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Next Generation Climate Services Model Proposed

This blog post summarizes a recent proposed approach to climate services that dovetails with SCAN’s approach and we hope will be of interest to this network!

As Kathy Jacobs* and Roger Street point out in their 2020 paper, climate services have advanced significantly in recent years. There are ample case studies of decision makers working collaboratively to produce relevant climate information (for mitigation and adaptation/resilience actions) and there is broad understanding that different decision contexts drive different information needs and application approaches.

However, as they also point out, much of this progress is not happening at ‘scale’. In the US, programs like NOAA’s Regional Integrated Science and Assessment Network (RISA), and the DOI Climate Adaptation Science Centers (CASC) have worked on specific projects and have shared lessons across their networks, but to date, there haven’t been many suggestions for how climate services could be broadly organized across the US and how they could address a greater array of emerging questions and objectives.

For example, climate services have been relatively narrowly focused on supporting climate mitigation and adaptation measures, but ‘on-the-ground’, many decision-makers are dealing with an array of related issues - sustainability objectives, social needs, and other risks and opportunities. A successful climate services framework, argue Jacobs and Street, could and should be able to support systemic actions across these multiple societal objectives, but in order to expand the scope of expertise and the resources appropriately, a climate services model will need transformational capacity-building on a large scale. Capacity in this case would include better use of artificial intelligence (and other analytics), as well as engagement networks that can learn from all sides of the producer-user equation.

The authors contend that the range of climate services required suggests a new kind of model, and refer to it as a ‘next generation approach’.

The core of this approach is to ensure that relationship and capacity-building is the foundation of the framework, and they suggest building a strategic network of ‘fellows’ to accomplish this. These fellows - preferably early-to-mid career professionals - would become familiar with multiple areas of the science and applications contexts and be excellent communicators (in science translation, use of multiple communication platforms, including social media), and trained in engagement practices. They would act as facilitators for a large ‘network of networks’ that would support ongoing learning and experimentation and share good practices and information.

This network, the authors suggest, could be organized at a national or international level with an independent coordination body to support its management. The fellows would be able to play roles in at least three areas: the ‘pull’ for climate services (e.g. helping to make the case for near-term climate resilience investment based on relevant [and new] cost-benefit information); the ‘push’’ side (updating guidance, data, tools, navigating and recommending resources); and on the facilitation side (providing a forum for dialogues between the different participants in climate services - a factor critical in any scaled model).

The authors acknowledge that in order for this next generation approach to be successful, it may well require a new kind of funding model, especially to sustain it beyond the initial phase. There is a need to explore public-private partnership models, perhaps contractual arrangements with agencies and organizations, along with government-funded initiatives. In addition, the new approach would support emerging national and international centers or initiatives that show promise, and help to coordinate the energy behind these initiatives to become a focused basis for next generation climate services.

Explicit objectives of SCAN include supporting climate-related ‘communities of practice’ organized around categories of societal problems, and to sustain the relationships needed to evaluate the tools and data that can better support practitioners, so there are many aspects of this paper that are particularly aligned with our philosophy. We hope you’ll take the time to find out more about the next generation climate services approach by reading the full open access paper in Climate Services Journal, published by Elsevier.

*Kathy Jacobs is on the Convening Committee of SCAN and is the Director of the Center for Climate Adaptation Science and Solutions at the University of Arizona

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