From there, he worked in a couple of other policy-related jobs and then did a short stint at the Ecologist Magazine. He found that he enjoyed writing about environmental issues, and grappling with the challenge of presenting scientific work in an engaging way. He continued his writing on resilience issues by setting up the Get Resilient website (www.getresilient.com) which he still manages today.
In 2011, Will took a job with Acclimatise, one of the few consulting firms in Europe that specialises exclusively in climate adaptation and resilience. “It was through my work there that I became fully aware of how central communications is to the issue of climate change.” Will has done a lot of work on climate change communications in urban contexts. He leads Acclimatise’s work on communication. They have given him a lot of freedom to explore this area of work, and the people are only just beginning to understand the potential of climate communications to drive change. “In many ways, our collective failure to successfully tackle climate change is one of communication. Given my job – I would say that. But the science around climate change has been as certain as science gets for decades.” said Will.
Speaking about inclusiveness in communicating climate change resilience, Will thought that one of the most important questions that we need to ask is resilience for whom? This is where communications comes to the fore. For him, it’s not just a matter of raising awareness of climate change resilience, but we also need to create new forums for dialogues that allow for new voices to be heard on climate issues; voices that are too often ignored. “I think that effective communications on climate issues can do a huge amount to move public opinion, and change policy.”
In building awareness on climate change resilience, said Will, there are many challenges, but above all we need to develop more communications on climate resilience that resonate with people who hold conservative values, or who are not necessarily archetypal ‘environmental activists’. This means several things: changing the way we frame our messages, the stories we tell, and importantly accepting that sometimes we’re probably not the right people to deliver the message. We need to find trusted messengers to engage new audiences.