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Communicating the e-Science of Climate Change

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Aim of Theme

Whilst human-induced climate change is widely recognised as a global challenge to society, a sharp divide is apparent between what scientists can offer – in terms of knowledge and information about future climate change and possible solutions – and what potential users of this information seek.

In addressing both these challenges, scientists have made extensive use of "eScience"...through technical and applications developments of high performance computing, complex numerical modelling and data mining.

To the frustration of policy makers, businesses and social scientists, there remains a substantial communication gap between the knowledge and information derived from this use computing power and its “usability” in practical decision making by policy makers and businesses.

In short:

  1. Are regional climate scenarios useful...for the purpose of managing future climate/weather impacts?
  2. Are energy system models useful...for the purpose of understanding the social and economic implications of building a low carbon energy system?

This theme has brought together participants on both sides of this communication gap to explore appropriate solutions and applications. The overall aim is to provide more usable outputs for practical users of this information.

Intended Outcomes

This Theme has provided the opportunity for potential users of regional climate scenarios and energy system models to examine how these models are formulated and used. In particular, the workshops have flagged the need to distinguish between the "predictive" power of models and their role in building shared understanding of potential future threats. Often, even when the predictive power of models is severely limited, their role in building a shared understanding is very important. This suggests that:

  1. Model developers need far more input from practical users on how the knowledge embedded in the models can be more effectively framed;
  2. Model developers should spend less time worrying about precise forecasts of the future - because they will invariably be wrong - and more on framing the ouputs in ways that are amenable to non-expert users. This may well require approaches more akin to game playing than formal predictive models;
  3. Design specifications for models and tools to bridge the communication gap can be developed.

The next step is to capture these insights in appropriate publications and user groups such as the Scottish UKCP09 User Community

Theme Leaders

Dr Andy Kerr

Dr Dave Reay

Principle Events

Public Launch Event

Costing the Climate Change Bill - Workshop

UKCP09 Scottish User Community 1st Meeting

Other relevant ideas

The role of game play appears particularly important in developing shared understanding of future challenges. Example approaches include those of the Serious Games Institute.


--Andy 29 March 2010

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