Website on climate and weather for humanitarian partners

May 28, 2009

Following on from the exchange between CAFOD and Liveropool University, the partners are developing a website to pool information on weather and climate for humanitarian partners. While they will be talking more about this at the 8 June discussion workshop, they would also very much welcome your thoughts and comments on this:

The site is currently being developed to be incorporated within a website on climate change for CAFOD partners with separate sections on activities underway with, amongst others: Liverpool University, University College London, HFP, OneWorld Action and INTRAC.

2nd leg of the pilot exchange between CAFOD and Liverpool University 12 and 13 May 2009

May 28, 2009

Learning from the second leg of the exchange between Liverpool University and CAFOD

This was held in CAFOD’s head office on 12 and 13 May, with participation of Andy Morse and Cyril Caminade (Liverpool), Emma Visman (HFP) and hosted and coordinated by Mike Edwards, with meeting and discussions with CAFOD colleagues.

The initial discussion was a catch up on relevant initiatives since the first meeting, including the development of the Climate and weather site for humanitarian organisations initiated by Andy. It is clear that there is a need for a site where relevant climate information and tools can be pooled. This does not yet appear to exist. It could be relatively easy to establish but will require quality control, maintenance and updating.

The exchange group met with Matthew Carter, CAFOD’s Head of Emergencies, to provide an overview of the exchange and proposed further developments.

In the afternoon, the exchange took the form of a presentation and discussion meeting with a cross-departmental group of CAFOD colleagues.  Mike provided a presentation on why climate information is important for the organisation, and the need to understand the information available. How can we ‘do’ climate change adaptation work without analysing climate information: he cited the example of climate models for Uganda which, dependent on the model used, show a projection of either a 50% increase or decrease in rain, underlying the need for higher resolution information. He also noted that climate change presents a new type of issue for humanitarian and development organisations, ‘an issue that we don’t understand’. He asked participants to:

  • Think about how climate science could help you in your work?
  • What would you like to know about the weather in your region?
  • What would you do with the information?
  • How could partners use it?

Emma provided a background on the work of HFP, to contextualize the exchanges.

Cyril then presented an approach for the proposed more extended exchange, focusing on Bolivia – as proposed in the first leg of the exchange. He brought together climate information (seasonal forecasting and climate change models) with data on maize production. He found there to be a strong correlation between El Nino and decrease in maize production/flooding. While information from seasonal forecasting on El Nino could warn of a potential decrease in the coming’s season’s crop production, the connection between El Nino and general circulation models is not constant/ ‘the teleconnection is not stationary’. It would probably still be possible to grow maize within the projected temperature increase, even if using the highest projected rates from climate models.

Concerns over the use of climate change models include the inability to adequately input topographic variability. The importance of this issue became clear as the proposed methodology was contextualised.

Pablo Regalsky, from CENDA, CAFOD’s partner in Bolivia, commented on Cyril’s initial analysis. His organisation is not for development, but for ethno-development.

Pablo referred to information on the correlation between natural disasters and globalization in the Economist. His organisation identifies poverty in terms of child nutritional levels, rather than in economic terms. The organisation has found that those less reliant on market production are less vulnerable to food insecurity than those dependent on producing for a global market. While Cyril had thought that the rise in maize production was linked to population increases, Pablo said that the link was rather to globalization – starting in the 1980’s – and to production of maize for livestock for export. His analysis immediately highlighted the need for such scientific/humanitarian exchanges to ensure scientific support from reliable resources on site.

Pablo described the resilience strategies employed by those working in mountainous areas which receive rains with high degrees of local variability. Coping strategies have led farmers to develop plots in areas at different altitudes, to ensure that at least some succeed. This has consequently led to specific work patterns.

Andy thought that the complex system described by Pablo would readily lend itself to agent based modelling.

There are clearly issues around the harnessing of indigenous climate knowledge in ways which do not exploit and deliver return.

Andy clarified the sources of climate information available, including:

  • 6 month seasonal forecasting, the performance of which can be assessed
  • GCMs, of which there are more than 20 models produced by different climate institutions
  • Regional climate change models, which are at a resolution of 25km over Europe and 50km over Europe. These are more able to take in topography.
  • Emerging decadal forecasting, extended seasonal forecasting

There is a need to establish the scale which has meaning for the user.

Identified climate information needs

A ‘travelling roadshow’ of climate information for humanitarian and development organisations. Some means to provide a basic understanding and training in the appropriate use of relevant climate information materials.

On the 2nd day we discussed options for this. There seemed to be an opportunity for both a regional training of trainers (TOT) programme and for a self-contained computer course. The TOT would lead to expectations and would necessitate sustained and organisational support, but is considered very relevant, especially if it strengthens and extends the outreach capacity of existing national and regional meteorological institutions and bodies.

We discussed tools for ‘coping with climate variability’, including the scenario development exercise work employed by Natasha Grist at Tyndall.

CAFOD is establishing a website for the various aspects of its climate related work. This will include components on: the exchange with Liverpool and on climate change adaptation with INTRAC and One World Action.

Also identified was the need for a clearing house on what we are planning to do, what we are doing and what we have done with regard to climate change adaptation, planning for climate crises, building relevant tools and pooling relevant climate materials. A number of activities discussed appeared to be already ongoing or proposed within other organisations. Maximising potential opportunities for greater collaboration could greatly strengthen work on climate change across the sector. There is a need to share tools developed and avoid duplication, double booking partners and over covering certain regions. This is a role which could, once again, be taken on by the DFID-supported climate change centre. To promote sharing of relevant materials, the system would need to ensure due accreditation of the authoring of materials and assessment of the quality of the products for users,  through some form of peer review. One proposal is for a Wikipedia style format for training tools.

Learning for the dialogue

The importance of achieving organisational buy in for the dialogue.

We need to identify or develop a training module on the humanitarian sector, to support the dialogue with scientists.

To do

CAFOD and Liverpool University are keen to develop a three-year exchange project. Building on the collaboration which CAFOD has already established with UCL Benfield, the extended in-country exchange would require cross-sectoral expertise, including from amongst others: a social scientist, a climate scientists, an agriculturalist and/or food economist, expertise in water and health. Tim Wheeler at Reading was again mentioned with regard to agriculture. Benfield does not currently have a focus on meteorological hazards, but focuses on geo-physical hazards. When considering where to focus the more extended international exchange, there is a need to consider regions where models have predictability, such as South Africa, where there is a long time series. There is also a need to consider where climate information has immediate practical use: seasonal forecasting is of immediate use, and where the long term models may, at present, be of limited practical use.

CAFOD are proposing a regional workshop in September in East Africa, with input from UCL. It was proposed that this be extended for participation from Liverpool and HFP.

Look at Harvard Humanitarian site. This has much relevant climate information material.

Find Pablo’s Economist reference.

Climate change exchange: Liverpool Uni/ CAFOD

April 21, 2009

Exchange between Liverpool University and CAFOD 6-7 April 2009

Participants: Cyril Caminade, Andy Morse, and Anne Jones, Liverpool University; Clodagh Byrne and Mike Edwards, CAFOD, Emma Visman, HFP

The first morning comprised a brief introductory presentation of HFP, followed by presentation by Liverpool of its areas of climate work – Liverpool University Climate Change Impact and Assessment (LUCCIA). Discussion then focussed on how some of these might be relevant to CAFOD and its partners, and proposed collaborative activities.

Cyril has provided his presentation on his blog, with links to various journals – please read these notes in conjunction with:

Ongoing activities of LUCCIA

They  have modelled the spread of blue tongue and liver fluke in Europe. Such information can be used as an analogue for more dangerous illnesses, for illnesses for which there are as yet no vaccines.

Seasonal forecasts available now four times a year for 180 day periods. Some seasonal forecasts are run out to 13 months and some for 10 years, the latter two are cutting edge.

African Monsoon Multidisciplinary Analyses (AMMA) which combines information from food security, health, land degradation and water resources.

ERA – risk assessment on the impact of climate change on human health and well being, Europe-focussed but trying to push to the edge of Europe and export to an African context.

Learning about how to assess how good models are: Look at how models work retrospectively against current climate and historically observed weather data. While if they accord well with past ‘observations’ , this might indicate that they will work in the future, retrospective fit does not ensure that they will work in the future. Mechanisms which impact on the climate change across the time scale are not necessarily included within the climate models. No models work well over West Africa. Information on future rainfall for Africa is not clear (see also the article from Richard Taylor, UCL on this). The biases in global climate models (GCM) are even more evident in high resolution models. While models are not reliable for definite future climates, they may be used to indicate trends. This raises a need to identify which types of climate information may be useful for the different timeframes of humanitarian and development planning.

Climate scientists should not be allowed to just provide climate information: they need to show the impacts of the climate information rather than just showing meteorological information.

How climate information could be used by CAFOD

There was discussion on the various ways in which climate information can be used within CAFOD, both within policy/advocacy work, and directly by partners. There is a wide variation in the capacity of partners to take on climate information. There is a need to translate climate information for programme work and contextualize climate change within other existing and future hazards. At present most humanitarian organisations use only IPCC key messages.

Climate information identified during the exchange could be used within CAFOD’s country strategy papers. But this will need to convey the level of uncertainty within the climate information provided.

CAFOD has one PhD student undertaking research in the Philippines with another due to start work in Bolivia. They are looking at climate change alongside a range of other environmental issues, including local land use.

There is a need for a centre to which humanitarian organisations can submit climate enquiries, whether this is through the DFID-supported Climate Centre, shortly to be established, or a Humanitarian climate change advisory panel.

There is a need to differentiate the impacts of climate change from other environmental factors, to avoid blaming everything on climate change.

The group reviewed the UNDP country climate profiles produced by Mark New, Oxford, funded by DFID. There is much relevant material here, with extensive use of climate models. This review was useful to ensure that proposed activities do not duplicate already existing climate information.

Mike asked if HFP could provide a presentation about a range of future drivers during the CAFOD-hosted second session of the exchange.

Different options for training were discussed. One possibility was to make available a spoken version of the seminar on climate for 1st year Geography students at Liverpool. The powerpoints are available and this would only require scripting and recording the seminar for each slide.Other options discussed included training of training courses to enable regional trainers to train users in region.

There are a number of useful tools readily available, such as Climate Explorer, cited on Cyril’s blog. These would require various adaptations for specific user groups.

Anne Jones showed us her work on modelling of climate and malaria. This models the spread of the vector, based on past observations of the linkages between rainfall and reported cases of malaria. It focuses on marginal areas of rainfall and use ENSEMBLES forecasts. There is a lag of several months between rainfall and instances of malaria. The model does not plot natural immunity – an area under research within Sanger-supported malaria network exploring genetic immunity.

Such dynamic models allow consideration of interventions, and the most effective timing of potential interventions. Such forecasts have for example been used by MSF to identify the best time to undertake meningitis vaccination programmes in West Africa.

Anne’s malaria modelling exercise included tools for cost-loss assessment enabling decision makers to assess the accuracy of climate forecasting against the costs of potential interventions and set their decision thresholds. The user can set the cost/loss ratio. This tool could be used to assess the costs involved in responding to other future risks, and would then provide policy makers with a decision-making tool in prioritising across risks. There was some discussion on the units for comparison being measured, are we measuring economic loss, social loss – death/sickness. Anne will send slides of this tool. She would be great to invite for a stand alone seminar – but it is work in progress.

There was discussion on the use of climate information, including political and economic manipulation. The case of South African farmers using seasonal information to manipulate market prices was cited.

Proposed research

Developing a model to identify critical thresholds and tipping models. Combining social and climate information on crops, population, water resources and climate to identify definite tipping points and enable climate change to be compared to other hazards. While Bolivia was proposed for the more extended focus, a model could be worked up using West Africa information for the 8 June meeting. If a rice-dependent area, information available from the International Rice Institute. The local community could further contextualize climate change to consider other issues of vulnerability, such HIV.

Mike mentioned that UCL Department of Engineering has significant funding for PhDs and we should approach them with specific areas of identified research work . CAFOD’s 2 PhD students are funded through this work.

Existing climate materials of potential relevance to the humanitarian community:

Climate and health bulletin, of the African Centre of Meteorological Application for Development (ACMAD), produced monthly. We need to contact them to ask to be put on the mailing list.

Relevant journals to which the partner exchange can contribute articles (see links from Cyril’s blog):

CLIVAR exchanges – a non-peer reviewed newsletter of CLIVAR. Some issues are themed.

Weather, Climate and Society, of the American Meteorological Society. First edition due in Fall 2009. Emma to contact to enquire if we can submit information for its Policy fora (1,500 words) and notes section (up to 2,500 words).

Notes on the dialogue

The exchange was greatly facilitated by scientific partners already having a good understanding of the environment in which humanitarian and development organisations work, and the humanitarian partner having technical training in climate change and extensive experience in climate change education. Andy Morse has spent considerable time in strengthening the capacities of meteorological colleagues in Africa and is especially keen on promoting the development of climate information for relevant end users. Mike Edwards has studied climate science and been actively promoting education of climate change and information. There have been few of the commonly identified constraints of ‘language’ and terminology in the science/humanitarian dialogue.

Two days is more than an enough for an initial visit. Not only does it demand a lot from the host, taking them away from their ongoing work, but is also saturation point for humanitarian organisations taking on the extensive range of climate information.

It was useful to review existing climate information, such as the Mark New UNDP country climate profiles. There is wealth of existing data. The issue then being how this information is to be used, how to instil capacity to understand the data, and where best to site this.

The second part of this exchange will take place at CAFOD in mid May.

CAFOD / Liverpool visit

April 18, 2009

We had a productive visit last week between CAFOD and the team at the University of Liverpool.  Emma Visman (of HFP) has some good notes of the interactions(which we hope she will post soon).

Cyril Caminade produced a blog entry here.

Will update more later.


UPDATE FROM HFP  – Professor Andy Morse is an HFP Climate Change Exchange Fellow, more of which can be found here.

Announcing the HFP Climate Change Exchange Fellows

April 8, 2009

Please join us in congratulating the following HFP Climate Change Exchange Fellows, as previously described here.

The 2009 Fellows are:

  • Mike Edwards, CAFOD
  • Andy Morse, Liverpool University
  • Clodaugh Byrne, CAFOD
  • Cyril Caminade, Liverpool University
  • Adrian Thomas, Met Office
  • David Wightwick, Save the Children UK
  • Jose Luis Penya, Christian Aid
  • Richard Ewbank, Christian Aid
  • Lydia Baker, Save the Children UK
  • Martin Todd, UCL
  • Stephen Edwards, UCL
  • Richard Jones, Met Office
  • Mark New, Oxford University
  • Steve Jennings, Oxfam UK
  • Suraje Dessai, Exeter University
  • Charlotte Sterrett, Oxfam UK
  • Emma Visman, HFP

These fellows will be spending time at the following aid and science organisations:

Pilot One
     Humanitarian partner: CAFOD
     Scientific partner: Liverpool University

Pilot Two
     Humanitarian partners: Save the Children UK and Christian Aid
     Scientific partners: University College London and The Met Office

Pilot Three
     Humanitarian partner: Oxfam GB
     Scientific partners: Oxford University and Exeter University

Pilot Four
     Humanitarian partner: HelpAge India
     Scientific partner: TBC

We look forward to seeing short bio and introduction here soon!  As always you can keep track of the Climate Change Exchange related posts by clicking here, clicking the “climate change exchange” category to the right, or by searching for the “climate change exchange” tag on this blog.

The HFP Climate Change Exchange

April 8, 2009

The HFP is currently running a pilot exchange programme linking climate scientists and humanitarian policy makers.  Those involved in the exchange will be posting comments, thoughts and reflections here over the months of April and May, 2009.

In four different pilot projects, scientists will be spending two days at a humanitarian organisation, learning about the needs and challenges of the sector and reflecting way that climate science could inform policy and operations. Humanitarian policy makers will then be hosted at the partner scientific institution, to gain a greater understanding of the work done by climate scientists, the tools available to them and some of the issues around assessing and using scientific data.  

The exchange programme came out of an initial workshop on using climate science hosted by the HFP in January 2009 which explored ways that humanitarian organisations are approaching climate change. Four pilots are taking place during April and May in the UK, and onein India, and following it is hoped the programme can be expanded. 

Click here for a list of posts from the Climate Change Exchange Fellows, as well as look out for posts on the main blog page with the tag “climate change exchange“.