Read the article in Nature Climate Change

Growing need for adaptation action

With increasing frequency of extreme weather events, the impacts of climate change have become apparent to the larger public. The consensus that, next to mitigation, adaptation action is urgently needed is growing. In terms of modeling and decision support this means that the need to analyse the effects, costs and benefits of adaptation solutions is increasing rapidly.

Therefore, also the model capabilities to do this usefully and effectively need to advance. To approach this particular adaptation modeling with a global data-based analysis is even more challenging as for solutions locally relevant information becomes even more critical.

Not useful for all types of decisions

The main argument of Deltares authors Ad Jeuken and Kees van Ginkel is that global studies can influence decision making at any level, but not directly all types of decisions. For example, global studies cannot be used for designing a dike, but may instead contribute to agenda setting, allocation of financial resources, capacity building and long-term strategic planning.

Three criteria

Model-based, global studies are useful when three criteria are met. Namely when these topics are addressed sufficiently:

  1. Credibility (quality),
  2. Salience (what useful outcomes can be produced)
  3. Legitimacy (is there a landing place, audience, at the right time and place)

Not all these factors can be controlled equally from a research perspective. The conclusion therefore is that scientific studies issued by and with policy makers were more impactful than those produced by academia alone. Often high-level research publications trickle slowly down into the policy arena, raising awareness of new issues. The IPCC reports of especially WGII (on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability) play an important role.

Increase of high-quality open data

Like always there is a tension between the need for comprehensive, comparable, and transparent data and analysis from a scientific point of view and the need for more local relevant information. Due to the increasing global availability of high-quality open data and information this apparent contrast is reduced.

World Bank experts (Blankespoor et al.) highlight that, unfortunately, both technical experts and academia have few incentives to translate high resolution research products into accessible data for decision makers that lack expert technical support or consultants.

The Deltares BlueEarth initiative provides a nice example of an initiative that seeks to close the gap between global data and locally relevant applications. The European Research project REACHOUT provides a good example on how climate services can be transformed to increase salience and legitimacy for urban decision makers.

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Combination of factors

The decisive impact of model-based adaptation analysis depends on a combination of factors: it should foster scientific advancement and offer novel insights; it should start bottom-up from realistic and shared adaptation decision contexts; and it should innovate modeling approaches and climate services by incorporating new knowledge, data in a co-creation process.

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