Day 1


1 Comment


The Value, Business, and Scaling Climate Services

The partnership behind the suite of climate-related science products (ex: forecasting, planning and decision support, education, business development efforts) is showcasing its growing depth and breadth in Brussels this week. Three key themes have emerged from day one of the ICCS2 proceedings.

The Value at Stake. The first of these themes is the stunning size of the value at stake that this enterprise seeks to address. Setting aside human lives and impacts as a separate issue, McKinsey’s Nicolas Deny notes that “40-70% of expected damage from climate hazards can be avoided cost effectively,” and that countries engaging in risk mitigation analysis find million of dollars in opportunities for savings. Recognizing the value of property assets alone that climate services reveal are at risk and eligible for protection, is one of the most exciting elements that occupies much session and hallway discussion here.
Properly Positioning Climate Services. As the notion of climate services matures, clarifying its value proposition and positioning in the minds of potential users, partners, and its own development community is a critical challenge.  Tom Brookes from the European Climate Foundation, detailed how really tremendous the complexity of starting a new enterprise of this magnitude is. The legal, sales, pricing and other essential business functions that individual, unrelated partnership efforts must navigate will require skills that go far beyond the strengths of many in our developer community. As these services mature, getting smarter in terms of these skills and bringing in the right expert partners will be of the utmost importance. Absent securing this expertise, the scale and impact we seek to achieve will be elusive. Furthermore, the question was raised: Is ‘climate services’ even the right name for all this? The impetus for the question is that with “climate” we inherit all its negative baggage. The group explored a different type of brand framing with more of a focus on “weather” over climate and the considerable goodwill that the notion of “forecasting” has in both the general and business publics.

Mapping and Understanding the Broad Services Terrain. Finally, how we define, chronicle and capture the broad range of emerging climate-focused products and services is important. We saw demonstrations including programmatic efforts, analytical and web-based solutions -- all for climate responses across multiple geographies.  How many of these services exist, in what ways they overlap (or don’t), is data sharing possible, do models port well, and what are the lessons learned? These are all questions that the partnership seeks to help answer in its clearing house function.

More tomorrow.

Matt Hirschland


05/09/2012 8:54pm

Well, I see that "climate services" are still in their infancy. I also see, that the "climate services" are missing something like a business plan. Despite the fact that climate service institutions have good goals and are for sure a need for the societies, it seems to me that the organisers and involved scientists in climate services put the cart before the horse.

No enterprise would start such challenges without a proper business plan. Going forward in the way as it is written here in the blog, is only possible as long as the climate service centres are funded directly by governments/taxpayers.

But starting and proceeding only with enthusiasm and activism is not very efficient, and for sure a waste of a lot of money which might be needed elsewhere, e.g. for dissemination, training and development. So I encourage you over there in Brussels really to think more strategically and business minded. Maybe too many people with scientific backgrounds in climate related domains are involved instead of strategic thinking managers. But the right proportion has to be kept: Too many managers will make an enterprise too bureaucratic, but you need them, and currently you need more of them in the service centres.

The term "Climate Services" is indeed a bit misleading. I would think of the services the climate offers for nature and mankind, in analogy to "ecosystem services", which describes the services which ecosystems deliver for mankind.

I read some of the statements in the "3 questions to ..." blog contributions and was a bit shocked about the generally meaningless statements to the question "What has to be done to adapt to climate change in your part of the world?":

"We need to plan ...", "... we need to support studies and surveys ...", "We have to invest in research and development ...", "A climate change policy should be prioritised and adaptation should be mainstreamed into the National Development Strategies and Plans.", "There is need for the government to take climate change as a priority, and allocate resources ...". -- These are air bubbles.

The statements refer to structural problems which are not specific for climate adaption activities. They are general questions of good governance, which are the main problems for progress. Again, I have the feeling that the cart is put before the horse. These are problems which cannot be solved by climate or ecological scientists. There is no need for plans, additional studies, surveys, researches. All this is already there there. Not necessarily in the countries, but somewhere distributed in the world's research institutes and in the scientific literature. The problem is the implementation, and before that, good governance. Do not waste money for every new research projects and studies, invest it in good governance structures and build climate change actions from there.

However, there is another way: Bypass governance and involve the citizens, make climate adaption actions a grassroot movement, a bottom-up approach. Currently, from what I read here, your approach is more or less top-town. For a bottom-up approach, you do not have to invent the wheel anew. There are already plenty of citizens and farmers movements on community levels. Approach them. Or movements like the Network of Climate Journalists in the Greater Horn of Africa. They have influence, they are good communicators, they are earth grounded and have influence on the administrative levels as well as on the community levels.

Only Catherine V. Nnamani from Nigeria seems to be aware that it is necessary to promote participatory methods. Her statement is quite concrete: "Provide safety-landing nets for vulnerable groups ...", "... provide accurate and timely weather forecasting information to farmers in the form and language they will understand ...". That is the way! I propose to listen more to her.

I propose to put a 4th question to the interviewees in order to force them to give concrete answers: "What are you personally doing in order to achieve the goals you proposed in question no 3?".

All the best and success.

Comments are closed.


    Sandra Pingel, Climate Service Center Hamburg, Communications Officer

    Rüdiger Braun, Climate Service Center Hamburg, Head of Communications

    Matt Hirschland, Ph.D.
    Director, Communications
    University Corporation for Atmospheric Research
    National Center for Atmospheric Research
    Boulder, CO, USA

    Catherine Vaughan,
    Staff Associate & Program Coordinator
    International Research Institute for Climate & Society
    The Earth Institute, Columbia University


    September 2012
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