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: http://caminade00.blogspot.com/2009/04/cathold-kings-college-uniliv-meeting-06.html

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.

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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“.


Boyd for the agile humanitarian organization?

December 23, 2008

We have been re-reading John Boyd’s seminal Patterns of Conflict (PDF found here) and were struck, once again, by the relevance of his thinking for the 21st Century humanitarian organization.

Boyd writes,

…in order to win, we should operate at a faster tempo or rhythm than our adversaries… Why? Such activity will make us appear ambiguous (unpredictable) thereby generate confusion and disorder among our adversaries—since our adversaries will be unable to generate mental images or pictures that agree with the menacing… rhythm or patterns they are competing against.

Boyd was talking about aerial combat, with reference to other forms of warfare. In a recent post, we reflected on how others (such as John Robb) are pointing out that modern terrorists groups are successfully using this approach against established states and organizations.

Is it possible for humanitarian groups to use these same tactics to be more effective in their own work? If so, what might this look like? Boyd identifies the following attributes of a successful aircraft operating against such conditions. Below we map these principles to principles of planning and action for the humanitarian organization to see how well they fit (slightly edited from Boyd’s original list for ease of reference).

Boyd’s “Recipe for Generating confusion and disorder” Equivalent concepts for the 21st century humanitarian organization
Quick clear scanning sensors Risk assessment, early warning systems, and anticipatory planning processes
Quick shoot fire control systems and high speed weapons Rapid logistical deployment to crisis situations coupled with effective technological and social intervention
High speed, acceleration and deceleration Strategy: rapid policy making, decision-taking, and organizational responsiveness
High maneuverability Tactical: Able to change policy and practice rapidly to face changing circumstances

This mapping is clearly quite crude but nevertheless opens some interesting doors for comparison. For example, Boyd argues that in times of rapid change and uncertainty (i.e., when one is facing challenges of a faster tempo than one can make sense of), “it is advantageous to possess a variety of responses that can be applied rapidly” to achieve one’s goals.

This suggest having a diverse playbook for crisis response and wide range of skill sets and mental models ready at hand. To do so requires both top-down visionary leadership and emergent, bottom-up listening. He also argues that “cooperation and harmony of activities” are essential.

Finally he writes, “to shape and adapt to change one cannot be passive; instead one must take the initiative.” This highlights the essential component of agency in the face of uncertainty, which could be framed as being more proactive than reactive. This highlights one of the findings of the joint HFP / Tufts report on “Ambiguity and Change”, which was that to be successful, 21st century humanitarian organizations must achieve a paradigm shift and bridge the gap to sustainable development, not just “cleaning up” after the fact.

Put more simply and directly: the above comments leave one with the impression that variety/rapidity/harmony/initiative (and their interaction) seem to be key qualities that permit one to shape and adapt to an ever-changing environment.

Clearly this is of tremendous relevance to the HFP’s mission enhance the anticipatory and collaborative capacities of humanitarian organizations.


HFP Stakeholders’ Forum a huge success

December 18, 2008

The Humanitarian Futures Programme [HFP] held its second Stakeholders Forum from 13-14 November 2008 in London, with great success.

Over the 1 ½ day event, two of HFP’s four major themes were considered – collaboration and innovation – in order to review the relevance of HFP’s approaches to these two themes to the needs of the humanitarian sector and to recommend ways that HFP’s approaches to these and related themes could be enhanced. HFP’s two other main themes are organisational anticipation and adaptation. Annex I and II provide the Stakeholders Forum Programme and Participants List, respectively, while Annex III provides thematic notes on collaboration and innovation.

The Stakeholders’ Forum was privileged to have as speakers in order of presentation Professor Sir David King [Director of Oxford University’s Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment], Dr. Eric Rasmussen [President, InSTEDD], Mr. Ben Ramalingam [Head of Research and Development, ALNAP], Dr. Babar Kabir [Director, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, BRAC], Ms Stacey White [Senior Research Associate, HFP], Dr. Jon A. Frederickson [Director of Innovation Expansion, InnoCentive], Dr. Jemilah Mahmood [President, Mercy Malaysia].

The sessions were ably chaired by Professor Mervyn Frost [King’s College, London]. Mr. Ed von Schenkenberg [Coordinator, International Council of Voluntary Agencies], Dr. Neil Macdonald [Godwana Development Associates], Mr. Michael Jones [UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Tajikistan], Ms Margareta Wahlstrom [Director, UN International Strategy for Natural Disaster Reduction] and Mr. James Darcy [Director, Humanitarian Policy Group, Overseas Development Institute].

More details and a summary will be posted here soon.