Climate science and humanitarian planning

HFP recently hosted a seminar in London on the interface between climate science and humanitarian planning.  Megan Rowling posted an excellent piece on the seminar on AlterNet, which can be found here.

The seminar identified several key barriers to better communication between climate scientists and humanitarian strategists.  One problem is time frames – most climate models predict changes in the 20, 50, or 100 year time frame – well beyond the planning horizon of most humanitarian organisations.  A second barrier had to do with geographic scale; most models are unable to produce decision-relevant forecasts for small enough geographic areas to be of value to humanitarian groups.  For their part, climate scientists argued that they didn’t get the kind of feedback they needed from humanitarian aid groups to be able to provide scientific output they could use.

The seminar concluded with several recommendations, as highlighted by Rowling in her AlterNet piece.  These include:


  • Taking climate scientists into the field with humanitarian staff to introduce them to realities on the ground
  • Building a web bank where aid agencies can find reliable climate data
  • Creating a discussion forum so scientists can better understand aid agencies’ information needs, including time scales and the most urgent geographical gaps
  • Using local and indigenous knowledge to build up records of climate patterns and collaborating with communities on gathering weather data
  • Finding low-tech ways to pass on climate information to local communities in a form they can understand and use
  • Applying climate science to verify local experiences of climate change and establish underlying trends
  • Compiling case studies to boost practical knowledge about the impacts of climate change and vulnerability to climate risk
  • Using existing institutions, such as farmer field schools and local media, to raise awareness and stimulate dialogue about climate change at community level
  • Promoting national and regional initiatives on climate change, such as the Climate Outlook Forum for the Horn of Africa

    HFP will be synthesizing and summarising the seminar in more detail for key stakeholders in the near future.  Drop us a line if you’re interested in receiving these summaries.


    One Response to Climate science and humanitarian planning

    1. […] Regional downscaling is always a controversial topic and many climate scientists argue that GCM’s provide unreliable local precipitation forecasts (see the recent HFP seminar on climate science and humanitarian planning). […]

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