Knowledge and information are crucial for climate action. Climate extremes are expected to become more severe. Temperatures, rainfall, the timing and severity of storm patterns are in flux. These changes affect livelihoods and lives. To be useful, information about these changes needs to be timely, high-quality, relevant and accessible to people, particularly to vulnerable populations, some of them living in the world’s most remote corners.

Meeting these needs is the focus of an emerging field called climate services, which aims to bridge the gap between climate science and policy and practice so that people can make practical decisions about how best to adapt in ways that build resilience to natural and man-made disasters.

Climate services draw on a variety of sources. Scientific research and meteorological and climate models are important, but so are practical experiences and local and indigenous knowledge. SEI’s climate services sees working together with users as an essential component both to guide the production and tailoring of climate information (to meet context-specific needs) and to be able to apply that information.

In fact, the essence of the philosophy that underpins our work can be captured by a single prefix: “co”.

Co-exploration and co-production are our bywords. That is to say, we do things collaboratively, not for users but with them.

This, too, represents a new way of doing science. Our work at this research frontier is intended to break down the so-called “ivory tower” that can isolate scientists, and science itself, from policymakers who are making decisions that cry out for better understanding of state-of-the-art climate knowledge. We aim to co-explore key issues, and to co-produce new, relevant climate knowledge tailored to users’ specific needs. The ultimate goal, is to set the stage for the implementation of science-informed policies that enhance lives and livelihoods.

This is capacity-building work running along a two-way street. That is, this approach builds the knowledge, skills and capacities of users so that they can better understand and interpret climate information; at the same time, this approach builds the skills and capacities of scientists and intermediaries who provide and translate the information so that they can better communicate and collaborate with users.

SEI has a strong track record of producing climate knowledge, building capacity and supporting decision-making on development, mitigation, adaptation and disaster risk reduction.

A map shows the location of Climate Service Initiative case studies, and the participation of various partners (in boxes). The map illustrates projected food insecurity in 2050, with medium missions and without adaptation. Darker oranges indicate greater food insecurity. The small map shows conditions at the present. Source: UK Met Office and the World Food Programme.

The climate services initiative aims to strengthen SEI’s contributions to these fields by developing new approaches for the improved design, use and interpretation of climate services, that we are refining and testing particularly those focused on adaptation and disaster resilience. Our services aim to extend from the local to the national level, and to both developed and developing countries.

A cornerstone of the initiative is ‘Climate in Tandem’, a new, original framework that explains best practices for the co-design of climate services that involves scientists, intermediaries, and potential users of these services.

The ‘Tandem’ offers step-by-step guidance to work together to improve the process and, ultimately, enhance the design of climate services. SEI is rigorously testing and refining the ‘Tandem’ framework to ensure its applicability in a wide range of settings. The scope of these efforts is conceptually broad, covering a range of:

  • issues, including water, energy, coffee production, ecosystems, and infrastructure
  • scales, encompassing regional and national, urban and rural plans
  • geographies, incorporating work underway in Southeast Asia, Northern Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa and Northern Europe
  • and development contexts, to span low-, medium- and high-income countries.

This graphic illustration show the steps in the ‘Climate in Tandem’ framework, which is designed to aid the co-design of climate services with the participation of scientists, intermediaries, and users of climate information.

The results will be published in peer-reviewed literature and learning will be shared through an interactive version of the Tandem framework as online guidance. Findings will also support a community of practice on weADAPT.

This graphic illustrates the interactive version of the online ‘Climate in Tandem’ guidance. Image: SEI.

Broadly, the initiative focuses on three objectives:

  1. improving understanding of the context of decision making, including climate- and time-sensitive development challenges, institutional processes, stakeholder needs and engagement, and the added value that climate services can provide for managing climate and disaster-related risks
  2. developing innovative methods and creating new partnerships for the improved design, use and interpretation of climate services
  3. influencing adaptation policy and planning processes through improved provision of climate services to advance the United Nations Agenda 2030 Goals.

The initiative core team includes a range of disciplines (social geography, anthropology, sociology, environmental science, political science, behavioural science, climate science, computer science and communications), skill sets, and experience building and designing decision support tools and knowledge platforms. Our Climate Services Initiative capitalises on the expertise of colleagues working in offices in Stockholm, Bangkok, Bogotá, Nairobi, and Oxford, and in the field. Our work also taps the experience and expertise of our extensive network of partners, among them, the global Climate Knowledge Brokers Group, in which SEI researchers are active participants.

We engage with the broader research, policy and practice communities, by producing publications for academic and non-academic audiences, and by participating in a wide range of global conferences and specialist events that keep us abreast of the most current trends in climate adaptation research.