‘Risk Assessment and Adaptation in climate related tools’, interview with Jaroslav Mysiak, CMCC

The REACHOUT series of interviews 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 peek, 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. 

Jaroslav Mysiak: ‘Our ultimate goal is to witness tangible changes occurring on the ground.’

Read our ‘latest’ featuring dr. Jaroslav Mysiak, principal scientist at CMCC and director of the division RAAS interviewed by Federico Aili, Associate Programs and Engagement at Resilient Cities Network. 

Hello Jaroslav! We only met in person one-time last year in Milan during the REACHOUT General Assembly. I would like to know more about you and your background. You have gained a lot of experience in risk assessment and adaptation strategies. How did you grow your interest for it and for climate risk related tools?

‘Hi Federico, Thank you for reaching out to me for this interview. Risk assessment is a central theme across multiple workstreams within my institution, the Euro-Mediterranean Centre on Climate Change (CMCC). It is also the primary focus of the research division I lead, known as the Risk Assessment and Adaptation Strategies (RAAS) division. In recent decades, there’s been a shift from assessing the impacts and vulnerabilities of climate change in different regions and economic sectors to conducting comprehensive assessments of their implications for response capacity and preparedness. This evolution has led us to more sophisticated evaluations, exploring how climate change shocks can cross geographical and functional boundaries, influencing not only those in directly affected areas but also having broader implications.’

CMCC is an established foundation, focusing on climate change modelling, impact assessment and societal responses. Within REACHOUT, CMCC works on the business and implementation models, but also provides some of the tools which are part of Triple-A Toolkit. One of this is the Pluvial Hazard Risk Assessment in urban areas tool. Could you briefly explain how you are using it in some of the city-hubs?

‘Pluvial hazard risk refers to the risk associated with heavy or excessive rainfall. In the event of unusually intense precipitation that exceeds the soil’s absorption capacity, surface water flow intensifies and accumulates in local depressions. In urban areas characterized by high levels of impermeability, this can result in the significant accumulation of water spreading across the urban landscape, flooding ground-level properties, and affecting urban infrastructure. CMCC and RAAS have been working on this topic for many years. We have contributed to the Copernicus Climate Change Service’s focus theme dedicated to this matter, among other initiatives. For those analyses, we have simulated the rainfall of different intensities and assessed the associated economic damage. We have delved deeper into this topic through Climate-KIC funded SAFERPLACES, which combines the assessment of coastal, pluvial, and fluvial floods.

In REACHOUT, we took a step further by analysing green solutions that reduce the impact on and protect valuable urban assets, as well as enhance the quality of urban life through the expansion of the existing green infrastructure. These solutions are now integral to comprehensive adaptation strategies and their implementation in Milan and other cities. This is also a component of the city hub business models, which are designed to create conditions conducive to faster and more inclusive adaptation efforts.’

Is there another tool developed by CMCC that you would have like to see used or tested in REACHOUT, but that was not included in the tool carousel at the beginning of the project?

‘CMCC and RAAS in particular are involved in many research and innovation activities which are providing valuable insights for the adaptation strategies and plans at various governance levels. As an example, we have found that the risk management capabilities assessment framework that we developed with and for the EC peer review program mandated by the Union Civil Protection Mechanism, is extremely useful for guiding the self-evaluation of subnational governance. I believe that this framework and self-assessment instrument which relies on the framework are particularly helpful for gathering the knowledge about where cities and regions stand as they prepare to design their transformative climate adaptation plans.

However, there are other initiatives that REACHOUT can collaborate with or potentially contribute to. The EU Mission on Adaptation to Climate Change has launched numerous projects dedicated to regional demonstrations of transformative adaptation, along with projects that support them with specific thematic focuses. Notably, the CLIMAAX project is currently developing a comprehensive toolbox for local and regional climate risk assessments. While its scope is similar, it encompasses a wider range and addresses all key community system-related risks such as food and water security risks. The REACHOUT toolbox can fit into this broader framework to achieve a larger impact at scale.’

Jaro, you are or have been a member of various European Institutions (including the EC Horizon Europe’s Mission Board on Climate Adaptation and Societal Transformation (2019-2021), the EEA’s Scientific Committee and UNDRR Science and Technology Advisory Group for Europe, E-STAG). What is the potential of climate services in the European context and what is still missing for the broad uptake of climate services in European cities?

‘Climate services, such as those developed in REACHOUT, have the potential to contextualize climate information and knowledge to the specific use and decision context of users’ organizations. The European Union has positioned itself as a global leader in enhancing climate services, both within Europe and globally. We have witnessed numerous practical and highly valuable examples where climate services have significantly improved the way organizations cope with risks and manage resources. The CLIMATEUROPE2 project is actively promoting the use of climate-related resources and fostering the development of a community of practice underpinning the services. In February of this year (2023), REACHOUT hosted a guest session during the CE2 Webstival of Climate Innovation, during which we received many useful suggestions and collaboration proposals. But to get back to your question, there are many reasons for which the full potential of climate services have not yet been exploited. Firstly, many existing services are the results of innovation projects that encounter challenges when transitioning from innovation to practical implementation, often referred to as the ‘valley of death’ in the innovation process. Secondly, there is limited transparency in the models and data used for climate services, and there is a need for quality assurance criteria that demonstrate their fitness for the intended purpose. Thirdly, there is still much work to be done in terms of business innovation thinking and diversification to ensure the viability and financial sustainability of climate services. REACHOUT is actively addressing these needs for the services developed in the project, and CE2 also places strong emphasis on these aspects. I think we are on the right track but there is much to be done. Through my participation in the various expert boards you mentioned, I strive to contribute to bridging the different (epistemic and policy) communities and drawing attention to identifying what can be done to address the aforementioned barriers.’

Do you already have a takeaway lesson from REACHOUT so far? What are you looking forward to in the upcoming years of the project?

‘It may be premature to consider this at the current stage since we are still actively working on realizing the impact of this project. However, we can outline the potential legacy of the project through the following key actions: First, we aim to ensure that climate services clearly demonstrate their value proposition and align with users’ needs. Second, our goal is to demonstrate on the ground how climate services can speed up adaptation efforts, ensuring coherence across various regulatory domains. Third, we aim to empower individuals and entities, fostering their agency. A key for this is the next stage of the project focussing on AMBITION, that is mobilising the communities and developing shared vision of resilient cities. As a city liaison for Milan, I work closely with city representatives not only to implement the planned aspects of this project but also to create favourable conditions for sharing knowledge across various policy and innovation platforms. Our ultimate goal is to witness tangible changes occurring on the ground. Milan is one of the 100 climate-neutral cities supported by the Mission Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities initiative, making it an ideal arena for substantial progress in both climate mitigation and adaptation simultaneously.


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The climate story of Gdynia​

Short summary: A story about Jan and Maria during extreme precipitation.

Theme: Flooding

End user: Citizens

Link to the story: under construction