SAMKUL Project plan: Understanding Cultural Conditions for Climate Change Adaptation (UC4A)

The SAMKUL work program highlights the key importance of increased understanding and explanation of the cultural conditions and prerequisites underlying societal development, in order to increase society’s capacity to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing world.
Over the coming decades, societies will face major changes in dealing with the various impacts of climate change. In order to enable timely anticipatory and proactive adaptation, society needs to learn to utilize unavoidably imperfect knowledge from climate science on the deeply uncertain future changes in key climate variables (precipitation patterns, heat wave frequencies, extreme weather events etc.). This proposal argues for critical research on the institutional and societal cultures (see also Adger et al, 2013) that underlie the way society obilises knowledge in support of climate adaptation, particularly at the ‘science-policy’ and ‘science-society’ interfaces.
The challenges of timely adaptation to climate change are on the intersection of SAMKUL’s thematic priority areas: natural environment, the economic environment and the technological environment. UC4A seeks to meet these challenges by bringing together leading research groups in climate change adaptation from a wide range of disciplines from the Universities of Bergen, Utrecht, and Leeds and the Citizens University of Amersfoort, representing the disciplines of philosophy and ethics of science, environmental science, climate science, environmental governance, and citizens science, and will in addition facilitate and organise far reaching engagement with an international extended peer community, in order to build a uniquely-placed radically interdisciplinary consortium for an ambitious Horizon 2020 2015 proposal and a NFR KLIMAFORSK 2016 proposal on institutional cultures at the science-policy/science-society interface.
In doing so UC4A will help implement the SAMKUL program’s main goal by: extending the traditional objects of study (study object: institutional cultures of dealing with deep scientific uncertainty); being internationally oriented; promoting long-term knowledge building for decision-making in society; and developing arenas and meeting places for communication and cooperation among researchers and between researchers and users (bullet points 2, 4, 5 and 7 of primary SAMKUL objective).
Climate change risks pose considerable adaptation challenges to society in various sectors, demanding novel relationships between knowledge and action. Here we look at two impact areas: cities (with many of them in low lying urban deltas) and seafood (fishing and aquaculture). The urban population will increase from 3.6 to 6.3 billion in 2050, increasing from 50% to 67% of the total population; in developed countries over 86% (UN, 2012).
Urban resilience to climate risks will be paramount for maintaining a thriving city into the future. Enhancing resilience is urgently needed to make the rapidly urbanizing world less vulnerable to disturbances and surprises, and to enable quick and flexible responses (Wardekker et al., 2010). At the same time, there is a call for urban nature reserves, urban biodiversity development and urban ecosystems services (e.g. urban beekeeping, urban farming, etc.), and the increased integration of green areas and urban areas (green roofs, vertical gardens, etc.) which means that the traditional boundaries between nature – culture and urban – rural are increasingly blurred.
In addition, climate change adaptation is a cultural heritage conservation challenge because many cities have historic city centres and other elements of cultural heritage. These place limits on the extent and types of adaptations that can be made, especially if they detract from the historical or landscape value (e.g. building large flood defences in plain view). Finding societally acceptable solutions to such problems is a deliberative challenge,
in which issues of organisational culture also play an important role.
Sustainably managed fisheries and aquaculture can offer solutions to a growing demand for aquatic animal protein sources. In Africa, Asia, and Latin America, freshwater inland fisheries are providing food to tens of millions of people (Dugan et al. 2010) while ensuring employment, especially to women (BNP 2008). In the sea food and aquaculture sector, climate impacts are less explored and adaptation policies less developed. Many links exists: ocean acidification which endangers shell fish; changing ocean currents and temperature distributions in the ocean could redistribute the fish stocks over the oceans and marine biology is highly shaped by climate conditions. To give another example, in aquaculture, salmon lice flourishes in warmer water in fish farms, amplifying the problems.
The classic science policy interfaces and science society interfaces are not fit for function to meet the challenges of climate change adaptation because it is based on the unrealistic expectation that science delivers certainty and ignores the serious limitations that complexity and deep uncertainty pose to achieving perfection in the scientific assessment of climate change and its impacts (Van der Sluijs, 2012). Consequently, many science policy interfaces lack sophisticated approaches to tackle deep uncertainty and complexity in the science (Dessai and Van der Sluijs, 2007, 2011). Present institutional cultures that shape the science-policy/science-society interfaces and the cultural conditions to meet the challenges of climate change adaptation, need to be thoroughly understood to enable the institutional innovations required to accommodate the notions of deep scientific uncertainty and to design uncertainty-proof adaptation strategies for a wide range of sectors of the economy. To this end, a far reaching interdisciplinary societal learning process that engages an extended peer community of researchers, practitioners and societal actors in the field of climate adaptation is urgently needed. Meeting the challenges of climate change adaptation requires a systemic approach and the current fragmented research being organised along the lines of sharply demarcated disciplines still suffers the fundamental flaws outlined in Snow’s 1959 lecture and 1963 book on the two cultures in academia. Bridges need be built to cross the boundaries between humanities, social sciences, mathematics and natural sciences, technology, medical and health sciences, agricultural and fisheries sciences, but also between these academic disciplines and practitioners and science policy interface institutions outside academia (extended peer communities, Funtowicz and Ravetz, 1993; Van der Sluijs 2012). The SAMKUL funding for this project will be used for foundational work to enable the establishment of, and fruitful interaction with, an international extended peer community.
Main goals
The goal of this SAMKUL activity is to (a) assemble an 'extended peer community' of international researchers and practitioners; to (b) design a consolidated and agreed upon project consortium with two proposals for larger funding, one in EU Horizon2020 societal challenge 7 and one in the NFR KLIMAFORSK program, relative to (c) critical research on the institutional culture associated with the science-policy/science-society interface, specific to (d) adaptation and long term planning challenges for climate change in various sector, such as urban environment and sea food production.
Currently adaptation in sectors such as the urban environment and the sea food production sector is hindered by dominant institutional cultures active at the interface between science and policy/society. To remedy this problem, UC4A aims to bring together an extended peer community to design projects to critically look at this institutional culture as it relates to the challenges of climate change adaptation. Secondary objectives: The project will: (1) Establish a network of researchers, stakeholders and users; (2) organize three meetings where researchers, stakeholders and users are entering a mutual learning process that results in a better understanding of cultural conditions, knowledge needs, knowledge production and dissemination on climate change adaptation; (3) prepare a joint position paper for a peer reviewed journal that presents, analyses and summarizes the experiences and lessons from the project. The network of research will bring together academic cultures and experiences from a wide range of climate  adaptation research traditions from leading groups in the field from the Universities of Bergen, Utrecht and Leeds and the Citizens University of Amersfoort.
The University of Bergen brings the network and experiences of the Transforming Climate Knowledge with and for Society (TRACKS) flagship project in Bangladesh where scientist and local stakeholders co-produce climate indicators for climate adaptation policy making, harvesting a wide range of local and traditional non-academic knowledge sources and demonstrating their usefulness for climate adaptation. The University of Bergen is also leading in the field of ELSA of aquaculture and fisheries. Utrecht University’s Copernicus institute brings the experiences from their Environmental Science group with a long standing tradition in research in climate adaptation under deep uncertainty, and the experiences of their Environmental Governance group with eight years of experiences in urban climate adaptation as well as recent projects on the public and private responsibilities for climate adaptation in sectors such as ICT, transport and energy. Utrecht forms also the gateway to the wider network of the Netherlands Knowledge for Climate program
in which Utrecht plays a key role. The University of Leeds brings in the ERC project of Suraje Dessai on Advancing Knowledge Systems to Inform Climate Adaptation Decisions – Project ICAD (2012-2016). UC4A will not only join the forces of Bergen, Utrecht, Leeds and Amersfoort, and the disciplines of philosophy and ethics of science, environmental science, climate science, and environmental governance, but will in addition organise and facilitate far reaching engagement with an international extended peer community. The Citizens University of Amersfoort has been pioneering citizens science and brings a major project of citizens science monitoring of urban heat stress.