Workshop Regional availability of climate knowledge in the Baltic Sea region

Berlin and Timmendorfer Strand, Germany
Verantwortlicher Ansprechpartner bei RADOST
Grit Martinez

How does the communication between providers of climate data and political decision-makers work and how can it be improved? These questions were the central point of a three-day workshop held in Berlin and in Timmendorfer Strand from June 15th – 17th. First in Berlin, Scientists and stakeholders from the administration and politics of various Baltic countries discussed the different aspects of the availability of regional climate facts. At the second part of the workshop held at a local venue in Timmendorfer Strand, the practicability of these data was discussed with potential users. A highlight of the event was a dinner hosted at the Swedish Embassy in Berlin.
This workshop was part of the BMBF financed project Circum Mare Balticum (CMB).  CMB  is affiliated with the RADOST-project. The Workshop with around 35 participants was organized by Ecologic Institute in cooperations with the Helmholtz-Center Geesthacht; the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute and the Institute of Marine Sciences of the University of Szeczin (Poland).
The basic aim of the workshop was to foster an exchange of ideas between climate scientists (functioning as climate service providers) and users of climate data across various countries of the Baltic Sea region. Central questions of the exchange were to what extent existing information tools meet users’ needs and are actually used by them, what improvements could be made, and what benefits can be expected from enhanced international cooperation. Another core question in all the discussions over the three days of the workshop was in which ways such a transfer of knowledge could be brought about.

The first day of the workshop closed with a dinner hosted by the Swedish Embassy in Berlin. In a keynote presentation by Prof. Hans von Storch from the Helmholtz Center Geesthacht, the term post-normality, in terms of climate science, was introduced. The question of how climate science should address the phenomena of post normality was discussed.

The first day of the workshop was comprised of two panels. The first was on the perspective of regional climate service providers. The speakers stressed the importance of combining scientific data with the needs of end-users and also talked about difficulties concerning their work. Good examples were given by the SMHI Institute, where an internet portal serves as a communication tool. Examples from Germany such as the ‘Nordeutsches Klimabüro’ and the Climate Service Center were presented. Finland will also launch an internet based climate guide soon. The panel finished with an introduction on Polish efforts on climate adaptation. These endeavsoon. The panel finished with an introduction on Polish efforts on climate adaptation. These endeavors illustrated that the internet is seen as an essential medium for climate knowledge dissemination. At the same time, it was also pointed out that personal contact to users is crucial. The consensus  of the discussion was that only through dialogue between both groups can the gap between what is done and what should be done be closed.

In the second panel, different stakeholders talked about their perspectives and experiences with regional climate data. The climate adaption efforts in the city of Copenhagen were presented especially vividly. In addition to the risks of climate change, the city is also trying to focus on opportunities that arise from climate change. Two examples from Sweden and Norway showed different adaptation approaches on a regional and local level. Besides the need for more detailed data for the specific regions, the question of unsettled responsibility of decision making was also discussed. In a further lecture, results from two questionnaires which were conducted recently by Ecologic Institute and the Helmholtz Center Geesthacht were presented. They addressed both scientists and local authorities at the German Baltic Sea and asked about their perspective on climate change. Results of the survey will be published in the near future.
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The second day of the workshop began with group discussions. In a separate round, climate scientists discussed what kind of climate information is available from the scientific point of view and what information could be available in the near future. The spatial resolution of climate models was a key point in these discussions. In the second session, stakeholders discussed the information that is currently available as well as the information that would be desirable. . The resolution of models was also a topic, but a comprehensive way of presenting the data was requested beyond this. The main conclusion of the first part of the workshop was the awareness that scientists need to focus more on second order impacts and vulnerability. The concerns of the end-users about these topics were obvious. Even though there are some approaches with which to quantify the second order impacts, there is certainly need for more scientific work. This demand is recognised by the scientific community, and there is broad consensus among both scientists and stakeholders that forthcoming scientific work should focus on these topics.

The focus of the second part of the workshop was communication between users of climate data and the general public concerning the implementation of climate adaptation measures. The workshop’s participants travelled from Berlin to Timmendorfer Strand, where they visited the pilot project Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) in the communities Timmendorfer Strand and Scharbeutz. In an extensive process of planning and participation, 12 km of coastline have been remodeled in order to protect the coastal area from sea level rise over the next 100 years. At the same time, the area’s value as tourist destination was also increased. In order to find a solution for the many demands placed on the measure, the official planning system was extended by additional steps: data acquisition, participation and competitions. These steps, along with the process of implementation, were explained by Jacobus Hofstede, Ministry of Agriculture, the Environment and Rural Areas Schleswig Holstein. These descriptions were complemented by the community of Timmendorfer Strand’s Mayor Volker Popp, who contributed his experiences in participation and communication processes in the community. In addition to technical achievements, these processes were key to the project’s success. For example, some stakeholders from the restaurant sector who had been skeptical about the project at first soon became so convinced of its merit that they contributed funding to the measure.

During an on-site field visit, participants were able to verify the success of the project themselves. This visit, which was also the close of the workshop’s program, was an encouraging example of cooperation among climate information service providers, users and the general public in the context of climate adaptation in the Baltic Sea region.
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In a summary and discussion that followed the workshop, a consensus became obvious:  the results of this workshop should lead to ongoing activities on the topic of climate knowledge dissemination, with a focus on the eastern countries of the Baltic region. Concerning this, in the week following the workshop, scientists from Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Germany met to prepare a regional survey on the perception of climate information in the Baltic Sea region. Further workshops of the Circum Mare Balticum project will be held in autumn 2011 in cooperation with universities from Lithuania, Latvia and Poland.

The workshop's outline, agenda and presentations can be downloaded here:
Workshop Agenda
Circum Mare Balticum outline
Abstracts and Speaker Profiles

Nilsson & Engström: Climate Services in Sweden
Meinke: Regional Climate Service
Marks: Climate data availability
Keup-Thiel: Climate Service Center
Bratt: RegionalClimateAdaptation
Haanpää: Climateguide Finland
Bray: Transfer of scientific knowledge
Martinez: Transfer of scientific knowledge
Leonardsen: Climate Change in Copenhagen
Dahle: Climate Change and the Land Use Planning Sector
von Storch: Climate services under post normal conditions
Hofstede: Integrated Coastal Risk Management
Popp: Engagement of local stakeholders