Title Research Process: CLEAR - Climate and Environment in Alpine Regions
Project: ICRA - Integrated Climate Risk Assessment
 Collaborators Carlo Jaeger (EAWAG), Huw Davies
 Keywords Climate Policy, Climate Risk, Computer Models, Democracy, Focus Groups, Integrated Assessment, Perception, Risk Cultures, Alps, Central Europe, Alpine Region, Switzerland
 Abstract

This project is a core component of the project CLEAR ­ Climate and Environment in Alpine Regions. CLEAR is a coherent, trans-disciplinary study of issues that pertain directly to climate-related change in the Alpine region. CLEAR spans the interfaces between the fields of physical, ecological, social science. It will provide increased understanding of the pertinent issues, especially with respect to complexity and uncertainty; deliver a range of state-of-the-art modelling-tools; develop an overall methodology for integrated climate risk assessments; and provide policy relevant information on response strategies and a mechanism for testing likely measures before policy implementation.

The described project by Jaeger et al. serves as platform for the overall integration of the CLEAR research process. The complexity of environmental problems such as climate change means that knowledge from such diverse realms as the natural and the social sciences must be integrated. Computer models are important tools for the integration of scientific knowledge. There is no doubt that computer models and computer simulations are essential instruments in assessing the complex environmental dynamics that lie beyond the limits of experimental research. However, it would be seriously misleading to think of computer models as being sufficient for forming wise policy. For this reason, the project will supplement the current integrated assessment methodology
with a second tool: the focus group. Hence, the overall goals of the project are threefold:

Developing a procedure for Integrated Assessment. The project will develop an IEA-methodology that combines two tools: computer models and focus groups. Models are seen as a tool for organizing scientific knowledge. Focus groups will be used as a tool for organizing a social process involving scientists and non-scientists. Together, these tools will ensure that the models are not used as substitutes for democratic decision-making. A large part of the research will be devoted to testing the IEA-methodology, i.e. the interaction between people and models.

Providing a platform for modellers. The focus groups will serve as a platform and laboratory for modellers. The interactions between the developers and the users of the models will allow the characteristics of the user interface, as well as of problematic model structures, to be improved. The overall rationale of the CLEAR modelling activity with respect to integrated assessment is to build models that inform laypeople about the basic functioning and the intrinsic uncertainties of crucial processes of climate change.

Generating and analyzing advanced integrated assessments. The
IEA-methodology will be tested and applied so as to generate a series of
judgements and insights into the human dimensions of climate change which
are informed by both scientific competence as well as social fairness.

Methods: The following methods are used:
Models: existing highly integrated simulation models and low-dimensional simulation models to be developed by CLEAR.

Focus groups: about 50 session-units each year, one-shot discussions as
well as panels. For comparative reasons a limited number of sessions will be organized in the French and Italian speaking part of Switzerland. Participants will be recruited from the general public, from public administrations and from the business world.

Standardized questionnaires will be distributed to panel members.

Publication:
CEBON, P., DAHINDEN, U., DAVIES, H. C., IMBODEN, D. M., JAEGER, C.C. (eds.): Views from the Alps. Towards Regional Assessments of Climate Change. MIT-Press, Cambridge, Mass. (1998).

 Related Links http://CLEAR.eawag.ch/