Riederalp, Switzerland, March 19-23, 2019
Climate Extremes: new Ideas for Quantifying Changes and Improving Resilience
Riederalp, Switzerland, March 19-23, 2019
Climate Extremes: new Ideas for Quantifying Changes and Improving Resilience
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The Riederalp workshop

The Riederalp meetings are annual events that focus on topics dealing with Climate Change Impacts and Risks in the Anthropocene, and are organized by the C-CIA research team at the Institute for Environmental Sciences of the University of Geneva, Switzerland.
The 2019 workshop will be dedicated to climate extremes.

The current and future course of extreme events in a changing climate is considered to be one of the 12 “Grand Challenges“ of climate research, as defined by the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP/WMO) in its overview of research strategies to be encouraged for future years. While changes in the long-term mean state of climate will have many important consequences on numerous environmental, social, and economic sectors, the most significant impacts of climatic change will often be associated from shifts in the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events. Regions now safe from catastrophic wind storms, heat waves, droughts, and floods are increasingly becoming more vulnerable to these events and the associated damage costs would consequently be extremely high. While some of these damages can be attributed to shifts in the weather elements themselves, many of the costs are related to the fact that there is an increase in population pressure in regions that at risk. There is thus a need to undertake focused research to identify whether the intensity and/or the frequency of extremes has changed in recent decades, to determine possible cause-to-effect relationships between long-term climate trends and severe events. It is also important to disaggregate the climate and non-climatic factors (e.g., land-use change, urbanization), to address trends in extremes as climate continues to change in the course of the 21st century. There is therefore an urgent need to critically examine which mitigation, adaptation and geoengineering schemes could be implemented and at what cost.

 The type of knowledge generated by research in the natural sciences urgently needs to be taken up in a coherent manner by decision makers, capable of using the updated information and knowledge base on extreme climate events to formulate appropriate adaptation strategies aimed at reducing risks and associated human and economic costs. Extreme events have been seen to be extremely costly in human and economic terms, and there is much interest in assessing whether heat waves, floods, droughts, or wind-storms may increase in intensity and/or frequency in the future, according to different carbon emission and geoengineering pathways during the course of the 21st century. For example, some of the most optimistic scenarios in mitigating climate change implicitly include carbon dioxide removal (CDR) geoengineering but will increase pressures on land use for bioenergy production , and while solar radiation management (SRM) geoengineering schemes are currently hypothetical in nature, unjudicial deployment may themselves result in changes in extremes such as Sahelian drought, Atlantic hurricane frequency and intensity, and ecosystem vulnerability. Improved knowledge on the future course of these events should help to establish advance planning, through various forms of economic and technological adaptation, to help decouple as far as possible loss of life and economic costs from the probable rise in damaging extremes in a “greenhouse climate“. The Riederalp-2019 Workshop proposes considering not just the fundamental science only,  but the integration of elements of impacts and adaptation policies that could (or should) be progressively put into place in order to reduce climate-related risks and the costs of extreme events on vulnerable societies.

 Bringing together the “physical science” and the “adaptations” and “policy” communities will thus be an important and exciting element of the Workshop. Adaptation to extreme events and subsequent policies aimed at long-term implementation of adaptation strategies must manage and need to address both existing and increasing levels of uncertainty. This implies that a high level of knowledge on extreme events needs to be generated in order to reduce uncertainty, thus leading to more robust estimates of exactly what can be achieved in terms of adaptation, within what timeframe, and at what cost. This kind of policy guidance is ultimately what is required to curtail risks and impacts generated by climate extremes, and it is with some confidence that we believe that the planned workshop, through its interdisciplinary mix of researchers, will be able not only to address the key issues, but also provide some guidance as to applicable solutions.

 There are four main objectives to the proposed workshop:

1)       To bring together an interdisciplinary group of scientists to discuss on the latest research results on climate extreme events, and how improved dialog with policymakers may improve mitigation, adaptation and geoengineering strategies and thus substantially reduce the costs of climate-related hazards. An example of engineering and adaptation approaches could include quantifying risk of climate extremes for renewable energy generation. A non-exhaustive list of topics to be addressed include the following:

  1. Heat / Cold waves and related impacts
  2. Wet / Dry events and related impacts
  3. Extratropical windstorms and related impacts
  4. Extremes of precipitation in the tropics
  5. Process understanding for extreme events
  6. Links to adaptation, and mitigation strategies (incl. geoengineering)
  7. Statistical methods for climate extremes e.g. spatio-temporal modelling
  8. Communications with stakeholders and policy-makers

2)       To consider the possibility of publishing a set of papers presented at the workshop in a Special Issue of a leading interdisciplinary journal;

3)       To prepare a policy brief, designed to guide governments in planning for appropriate adaptation strategies to counter the negative impacts of climate extremes. The brief would need to target both the specific needs of specific countries, and the broader, trans-national entities such as the European Commission;

4)       A final objective of the workshop could also be to look into whether the participants of the Riederalp meeting would be interested in joining forces to prepare a project that could be submitted to a future call by the EU.

 The Workshop schedule is generally split into morning sessions, a free afternoon for outdoor activities such as skiing, and an early evening session before supper that can include presentations and discussion periods.

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