Blog from the Netherlands

The REACHOUT blog series aims at collecting more personal views from colleagues developing and applying climate services for urban adaptation and resilient development, get more insight on the state of knowledge, the main ongoing discourse, and get a more concrete view of what their work encompasses. A sneak peak, so to say, behind the jargon and throbbing sentences used in policy documents and research proposals. Throughout the project, team members will complete a round of interviews. One colleague will interview another, and the interviewed colleague then conducts the following interview of the next team member and so on. As each member interviews and gets interviewed in this manner, all topics will be covered over the duration of this project. 

BLOG 1 Experience from climate adaption service provision in the Netherlands  

   

For the first log of this blog, Ad Jeuken (Deltares) lead and scientific coordinator, is interviewing Hasse Goosen (Foundation Climate Adaptation Services), co-lead and innovation manager of the REACHOUT project.  

Hasse, we have known each other now for almost 15 years, bumping into each other at different occasions. All these years as I recall you have been active, in different jobs, in the Dutch adaptation science-policy interface, trying to offer climate information to decision makers. What has, in your view, changed over all these years in the Netherlands? How have the questions from policy makers on climate change and adaptation changed, and how has the ability from science and brokerage organization to respond evolved? 

First, I want to say I am very happy to be in this project together with you. As you say, we have known each other for a very long time working in the same field. We wrote a few international proposals together but now finally managed to have a project together. With regards to adaptation in the Netherlands, we have witnessed an increasing involvement from local authorities over the past 5-6 years. As a low-lying country, management of water is in our DNA, but only since very recently have our municipalities become actively involved in urban adaptation. There is a high demand for climate information, tailored maps and datasets. We really see that scientific information is now bridging that last mile. We have over 1000 users per day on our platforms and everyday datasets are being downloaded and delivered to especially our municipalities.   

What of these 15 years experiences do you bring into the REACHOUT project? 

What really works, from my experience, is to offer a variety of services ranging from very easy to use, to more advanced modules. We offer appealing visualizations, maps and infographics and simple guidelines summarized in ‘story maps’. But it is also possible for users to use more advanced services and tools. The key is to keep things simple and to develop narratives, story lines, supported by graphically appealing visualizations. But also, to support a ‘deep dive’ and offer more sophisticated services. There is no “one size fits all”. Yet everyone likes nice graphics and clear stories!  

I can imagine, as being director of a long time successful service organization, you have a good view on the success factors, pitfalls and challenges of climate service development (btw why climate adaptation services?) 

When we started CAS, the climate services literature had just started to emerge. Most of it was about climate data. What I wanted to highlight is that we are not here to produce data, our purpose is to support adaptation, hence climate adaptation services. Climate data is essential in the process. But it is only one component in the chain. You need to understand the governance, how city planning works, what is needed at what stage? You need climate data but also information on risk and vulnerability, costs and benefits. We try to cover the whole chain. And to be able to do that, we work closely with the research institutes like Deltares, our favourite partner of course 😉. The biggest mistake is to make assumptions regarding user needs. And a pitfall is to have a user engagement at the start of the project only. This should be a continuous process of trial and error. Users often don’t know what they need until they see what you have delivered. If the project budget has then been depleted, you have an issue. So, keeping everyone involved throughout the service design is key.  

If you look at the current European CS landscape what are the main challenges or controversies? I often have the impression that we tend to overestimate the impact of these services. What is needed to increase impact? To what extent, do you realistically believe REACHOUT may contribute to this? What is the role of technological innovations in this? 

As adaptation scientists we of course think that we are at the centre of everything. So, we want to have the best possible information with the highest possible detail. Within city planning we need to realize that policy making is a funny and fuzzy business. There are so many things at stake, every municipal department has its own responsibilities and covers different fields of expertise. Adaptation then becomes just one of the many things on the table. If you deliver a 200p report or 80GB data set covering all details with uncertainty ranges, likelihood intervals etc, you cannot expect that it will be used. Having good quality data is very important, but someone has to bring this down to the essence. What is the next step in the process and what information exactly is needed to support that particular step? That is where we need to improve. Also, I think that we have to find a way to get into the action mode. By offering data about risks, damages and horrible scenarios only, we may feel paralyzed. Cities need a perspective, and an idea of the ‘future they want’. I think it is important to try to make that turn around too. We need to be very clear about the risks, but we also need to develop an appealing perspective. Green resilient cities that are a joy to live in. With the story maps we aim to turn the narrative around towards a positive one. We need to act now, and when we do so, we can create the cities our children and grandchildren want.  

Hasse thanks for this insightful conversation. Could you already tell who do you think you’re going to interview next? What would you like to know from her? 

I would really like to interview Nieves Pena from Tecnalia. I have worked together with Tecnalia in a recent C3S Copernicus project. I would like to learn more about the climate services landscape in Spain and how cities are dealing with climate change. But the true reason is that I like the way she pronounces my name: “Haas” which would translate to Hare (large rabbit).