Knowledge and information are crucial for climate action. Vulnerable communities need to know how climate variables such as temperature and rainfall, and timing and severity of storm patterns and climate extremes may change, so they can adapt to protect themselves. This information needs to be timely, high-quality, relevant and accessible.

Meeting these needs is the focus of an emerging field called climate services, which aims to bridge the gap between climate science, policy and practice for adaptation decision-making and disaster resilience.

Climate services draw on a variety of sources: from scientific research and meteorological and climate models, to practical experience and local and indigenous knowledge. They also involve the process of co-producing knowledge and building the necessary skills and capacity of different user groups, both to guide the production and tailoring of climate information (to meet context-specific needs) and to be able to apply that information.

SEI has a strong track record of producing climate knowledge, building capacity and supporting decision-making on development, mitigation, adaptation and disaster risk reduction (see a map of our projects). We are also active in the global Climate Knowledge Brokers Group.

SEI Initiative CSI secondary picThis initiative aims to strengthen SEI’s contributions to these fields by developing new approaches for the improved design, use and interpretation of climate services, from the local to the national level, in both developed and developing countries, focusing particularly on adaptation and disaster resilience.

A key aspect of the Initiative will be to develop and apply an SEI Participatory Framework for Climate Services (PFCS), drawing on existing knowledge from external sources as well as new interdisciplinary research. The results will be published as online guidance and will also support a mobile app and a community of practice on weADAPT.

The initiative will focus on five key activities, all of which will feed into the PFCS:

  1. Understanding how climate services can better support decision-making, to ensure the most relevant, scale-appropriate, context-specific information is available;
  2. Exploring the long-term institutional arrangements and processes needed to bridge gaps between climate scientists and users, through knowledge co-exploration and co-production.
  3. Understanding the factors that make climate communication effective by using, testing and evaluating innovative formats and channels that can be scaled up (including low-technology solutions and the use of a shared “climate services language”);
  4. Building capacity for designing, communicating and using climate services; and
  5. Co-evaluating climate services with users to develop transferable lessons that can be widely shared.

SEI Initiative CSI figureA visual representation of the Initiative work packages. 

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.

To engage the broader research, policy and practice communities, we will produce multiple publications and participate in a wide range of meetings and events around the world, including co-sponsorship of the International Conference on Climate Services (ICCS) in March 2017.