Innovation and adaptation have permitted humanity to not only survive but to reach new heights. Innovation led to the development of new tools, industrialization, computerization and untold scientific advancements, with both positive and negative consequences. Adaptation has involved, amongst others, design of warmer, lighter or even camouflage clothes and shoes, construction of sturdier structures and migration. Today, with billions of mouths to feed and the risk that climate change will cause rapid and unprecedented impacts, the stakes are as high as ever and the need to innovate and adapt ever greater.
Living with, and adapting to, climate variability and change is an everyday challenge. What has changed is the measure of trust we can have in the basic assumption that past climatic and socio-economic conditions are indicative of current and future conditions. The combined effects of climate change, population growth, migration, infrastructural development and inappropriate land use present unprecedented challenges to society; populations are exposed to hazardous conditions and in positions of increasing vulnerability. Despite this, humanity must be able to anticipate the future climate with some reasonable degree of confidence in order to adapt successfully. Effective forecasts would, for example, facilitate climate-smart decisions that would reduce the impacts of climate-related disasters, improve food security and health, and enhance management of water resources.
Innovation – the advent of satellites, high-speed telecommunications, supercomputers and new scientific insights – has given the ability to provide such climate services. We can now peer further into the future than ever before. A growing understanding of how the oceans, the land, and the atmosphere interact to drive climate now makes it possible to provide seasonal and inter-annual forecasts of increasing reliability. Research into how humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions are changing the climate has led to forecasts and scenarios that project out to the end of this century and beyond.
However, although the innovation, foundational capabilities and infrastructure for effective climate services already exist, there is a lack of a coherent operational climate service, thus the need for the Global Framework for Climate Services.
Components for Implementation
The Global Framework for Climate Services, endorsed by the World Climate Conference-3 in 2009, will strengthen and coordinate existing initiatives, and develop new mechanisms where needed in order to meet today’s challenges as well as those ahead. The National Meteorological and Hydrological Services of WMO Member States, which are already providing weather and climate information, will provide a solid foundation for the Framework. Its implementation structure will include five components across which activities will be coordinated and integrated:
- User Interface Platform;
- Climate Services Information System;
- Observations and Monitoring;
- Research, Modelling and Prediction; and
- Capacity building.
These five components will form the pillars on which the Global Framework for Climate Services will be built. Focus will initially be placed on the four priority areas of the Framework – agriculture and food security, disaster risk reduction, health and water – then, as gaps are filled, will extend out in scope.
User Interface Platform
The User Interface Platform will provide a structured means for users, climate researchers and climate service providers to interact at the global, regional and national levels to ensure that the Framework meets user needs for climate services. Its objective is to promote effective decision-making in areas where climate is involved.
To achieve its objective, the User Interface Platform is aiming for four outcomes:
- Feedback - identify the optimal methods for obtaining feedback from user communities;
- Dialogue - build dialogue between climate service users and those responsible for the observation, research and information systems;
- Outreach - improve climate literacy in the user community through a range of public education initiatives and online training programmes; and
- Evaluation - develop monitoring and evaluation measures for the Framework that are agreed between users and providers.
Implementation during the first years will focus on the Framework’s priority areas – agriculture and food security, disaster risk reduction, health and water. However, these four areas are not mutually exclusive. On-going disasters, for example, can often present challenges in food security, health and water, so the User Interface Platform will, at times, have to deal across all the user communities. At other times, it will be more effective to deal with the stakeholder communities in the priority areas separately. An initial focus on the four priority areas will not, of course, preclude ongoing interest and activities in other areas of national, regional and global interest where there are sensitivities to climate variability and change.
Climate Services Information System
The Climate Services Information System is the principal mechanism through which information about climate – past, present and future – will be routinely collated, stored and processed to generate products and services that help to inform decision-making processes across a wide range of climate-sensitive activities and enterprises. It will comprise a physical infrastructure, together with professional human resources, and will develop, generate and distribute a wide range of climate information products and services. The WMO World Climate Services Programme will be the principal mechanism to implement the Climate Services Information System.
A substantial part of a fully operational Climate Services Information System already exists. Thus, its implementation strategy is based on a three-tiered structure of collaborating institutions that will ensure climate information and products are generated, exchanged and disseminated:
- Globally through a range of advanced centres;
- Regionally through a network of entities with regional mandates; and
- Nationally and locally by National Meteorological and Hydrological Services and their partners through national institutional arrangements.
The primary and high priority functions will include climate data rescue, management and mining, climate analysis and monitoring, climate prediction, and climate projection. These will encompass processes of data retrieval, analysis and assessment, re-analysis, diagnostics, interpretation, attribution, verification and communication over a global-regional-national system of inter-linked producers and providers. Formalized structures and procedures will be essential for standardization, sustainability, reliability, and adherence to established policies and procedures.
The Climate Services Information System will have to engage with the User Interface Platform in order to gain a clear understanding of user requirements and of how users will apply climate information. Regional Climate Outlook Forums will be effective for stimulating collaborative assessment to assist users in identifying robust climate signals, in understanding inherent uncertainties and in developing consensus. Users of climate information will benefit from having access to products that reflect expert assessment and consensus, in addition to information from a variety of individual sources.
The Climate Services Information System will also engage with the Observations and Monitoring and Research, Modelling and Prediction for the inputs required for its operations.
Observations and Monitoring
For effective climate services to be delivered, observations of appropriate types and of adequate quality and quantity must be made, and these observations must be available at the right place and at the right time. Both surface-based and space-based observations are required of physical and chemical climate variables of the atmosphere, land, and oceans, including the hydrologic and carbon cycles and the cryosphere.
However, the delivery of useful climate services also requires the availability, for national use in particular, of socio-economic, biological and environmental data. Physical and chemical climate observations and complementary socio-economic and other data must be effectively integrated to develop and provide users of climate services – farmers, public health officials, disaster risk reduction managers, water resources administrators, and the like – with information that will help to minimize losses due to climate variability and change and to effectively manage natural and human systems.
Despite the fundamental importance of observations for the delivery of climate services, many key regions and climatic zones remain poorly observed. Significant gaps in observations exist, especially in developing countries, and timely access to observational data is still problematic in many locations. The requirement for complementary socio-economic, biological, and environmental data raises additional challenges in ensuring that such data are collected, quality assured, archived, and made accessible in standardized formats.
Observations and Monitoring proposes actions to address these gaps and requirements, placing particular emphasis on the areas of greatest need in Developing and Least Developed Countries and more specifically Small Island Developing States (SIDS). It presents an overview of existing observational programmes, activities and initiatives on which the Framework relies, and seeks to increase the focus of these on the data needed to support the provision of climate services to users, particularly in the key priority areas of the Framework. It targets the observational gaps, the enhancement of networks and data management and exchange systems, and highlights the need for monitoring of socio-economic, biological and environmental variables. The principle of free and open exchange of climate-relevant data will, of course, respect national and international policies.
While Observations and Monitoring may require some new types of physical or chemical climate variables, there is clearly a need for greater observational density in both space and time for those variables that are already being monitored. The initial focus will be on the rehabilitation of silent stations, the activation of key stations in data poor areas, and the sustaining of space-based observations in support of climate. Greater efforts to rescue historical data are also proposed in order to make use of all the observational data that already exists. To facilitate access, all data must be securely archived in electronic formats with at least basic data management capabilities.
Where socio-economic, biological and environmental data (and perhaps some additional physical and chemical observations) are concerned, more consultation is needed. The determination of needs will vary by sector and will be achieved through an interactive process with the key end users of climate information. Consequently, early activities will include the establishment of a formal consultation mechanism with users to assess the need for, and role of, climate observations for adaptation to climate change. Linkages to both the User Interface Platform and the Climate Services Information System will be vital to the success of these activities.
Implementation of Observations and Monitoring will require full engagement in the programmes and working mechanisms of partners at global, regional, and national levels. The observational contributions of non-governmental organizations and universities will also be of importance – there is a potential for greater engagement of non-governmental and private sector observational networks.
Research, Modelling and Prediction
Further expansion and strengthening of research on climate will be required for the implementation of the Framework. Existing climate knowledge will have to be systematically converted into practical solutions, and this will require a change in how climate research is conducted. Multiple applications of climate knowledge, targeting the need for science-based climate information in a wide range of socio-economic sectors, will have to be developed. New professional networks of research communities in various socio-economic sectors will have to be created to unite climate research, the diverse service providers and user communities.
To meet these objectives, Research, Modelling and Prediction proposes to:
- Proactively target research towards developing and improving practical applications and information products so that the initial requirements of climate information users can be satisfied at the current science and technology readiness level;
- Significantly enhance the interaction and cooperation of the corresponding research communities with climate information users and operators through the User Interface Platform;
- Enhance the science-readiness level for production of improved climate projections, predictions and user-tailored climate information products; and
- Continue to improve the understanding of the Earth’s climate in the aspects that determine the impacts of its variability and change on people, ecosystems, and infrastructure.
Research, Modelling and Prediction will expand the practical dimension of climate research to make its outcomes valuable for informed decision-making. The overall approach will be to facilitate the transformation of the multitude of existing independent research activities into a more coherent, better supported, and more focused research process culminating in systematic generation, assessment, and improvement of valuable and timely climate-dependent information products. Success will be gauged based on improvements in timely delivery and usefulness of the science-based products and services offered through the Framework to the diverse socio-economic sectors.
To benefit from climate services, users and decision-makers will need to know the limits of current scientific understanding of climate, how to take into account the inherent uncertainty of provided information, and how to effectively and accurately communicate their needs to scientists. The research communities will need to assess the current and future ability of climate science to satisfy the requirements of users and accommodate corresponding needs in their observations, research, development, and communication priorities. Further targeted investments in research, modelling and prediction activities will be required in order to progress toward fulfilling decision makers’ needs for science-based climate information.
The main goal of the GFCS is to “enable better management of the risks of climate variability and change and adaptation to climate change, through the development and incorporation of science-based climate information and prediction into planning, policy and practice on the global, regional and national scale”.
(World Climate Conference-3)
The Framework aims to develop the capacity of countries to apply and generate climate information and products relevant to their particular concerns, thus Capacity Development is an integral part of its implementation. The World Climate Conference-3 recognized that many countries lacked policies and institutions, or human resources with the right skills or practices, to enable them to take advantage of new or existing climate data and products or to create national user interface groups to establish national dialogue on these issues.
Capacity Development tackles two separate but related activity areas: the particular capacity development requirements identified in the other components and, more broadly, the basic requirements – national policies, legislation, institutions, infrastructure and personnel – to enable Framework related activities to occur.
By necessity plans for implementation for the Framework have, to date, been built top down using generalized capacities and assumptions to provide a first guess estimate of what is required, what can be implemented in a sustainable manner and how much it could cost. The implementation of specific projects at national or regional or sub-regional level will require that these generalized assumptions, capacities and costs are tested for the specific circumstances and projects, thus leading to a gap analysis or refinement for each project. This analysis will also need to determine the presence or absence of the underlying foundations for sustainable projects and identify what needs to be done if the foundations do not exist. The results of the analysis will determine the financial, human and institutional resources required for implementation of the related project on a sustainable basis and the collaboration and coordination mechanisms required between various players.
Fast tracked pilot projects will address specific needs of the countries in the priority areas of the Framework, especially in the Developing and Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States, and further refine the underlying assumptions. An estimated cost of approximately 300 million USD is required to implement the initial phase (2013 – 2017) of Capacity Development with the possibility for an additional similar amount in its last phase (2018 – 2023).
Mechanisms for agencies to work together and exchange relevant information on their activities will need to be refined or developed where they do not exist. Capacity Development will facilitate and strengthen, not duplicate, existing activities.
Governance and baseline budget
The Framework is expected to have a governance mechanism – an Intergovernmental Board – that will be accountable to the World Meteorological Congress. It aims to oversee the activities of the Secretariat and technical committees that will deal with the details of implementation of the Framework.
Cooperation is the key
Different institutions, organizations and entities carry out activities around the globe in the relevant areas of the Framework. Cooperation and collaboration with existing networks, projects and initiatives will be the key to the success of the Framework. At the global level, this includes a number of UN partners and the systems and institutions that these organizations co-sponsor. Non-governmental organizations and universities will also have an important role to play. To achieve its potential, the Framework must reach out and engage with all of these players.
Meeting the challenge of providing effective climate services for decision-making in the four initial priority areas of the Framework – agriculture and food security, disaster risk reduction, health and water – will require the full support of WMO Members. With the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services as the cornerstone of its foundation and the User Interface Platform, Climate Services Information System, Observations and Monitoring, Research, Modelling and Prediction, and Capacity Building as its central pillars, the Global Framework for Climate Services will deliver on its promise.