A rich study to help Europe adapt to climate change

“The ToPDAd models can make good comparisons between different adaptation options that can help policy makers”, says Adriaan Perrels, one of the leading researchers in ToPDAd.


                                                                                                               Photo: Päivi Sihvola

Adriaan Perrels is coordinating Work Package 2 (the largest in ToPDAd), which investigates by means of combined models how the energy, transport and tourism sectors react to various types of disturbances induced by climate change. He is research professor at the Finnish Meteorological Institute in Helsinki.

In addition to being involved in the investigating work of Work Package 1, Adriaan’s main work for ToPDAd is within Work Package 2 in which he coordinates the tasks of the partners, notably of the various sector experts. "We try to assess how climate change can affect the sectors on the regional level and how it can spread out in larger parts of Europe. It is a lot of work (38 percent of the total work of ToPDAd). First you have to deal with the scenarios and then you have to take care that these sector models can be sensibly operated within these scenarios and produce interesting results for end-users”, says Adriaan. "We (in FMI) decided to build a Geographic Information System (GIS) based scenario support module in which climate and socioeconomic data are combined for every 25 x 25 km grid cell in Europe.”

Work Package 2 uses and combines several models to get more sophisticated simulations of sector responses to impacts of climate change. "Climate-change impacts especially when it comes to climate extremes – but also increased variability – is a problem. When there is a disaster there are several models involved. You have to come up with ideas to emulate them”, Adriaan continues and explains that there were a lot of sector and sector-modelling experts involved in looking at the impacts of climate change on sectors such as tourism and transport. "Now we are at the point where we can really start to make calculations. We will start that work in April and should be ready in September”, he says.

Seven case-themes

Based on stakeholder input and literature review, seven so-called ‘case-themes’ were selected, looking into various themes and events such as drought, heath waves, urban flooding and lack of snow, transport and energy. "What happens if summers in general are warmer and longer? Will tourist flows redistribute?” Adriaan asks and adds that the drought case-theme is bigger, because energy, transport and tourism are all affected during droughts and heat waves. "Because it is hot, tourists want to go to other places and they are more vulnerable. In Western and Central Europe inland shipping still carries large volumes, but with a drought plus heat wave the river levels are very low, necessitating switching to other means of transport. Heat waves also affect the electricity systems. People need extra cooling, but part of the generation capacity cannot be used because riverside power stations cannot use the scant and too-warm water”, he explains.  

Innovation for automatic adaptation

Adriaan emphasises that innovation is very important for adaptation. This is discussed in Deliverable 2.2. "It deserves more attention in adaptation policy. Innovation is not only important for planned adaptation, but also supports automatic adaptation”, he says.  Automatic adaptation refers to the built-in or ‘natural’ adaptability that systems have for coping with changing circumstances. "For example, in the transport sector: if the weather gets bad, people drive slower to avoid accidents, while (grudgingly) accepting the consequent delays. If you have intelligent transport systems, you can get and exploit more precise information about weather conditions, thereby improve logistics and trip planning and achieve less disturbing delays, even if climate change causes more adverse weather.”. Another important aspect of ToPDAd is that the models can make good comparisons between different adaptation options that can help policy makers. Stakeholders have been included in the selection of the case themes and various experts have been consulted and interviewed when identifying promising innovation options. 

Work Package 2 will soon put out two deliverables. D2.1 (due in June) presents the climate and socio-economic scenario framework. D2.3 (due in April) describes how the models will tackle the case-themes. In autumn this year, after all the calculations, the entire Work Package team will produce a synthesis report (D2.4).

ToPDAd: a unique project

As an economist, Adriaan finds several aspects of the ToPDAd project especially interesting. "In the first place, compared to a lot of other adaptation projects, it is rich in economic diversity. We have different kinds of models and we really try to compare these models. So, a lot of things that are assumed elsewhere, we try to know how much the limitations of the model will affect the result. Because we have different models, we seek for the useful complementarity of these models. That has not been done so much yet. Not in adaptation at least.” He explains that policy makers often get confused because various experts would use different models and thereby give different recommendations. "We try to explain why this difference occurs and why and when you should use model A and model B”, says Adriaan. "That is really something nice of ToPDAd. You don’t see those kinds of studies very often.” Moreover, he emphasises that ToPDAd is a special project in the way that it addresses different scales and looks into the regional level. "It has various scales and each scale is fairly different. And this is quite a unique combination. We do not try to take things for granted. It is a very rich study.”. This educational aspect will be exploited in the planned link with European Environmental Agency’s CLIMATE-ADAPT portal. 

Adriaan emphasizes that climate change makes it more challenging to properly plan new buildings. "That is the first time you realize, when you build something new – like our summer house extension. We have to build for several decades and therefore assess how high the lake water may rise. That is one of the concrete examples in how I have had to think about investments on the personal level,” he says.  



Work Package 2

On the one hand Work Package 2 entails downscaling (more precisely, ‘pattern scaling’) of climate change scenarios (RCP2.6, RCP4.5, and RCP8.5) and combining these data with socioeconomic and demographic scenarios (SSPs), and on the other hand so-called case-themes (drought, urban floods, lack of snow, unpredictable precipitation, etc.) are simulated for the energy, transport and tourism sectors to ascertain the system responses, adaptation options, and consequent economic effects in the regions. Macro-economic effects and EU-level effects are more closely studied in Work Package 3.



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Logos of the participants of ToPDAd
Participants of ToPDAd: Teknologian Tutkimuskeskus VTT, The Chancellor Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge, CICERO Senter Klimaforskning Stiftelse, Stichting Dienst Landbouwkundig Onderzoek, Eidgenoessische Technische Hochschule Zürich, Gesellschaft für Wirtschaftlich Strukturforschung MBH, University of East Anglia, Transport & Mobility Lueven NV, Ilmatieteen Laitos, Joanneum Research Forschungsgesellschaft MBH
7th Framework Programme (FP7)