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Translating climate science for humanitarian, disaster risk-reduction and development organisations

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News Archive for July, 2012

  • Translating climate science for humanitarian, disaster risk-reduction and development organisations

    July 23rd, 2012

    Several members of the EQUIP team contributed to a workshop on Tolerating the Right Kinds of Uncertainty, http://www.devstud.org.uk/tolerating_the_right_kinds_of_uncertainty_workshop_28th_may_2012-104.html  hosted at the Wellcome Trust in London by UKCDS on 28 May 2012.

    The workshop contributed to the activities of the Humanitarian Futures Programme (HFP) at KCL aiming to develop integrated and systematic approaches to strengthening resilience in vulnerable communities in Africa  through supporting the ways in which these communities are able to access, understand and act on scientific information about the weather and climate in emergencies as well as in the longer term. Linked to a NERC Knowledge Exchange Fellowship held by Emma Visman, this one-day event provided a space for discussion between climate scientists and the users of climate information, including humanitarian, disaster risk reduction and development organisations, policy makers and African community/partner organisations.

    Contributions from the EQUIP team came from Myles Allen (University of Oxford), Andy Morse (University of Liverpool), David Stainforth (LSE), and Peter Stott (UK Met Office). Perspectives from climate science were also heard from Mike Harrison (University of Oxford), Dominic Kniveton (University of Sussex) and Tim Palmer (University of Oxford/ECMWF). Yvan Biot from the Department for International Development (DfID) provided a policy perspective, and Benedict Dempsey from Save the Children, Richard Ewbank from Christian Aid and Clare Harris from HelpAge International provided insights from NGO perspectives. Input from community and partner organisations included Abere Mihretie from the Anti-Malaria Association Ethiopia and Samuel Mwangi from the Kenya Meteorological Department.

    The focus of the workshop was on discussing and sharing understandings about the nature of uncertainty in weather and climate predictions and the extent to which science could be confident in the reliability of the information it produced. The kinds of weather and climate information that were of relevance to decision-makers were also addressed.  Reoccurring themes relating to barriers of communication emerging during the workshop included:

    i)                     The importance of recognising and addressing differences in the meanings of commonly used terms (e.g. attribution) and less commonly used terms (e.g. probability) across the user communities;

    ii)                   The importance of acknowledging and coordinating different understandings and interpretations of uncertainty;

    iii)                  The need to develop channels to enable dialogue about the types of weather and climate information required by decision makers and the most appropriate formats and technologies for transmitting information;

    iv)                  The significance of coordinating the tensions between different organisational needs and expectations, including the effect of an organisation’s methods of accountability on decision-making practices, and the measuring of impact.

    v)                   The need for increased investment in the communication of climate science for user-communities.

    Drawing on the day’s discussions, representatives from DfID, EQUIP, ESRC, GO Science, NERC, Save the Children and UK Met Office drew the workshop to a close with a panel discussion on how their organisations could support the development of a systematic framework  for translating weather and climate science into information to support decision-making. Suggestions included opportunities for funding, for identifying channels to showcase what climate science had to offer, and for developing and continuing dialogue with appropriate brokers of climate information.

    A short film on “Decoding Science – Reducing Risk” http://vimeo.com/45299755 commissioned by GO Science-Humanitarian Futures Programme summarises the discussions of this workshop on Tolerating Uncertainty with a further workshop on Measuring Real Impact in June 2012.