Reflecting on past experiences is one of the most important tools to learn, grow and prepare for the future. This principle is not only wildly popular amongst self-improvement gurus, it also proves valid in history, business, or, you guessed it, in science. In recent article “Event-Based Storylines to Address Climate Risk, RECEIPT scientists have explored how past events can help us address climate risks.

When dealing with the climate crisis, thinking about worst-case scenarios can save lives. In climate sciences, the risk related to extreme weather and climate events is typically identified using two main factors: how likely the event is, and how much of an impact it would cause. This approach is helping decision-makers to prioritise their efforts to reduce the effects of climate change on industries, infrastructures and human lives. But while preparing for probable hazards, these models usually don’t take events into account that have a low likelihood of happening, but potentially very serious impacts on society.

To prepare for these uncertain events, scientists are increasingly using past droughts, storms etc. to explore plausible future disasters. These “event-based storylines” are based on consistent past events, but tweaking their conditions to create alternative outcomes, called counterfactuals. Take storm Desmond, for example. This 2015 exceptional storm caused major flooding in the UK, leaving authorities worried about being prepared to manage bigger floods in the future. Scientists modelled what a storm like Desmond would look like with higher rainfall, an unlikely but plausible occurrence. This storyline provided managers with information that directly feeds into local decision-making.

RECEIPT is identifying the vulnerabilities of European socio-economic sectors to climate change. Using past floods, droughts, storms and cyclones, our scientists are producing climate risk storylines that will help practitioners deal with the uncertainty of the future climate. Find out more about event-based storylines to effectively tackle the climate crisis in this paper.

Published on : 27 July 2021