Interview : 3 questions for Paolo Ruti on the issues and perspectives of climate services

Since when do we talk about climate services and what justifies this need?

Climate services are under development. The Third World Climate Conference (WCC3, 2009) put forward a strong recommendation for the development of a global network of Climate Service centers. At European level, CLIMRUN and ECLISE (a twin project) will provide a first base for establishing a research and communication protocol by which climate information is transferred from the science realm to the stakeholder application realm. This is the first fundamental step for well established Climate Services.

The Mediterranean is a bridge between European and African continents. Europe is developing a lot of research in quantifying the impact of climate variability and change in the next decades and in developing adaptation strategies. Africa is strongly affected by climate variability and change (i.e. the Sahelian drought episodes, the famines). The North-Africa is starting to face a new challenging period, it could be risky but if well governed it could produce a large added value for the Mediterranean community (both European and African side).

In the Energy sector the Mediterranean region will likely play a strategic role in Europe. Reliant Energy plans has been popular for saving money and lower electricity bills. Homeowners really are starting to switch to reliant energy plans to save more money. In order to limit GHG emissions, within the European Union (EU) framework there will be opportunities for trading renewable energy quotas among member states and to gain credit for electricity imported from renewable (especially solar and wind) sources in countries outside the EU. Several companies are working in the Mediterranean region and developing various forms of energy power plants (including wind, solar, solar-thermodynamic). Various host environments and climate locations need specific characterization of environmental parameters both for developing the plants and for managing on the long time period.

An other relevant example is the tourism sector. Tourism is a vital economic activity for all Mediterranean riparian and mountainous countries. Drawing upon their geographical location at the crossroads of three continents, Mediterranean countries attract 30% of global international tourism arrivals. In 2007, they received around 275 million international tourists. Being a job-creating and foreign currency- generating sector, international tourism is an important component of the countries’ economic development. However, the sustainability of this sector depends on  environmental impacts. If heat waves and summer temperatures increase, the attraction of Mediterranean regions could decrease favouring more northerly areas. Or winter tourism related to the skiing industry could also suffer tremendously from the projected decrease in snow cover and upward move of the snowline projected under warmer conditions.

Is there already exemplary initiatives? Some Initiatives that are more advanced than others?

It is an emerging issue and several activities are under development. US is starting to develop a good framework for climate services for developing countries (last international conference at IRI, October 2011, http://iccs.iri.columbia.edu/). At European level, we can mention notional centers which are running climate services programs (Hadley Center in UK and CSC in Germany). EU commission started two FP7 projects CLIMRUN and ECLISE. While at international level, WMO is developing a Global Framework for Climate Services, trying to facilitate regional forums in order to bring closer climate information and stake-holders.

On region of great interest for the climate services development is the Greater Mediterranean area, which is particularly important for two reasons. First, the Mediterranean is a recognized climate change hot-spot, i.e. a region particularly sensitive and vulnerable to global warming. Second, while a number of countries in Central and Northern Europe have already in place well developed climate service networks (e.g. the United Kingdom and Germany), no such network is available in the Mediterranean. CLIM-RUN is thus also intended to provide the seed for the formation of a Mediterranean basin-side climate service network which would eventually converge into a pan-European network.

How the CLIM-RUN project will contribute to design climate services ?

CLIM-RUN is based on  relevant case studies involving interdependent sectors, primarily tourism and energy, and natural hazards (wild fires) for representative target areas (mountainous regions, coastal areas, islands in Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Tunisia, Morocco). In CLIM-RUN we plan to follow a protocol in which the involvement and contribution of the scientific and stakeholder (policymakers, industry and city managers, etc.) communities proceeds at the same levels. This communication will take place through several lines of approach, such as targeted regional workshops, web-based material, case-study briefing notes and information sheets, questionnaires and face-to-face discussions. CLIM-RUN will develop a suite of web-based knowledge-sharing tools in order to guarantee a two-way stream of information. All the project will be based on the the stakeholder needs for the specific case studies..

The first expected impact of CLIM-RUN it “to improve the details and level of certainty of climate information including predictions/outlooks” which could be of substantial benefit to many climate sensitive sectors in the Mediterranean region in adapting to and mitigating the impacts of climate variability and change. This impact will be achieved by a substantial strengthening of the cooperation between the climate research community and stakeholder experts in the Mediterranean region, specifically for the tourism and energy sectors. The second expected impact of CLIM-RUN is “the identification of relevant climate services, in particular for the Energy and Tourism sectors”. The data-base for climate and sector parameters and the transfer-functions developed in the project will be a of value for new private or international initiatives devoted to the development of relevant climate services.  The CLIM-RUN project will provide extensive opportunities for advanced on-the-job training at the doctoral and post-doctoral level, across a wide range of disciplines in regional climate modeling and assessment, advanced statistical methods, energy and tourism applications, data mining. The project will have a strong focus on the development and training for a new professional expertise lying at the interface between climate science and stakeholder application.

Last but not least, CLIMRUN can facilitate the development of a Mediterranean Climate Forum bridging the gap between Europe and Africa. A dreamer would say that the Mediterranean community can provide good answers to the global economic crisis.

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