HvA United

KNMI and AUAS establish new Climate Literacy research group

“Knowledge of climate change and climate data among professionals must improve”

3 mrt 2022 10:34

How do we ensure that professionals interpret climate change data correctly? And that they translate this information into a clear message for the general public? These questions are the focus of the new L.INT Climate Literacy research group, to be headed by Janette Bessembinder. It is an initiative of the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS) and the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI).

The L.INT grant is intended to lay a solid foundation for collaboration between the AUAS and KNMI, with the aim of interdisciplinary research and education on the theme of climate literacy. What basic knowledge about climate and climate data do professionals need in order to work on climate transition? And how can they convey information about climate change in such a way that others are able to make more climate-conscious decisions?

Building bridges

Janette Bessembinder, who works for both the AUAS and KNMI, will take on the challenge of setting up the Climate Literacy research group. The position is ideally suited to the new professor, who graduated in tropical plant cultivation from Wageningen University and has been working for KNMI since 2005. As a climate advisor at KNMI, she has built bridges between climate researchers and professionals who use research data. These include wastewater treatment experts as well as specialists in the fields of wind energy and water safety. “I know how important and how challenging it is to communicate well with each other,” she explains.

Communication on climate change is a prime example. “There are many misconceptions,” she says. “For example, until recently, many people did not realise that our climate has already changed considerably. With a global temperature increase of 1.2 degrees Celsius, we are already very close to the critical limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius laid down in the Paris Agreement. And what many people don’t realise is that 1.5 degrees refers to a temperature increase compared to the period before 1900, so before the industrial age.”

Climate change is happening quickly, according to the Climate Signal (Klimaatsignaal) report published by KNMI on 25 October 2021, following the report of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In the Netherlands, we may have to deal with sea levels rising faster than previously expected. The chance of heavy rain showers in the summer has increased. And higher temperatures and additional solar radiation cause evaporation to increase, resulting in a greater risk of drought in spring and summer.

Interpreting climate data

So it is high time for action, and the new Climate Literacy research group will help provide direction. “We want professionals to be able to properly assess information about climate change and the steps required; and not only explain it in their own organisations, but also to the general public,” stresses Jeroen Kluck, professor of Water In and Around the City at the AUAS and the driving force behind the new research group as an applicant and supervising professor.

Making data accessible, comprehensible and tailored to professionals is one of the research group’s cornerstones. “Think of step-by-step plans for the best climate data and climate model data to use, and examples of how it should or should not be done,” Bessembinder illustrates. This is no luxury even for the most seasoned professional: there is a wealth of climate data, and the different observations and climate model data each have their own possibilities and limitations. “Climate models can provide information about climate change in the future, but they cannot yet properly simulate the very localised and heavy precipitation of summer showers. Observations provide a good impression of the current climate, but there are few longer series (i.e. periods longer than thirty years) of observations in urban areas,” the incoming professor explains.

Translation to the general public

The second cornerstone of research and education is the translation of climate change information to policy makers and the general public. “It is important to bring the story close to the people and give them a perspective for action. But the question is how best to do this as a professional,” says Bessembinder.

Complementing each other

KNMI and the AUAS complement each other nicely in this collaborative effort. “KNMI has a lot of knowledge about climate change based on observations and models, while the AUAS’ researchers have an unparalleled understanding of how to use climate information in practice, how to convey information and how to change behaviour,” says Bessembinder.

The new research group is being set up in cooperation with three existing AUAS research groups, affiliated with three faculties: the Water In and Around the City research group (Faculty of Technology, Jeroen Kluck is the applicant and supervising professor), the Psychology for Sustainable Cities research group (Faculty of Applied Social Sciences and Law, Professor Reint Jan Renes) and the Visual Methodologies research group (Faculty of Digital Media & Creative Industries, Professor Sabine Niederer). Climate Literacy’s research and education will also tie in with the priority areas of the Energy and Innovation research group (Faculty of Technology), the Amsterdam Research Institute for Social Innovation (AKMI) and Amsterdam Creative Industries.

Several parties have already contacted Bessembinder to express their interest in cooperating with the new research group on research and education. “Climate Adaptation Services, Vattenfall, the Province of Noord-Brabant, advertising agency NOISE and NEMO Kennislink have already agreed to work with us.”

Getting started

Bessembinder is happy to see so much enthusiasm. “Combating and adapting to further climate change is and will continue to be a challenge. But with the knowledge and expertise we are now bringing together, we can team up with professionals to accelerate the climate transition.”

L.INT research group

Through the ‘Professorships in Institutes’ (Lectorposities bij instituten, L.INT) scheme of the Taskforce for Applied Research SIA (Dutch information), professors work at both a university of applied sciences and a research institute. In this way, they link the institute’s research to the practice-based research of the university of applied sciences, which is crucial to making the step from knowledge to innovation. To set up the research group, the AUAS and KNMI will receive two hundred thousand euros from the Taskforce for Applied Research SIA, spread over a four-year period.

Climate Literacy research group

How do we ensure that professionals interpret climate change data correctly? And how can they translate this information into a clear message for the general public? This will be the focus of the research carried out by the new L.INT Climate Literacy research group, an initiative of the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS) and the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI), in cooperation with partners in professional practice.

The research group, to be established in 2022, will involve researchers and professors from three other research groups: the Water In and Around the City research group (Faculty of Technology, Jeroen Kluck is the supervising professor), the Psychology for Sustainable Cities research group (Faculty of Applied Social Sciences and Law, Professor Reint Jan Renes) and the Visual Methodologies research group (Faculty of Digital Media & Creative Industries, Professor Sabine Niederer).

Contact

Janette Bessembinder is the incoming professor for this research group. Want to know more or collaborate with her? Contact janette.bessembinder@knmi.nl