Networks of climate researchers: We are stronger together

Strengthening the international impact of Nordic climate research is an important purpose of the Nordic networks in the Top-level Research Initiative’s sub-programme “Effect Studies and Adaptation to Climate Change”. The kick-off meeting for the networks in Oslo last week showed that the goal is already in sight.
 Networks of climate researchers: We are stronger together
- This is very promising! stated the Chair of the Programme Committee, Mogens Henze, as representatives from ten research networks presented their activity plans at the kick-off meeting at Felix Conference Centre in Oslo 27-28 October.

- I believe that these networks will contribute to strengthening both climate research and the cooperation between Nordic climate scientists significantly in the longer term. Researchers have come together and are well underway to seek funds from other sources, said Henze. He is Professor and Head of Department for Environmental Engineering at the Technical University of Denmark.

The sub-programme “Effect Studies and Adaptation to Climate Change”, which is one of six sub-programmes within the Nordic Top-level Research Initiative (TRI), opened a call for proposals in autumn 2009 for the financing of ten Nordic researcher networks.

Each network could receive up to NOK 300 000 annually for three years, and the funded networks were announced in January 2010. Representatives from these ten networks now met in Oslo. Among the participants were also representatives from the Nordic research councils, ministries and agencies, and both national and international stakeholders, including the CIRCLE-2 ERA-Net.

Researchers write stronger applications
Towards the end of 2009 the sub-programme also opened a call for proposals for Nordic Centres of Excellence (NCoE). The three centers that are granted funding were announced in October 2010. Nordic Strategic Adaptation Research (NORD-STAR) led by Professor Michael Goodsite at the National Environmental Research Institute, Aarhus University, is one of them. Goodsite used the existing research network “The Nordic Climate Mitigation, Adaptation and Economic Policies” (N-NCMAEP) to prepare the application. – I am sure there will be many such examples, and that several EU-funded projects will emerge from these networks, said Mogens Henze.

Exchanging data
Professor Anthony Fox from Aarhus University agreed with Henze: - The networks have already had great significance. Fox studies populations of ducks and other seabirds and has concluded that climate change is about to create major changes in the European duck populations. About 4.5 million ducks are shot in Europe each year, but no one knows exactly how many, because it has been difficult to obtain good data. This is about to change due to the work of this researcher network.

- The first meeting in our network took place at Kalø in Denmark in September, gathering 26 participants from five countries. We met researchers who had collected excellent data on duck populations for more than 20 years. Researchers from neighbouring countries knew nothing about it. Now we can co-operate and exchange data. The network has already proved that a relatively small sum of money from the Top-level Research Initiative has had an amazing impact, said Fox in his presentation.

Reason for concern
The kick-off meeting was held a few days after a survey from Cicero (the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research – Oslo) and the opinion-research institute Synovate showed that only half of the population of Norway is "very" or "fairly" concerned about climate change. The proportion who believes that climate change is man-made has decreased from 2008 to 2010.

After listening to representatives from the ten networks presenting numerous examples of the effects of climate change, it is difficult to understand that people are not more concerned. Coastal Engineer Sanne Lina Niemann at DHI pointed out that also minor changes can have dramatic consequences. In the Italian city of Matinatta large areas of sand beach was washed away because of reduced rainfall, and a few degrees of changed wave direction. Higher sea levels and increased wave height also threaten the famous sand dunes on the Danish west coast.

Different disciplines come together
This sub-programme emphasises the collaboration of researchers from different disciplines. The climate issues are so complex that a broad knowledge base is necessary to understand them. This is why engineers, social scientists and natural scientists work together in the networks.

- A measure of success with these research networks is that a number of groups are able to attract research grants that they can use to continue collaborating. In addition, it is very positive that the networks can help educate PhD candidates, said Mogens Henze.

- We hope that the programme will contribute to creating research clusters at the highest European and global level. What Michael Goodsite said in his presentation is in fact true: The Nordic region is one of the regions in the world with the highest density of experts on climate solutions and adaptation. This gives us a good starting point.

Climate change causes a variety of threats that we must deal with. At the same time, there are also possibilities. If we can develop many strong research centres, it will also be of significance to the industry and business that can export the know-how and solutions, Henze summarised.

Read more about the Nordic Networks here
Read more about "Effect Studies and Adaptation to Climate Change" here

Text and photo: Bjarne Røsjø, BR Media

Photo nr. 1: From the left: Maria Nilsson, Christian Lorentzen, Jeremy White, Susanne Jensen, Adriaan Perrels, Sanne Lina Niemann, Ola Haug, Michael Goodsite, Christian Damgaard, Karl Georg Høyer, Anthony Fox and Oskar Wallgren.
Photo nr. 2: Mogens Henze
Photo nr. 3: Sanne Lina Niemann

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