Understanding Climate Knowledge Needs across UK Society
Climate Change is now recognized as one of the most pressing issues of our times according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Responses to this have fallen into two categories: Mitigation – the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions through policy instruments such as the Kyoto Protocol and Adaptation. Adaptation is defined as an adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates, harm or exploits beneficial opportunities (IPCC, 2007). Research into adaptation has been increasing in recent years but many feel that such research is still in its infancy despite its increasing importance in policy circles. There are growing calls for adaptation to develop into a more mature science with some referring to this as ‘adaptation science’.
Implicit within such as adaptation science are concerns about the quality and usefulness of the knowledges generated to inform adaptation strategies. In particular knowledges used to inform adaptations, need to highlight and identify threats, risks, uncertainties and opportunities and how these can contribute to the adaptive capacity of decision-making systems. In the UK there has been the development of a number of tools and assessments – such as the UK Climate Projections 2009 (UKCP09), the Climate Change Risk Assessment 2012 (CCRA) and an on-going assessment of the Economics of Climate Resilience - to help organisations make more informed decisions regarding their adaptation strategies. Furthermore, the 2008 Climate Change Act gives the UK Secretary of State the power to direct relevant bodies to produce reports on (1) the current and future impacts of climate change on their organisations and (2) proposals for adapting to climate change. In order to produce such reports organisations must rely on the most up to date climate change knowledge. However, both the knowledge needs and climate knowledges themselves are not fixed or static. Rather adaptation decisions have to be taken in dynamic decision environments where there is an emphasis on new kinds of knowledges, ways of thinking and learning to respond to such changes.
RD1, led by Geoff Whitman, focuses on what the knowledge needs of organisations are with regard to adaptation to climate change in the UK. It proposes to do this through the following aims and objectives: (1) Understand different adaptation contexts and capacities; (2) Understand how observed or projected climate information has been used in organisations and decision-making; (3) Understand the importance of non-climatic information for decision-making; (4) Understand what level of uncertainty users are able to tolerate for different kinds of scientific knowledge used in decision-making and (5) Understand what users expect science to deliver. RD1 has a particular focus on the multi-decadal planning horizon (i.e. beyond 30 years). However, it will also recognize that for some decision-makers, shorter planning scales (i.e. less than 30 years) are of more interest and will engage with this.