Climate change is much more than an environmental issue. It presents huge social and economic challenges, at the global, regional and local levels. Vulnerability to climate change often lies in a combination of geography, socio-economic status, and access to services and justice. A careful examination of all these issues is critical if we are to fully understand the real cost of climate change, and develop coherent mitigation and adaption strategies that bring everyone on board. “A key difficulty has been matching the global assessments that are needed to drive mitigation actions with more local assessments that are needed to guide adaptation actions,” explains COACCH (CO-designing the Assessment of Climate CHange costs) project coordinator Francesco Bosello, a senior scientist at the Euro-Mediterranean Centre on Climate Change in Italy. “In particular there is a need to better highlight hotspot regions at risk from climate change, and to provide more useful, targeted indications for policy action.”
Identifying the root causes
The COACCH project set out to address this challenge by developing focused assessments of the risks and costs of climate change in Europe. To achieve this, the project team introduced the concept of ‘socio-economic tipping points’. “In addition to considering catastrophic events at the global level, we need to talk about events that have huge economic losses locally,” says Bosello. A second key element of the project was the involvement of highly multidisciplinary stakeholder teams. Participants included policymakers at the European, national and regional levels, researchers, financial and insurance organisations, and industrial sectors with a strong interest in climate impacts, such as steel companies. These teams analysed various climate change case studies from a range of sectors, including agriculture, forestry, energy and infrastructure. “What is interesting is that we adopted an ‘inverted approach’ to our analyses,” explains Bosello. “This means that we started from local social and economic shocks, such as localised production losses, price increases or job losses. We then worked our way backwards, in order to assess the climatic conditions that led to these shocks.” This approach enabled researchers to identify the root causes of certain local climatic impacts, such as flooded homes or damaged shopping premises.
Improving climate policy
The close involvement of policy, investment, business actors and researchers helped the project team to calculate the actual cost of climate change, and to make recommendations for more cost-effective, robust and resilient responses. “These new revised estimates of climate change costs take into account both direct and indirect economic impacts, and are significantly higher than in previous modelling,” notes Bosello. The project findings are mostly addressed to policymakers and the research community. The analysis and assessment of ‘socio-economic tipping points’ will help policymakers to identify where and when these could emerge in the future. “Knowing where climate change impacts can be most damaging can help inform action,” he adds. Financial institutions also stand to benefit through a better perception of climate change risks, with a focus on specific local or sectoral characteristics. “Another key outcome has been our Climate Change Impact Scenario Explorer,” says Bosello. “This open-source web interface allows anyone user-friendly, non-technical access and use of our data, assumptions and results.” The project also offers a wider database repository targeted at the research community. Here, researchers can download and explore in depth all of COACCH’s results. “We hope that our results are used by the policymaking community to support long-term climate policy action in the EU,” adds Bosello. “We also hope that the wealth of data produced by COACCH can help the research community to improve their models, and lead to more effective mitigation and adaptation policies.”
COACCH, climate change, environment, socio-economic, mitigation, industrial, agriculture, energy