There is widespread scientific consensus of a clear human impact on climate. Whilst Europe in many ways leads the field in incorporating information on likely future climate changes into planning and decision making, stark differences exist between different member states. In the latest European Economic Community (EEC) report on the status of climate adaptation, 27 EEC countries reported some form of formal assessment (with only Croatia and Slovenia not reporting). However, reporting in Climate-ADAPT indicates very large country to country differences in the development and application of climate adaptation information. In some countries, climate adaptation advice has already entered routine planning and decision making processes (Füssel and Hilden, 2014). For example, in the UK government planning is underpinned by a statutory five yearly obligation to assess national exposure to climate change risks, and building regulations affected by river flow and flood risks account for the likely impacts of climate change. Swiss Federal bodies are obliged to consider decisions for optimistic and pessimistic climate scenarios. At the other end of this spectrum, climate change information is only just entering the decision making sphere for many countries. Romania, for example, reports only basic collection of adaptation options that fall considerably short of the guidelines on implementation and evaluation available in countries like Finland (Hanger et al, 2013). These country to country differences are compounded by different resources and capacities in accounting for and incorporating complex, diverse and uncertain climate change information.
The range of climate data (observations, climate projections and seasonal to decadal predictions) continues to increase. And yet inherent uncertainties, disparate and sometimes contradictory data sources and complexity represent real barriers for use in most decision making. National Climate Projections are developed as a way to synthesize currently available information into a form that can be used. Of the 27 countries in the EEA’s report (Adaptation in Europe) who have reported Climate Change Impact Vulnerability and Risk assessments (CCIVs), top level National Adaptation Plans (NASs) and/or more detailed National Adaptation Action Plans (NAAPs), most draw on individual National Climate Projections of one form or another. However, current National Climate Projections across European states differ markedly in:
- OFFICIAL STATUS – Large differences exist between those that are officially recommended or mandated and those countries where national climate projections have no official recognition.
- TREATMENT AND UNCERTAINTY – Uncertainties are inherent in climate projections (representing limitations of knowledge, fundamental uncertainties when dealing with any complex system, socio-economic scenarios, and uncertainties due to natural variations of the climate system). The treatment of these uncertainties varies between those that explicitly quantify the impact of uncertainty on projected changes, to those who acknowledge and discuss the sources of known uncertainties but provide little guidance as to how decisions can include it. There is little consistency between countries in the data they draw on or the presentation (for example the Norwegian projections group socio-economic and climate uncertainties together, others separate them out). At their most comprehensive, climate projections quantify and account for the relative plausibility of various climate model simulations relative to observed climate and present the information in a probabilistic context.
- SPATIAL AND TEMPORAL SCALES OF PROJECTIONS – These range from a few key variables presented for large regional and multi-decadal averages to high-resolution regional data (e.g., 25 km or river basin resolution, UKCP09).
- PRESENTATION AND DATA AVAILABILITY – Presentation and data availability. These can range from regional average changes, to maps of changes; based on single models, multiple models or estimates of the probability distributions; for few variables to multivariate, multi-scale changes. Large differences also exist between whether the underlying climate model data is made available to end users, and how accessible this may be. For example, it is possible to access the underlying climate data that underpinned UKCP09; however, this is only accessible to highly skilled users. Most users are presented some form of higher level climate projection information.
Previous EU-funded projects such as FP5 PRUDENCE and FP6 ENSEMBLES provided some consolidation of information, producing simulations of global and European regional climate changes that provide common data that underpins projections in a number of member countries. Still, adaptation measures are currently considered against different climate future baselines, which may or may not account for different factors not only between countries but also within them (e.g. Climate Projections developed independently for Flanders and Walloon drew on different underlying projection data) or for different sectors (e.g., Flood Risk in Ireland – Bastola et al., 2011 – that based its findings on comprehensive but especially developed bespoke climate projections). One key factor to these country to country differences in European Climate Projections arises due to different capabilities and resources of individual member states. But other factors also play important roles. For example, the recent Dutch (KNMI’14), Swiss (CH2011), French (DRIAS) and UK (UKCP09) are four of the most well resourced of the recent climate projections yet the large differences in temporal and spatial scales, treatment of uncertainties (narrative vs probabilistic, and the level of separation between systematic changes due to changed (greenhouse) forcing and random changes due to natural variability of the climate system) and depth of information reflect both different internal drivers (Skelton et al, 2016) and targeting at different end users and perceptions of their requirements.
On shorter timescales, research, development, and implementation cycles have seen rapid developments in near term (out to 10 yearS) climate prediction capabilities. And yet the diverse number of operational systems, insufficient knowledge of where initialized states add value, and the lack of detailed guidance on use and application have contributed to the lack of uptake of near-term climate predictions in European decision-making processes compared to that for longer-term climate projections.
EUCP will advance the current state of the art in two significant and substantial ways. The first strand identifies actual improvements to the climate simulations, the prediction/projection systems and the tools via which these will be synthesized for end-user requirements, to lead to better quality climate information that is actionable, to be available to European stakeholders. This will build on European strengths, both in terms of producing climate data and in synthesizing and presenting this to end users. The second strand focuses on delivering the spatially and temporally coherent climate data across Europe, addressing the large existing inequality in data provision across member states and impact sectors. This will include both a range of climate products, drawing from the same consistent data, but also guidance on the robustness or not of climatic changes on a variable and regional scale.