Core climate IMPETUS tool taking shape in the digital dimension

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Engaging citizens, businesses, governments and other sectors in adapting to local climate change impacts is a central concern in the EU-funded IMPETUS project. But how should decisions be made, using what tools, and based on what data and scenarios? By combining human inputs and innovative digital solutions, the project will boost knowledge about resilience and adaptation to climate change. The first challenge – to shape the technical architecture for the digital dimension of these ‘Resilience Knowledge Boosters’ (RKBs) – has now taken its first significant step forward.

In a meeting on 27 April 2022, participants representing 5 of the project’s work areas reviewed and agreed the fundamental RKB digital architecture proposal. They also explored how it could best interact with the human dimension, such as interactions with regional stakeholders whose feedback will support development of the digital dimension and ultimate use of the RKB knowledge hubs in decision making. This will support regional adaptation and planning in the project’s 7 European demonstration sites and beyond.

“I am glad the general structure was accepted. It’s good to start circulating the ideas for the digital ‘blocks’ and connections and to see the first mock-up of the user interface.”

Andrea Marinoni (UiT Norwegian Arctic University) who devised the initial IMPETUS RKB digital architecture proposal

Unlocking further developments

Andrea Marinoni leads IMPETUS work to assess and define methodologies and coordinate the development of regional adaptation ‘pathways’ and innovation packages that align with regional stakeholder needs and engagement. He acknowledged that the meeting discussion provided clarifications and new ideas for his area of the project.

Christos Makropoulos (NTUA, National Technical University of Athens) heads IMPETUS development and validation of methodologies and tools for assessing regional climate change exposure and risks. He reported progress on a visual representation of a key modelling process, as well as ongoing activity to define the kinds of climate change adaptation interventions that regional planners may wish to see incorporated into the scenarios they can explore within the RKBs.

The architecture proposal was evolved and presented by Aitor Corchero (Eurecat Technology Centre of Catalonia), who is the IMPETUS technical coordinator and leader of the project team working on its digital framework.

“We are aware of other initiatives for climate action group talks and decision making, how to present climate impacts to user groups so they can visualise and interact with the data. We will ultimately provide tutorials on how to use the RKBs, a guided tour for educational purposes and other support such as how to use online notebook tools to work with the data.”

Aitor Corchero (Eurecat Technology Centre of Catalonia), IMPETUS technical coordinator and leader of work on its digital framework

Coordinating on the ‘human dimension’

Work to support the human dimension of the resilience knowledge boosters is being led by KWR Water b.v. (stakeholder engagement) and ESCI, the European Science Communication Institute (communications, collaboration and dissemination). Eurecat is ensuring overall coordination of RKB human and digital dimension development activities in its capacity as overall project manager of IMPETUS.

Further information

See more information as it develops about IMPETUS RKBs and solutions, or participate in one of our 7 regional engagement surveys (in local languages).

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High temperatures

Record-breaking summertime temperatures have been recorded in the Netherlands in recent years. With global temperatures rising, such extreme weather events will occur more often, and for longer periods. Prolonged high temperatures, with warm nights as well as hot days, can cause heat stress* and related health issues, particularly among city populations. 

*Heat stress occurs when the human body cannot get rid of excess heat and can impact wellbeing through conditions such as heat stroke, exhaustion, cramps and rashes.

"We want to enable municipality decision makers who are working on spatial developments to identify heat stress 'hot spots' and cool areas, analyse the future effects of climate change, and model the effect of different heat stress-reducing measures. The tool must provide them with an easy starting point to integrate heat stress risks in their projects."

Issue

Despite the cooling effect of the sea in the region of Zeeland, the growing risk of heat stress has become a concern.

Elderly and other vulnerable people are more impacted by the effects of prolonged heat, which can cause headaches, dizziness, insomnia and other health issues – even death. Excess temperatures also affect general comfort and liveability of cities. Water quality can be reduced, both for drinking and swimming, and infrastructure can be affected. Buildings and concrete surfaces trap heat, potentially leading to damage, and release it during the night, keeping temperatures warm.

During heat waves, it is important that everyone has access to a cool and comfortable place. Appropriate spatial planning can help to decrease and deal with heat stress. Environmental factors like water bodies, trees, and shade have a major impact on stress caused by high temperatures. Therefore, planting trees, removing concrete surfaces, creating green roofs and cool spaces can improve our comfort and health. The IMPETUS Atlantic team is developing a digital tool to support regional decision making for city planning to address these needs.

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Flood risk

By 2050, sea-level within this region is predicted to rise by 15-40 cm, with more frequent extreme weather and more (severe) storms triggered by climate change. These changes will exacerbate the natural risk of flooding in the IMPETUS ‘Atlantic’ region, because it is surrounded by rivers and the sea, and is below sea level.

*Risk takes into account two aspects; the chance that an event will occur and the negative impact of such an event once it occurs. When there is a low chance that an event will occur, but its impacts are huge, the risk is still significant.

“In the Netherlands, an extensive system of dikes protects us against sea and river flooding. We have always put our faith in this defence and focused almost solely on flood prevention. However, pressure on our system will increase with climate change and rising sea levels. To adapt and maintain a safe living environment, we should develop other safety measures, like more robust spatial planning and contingency plans."

Issue

Rotterdam city, is located in Rijnmond – ‘mouth of the Rhine’. The Rhine river flows through this densely populated area and characterises the region. Protections such as sea dikes and storm surge barriers have been constructed to protect the region, but flooding still occurs.

People living in the city are accustomed to seeing smaller floods. The changing climate affects the interplay between rainfall, river levels and sea storms, increasing the flooding risk. Water levels could rise by a few metres, even in populated areas, with potentially massive impacts. 

Mitigation measures such as storm surge barriers reduce the chance that high water reaches the city, but to minimise the impact of floods when they do occur, adaptation strategies are also needed. A city that can adapt to be safe from floods must be carefully designed. How best to design such an adaptive city?

Critical infrastructure, such as hospitals and evacuation routes, must be accessible at all times. Planning how to best protect them, homes and lives is complex. Flood water behaves in a complex way and flood risks show strong spatial variations. The IMPETUS Atlantic team is developing a digital tool to support regional decision making for adaptive city planning. 

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Energy and waste water

To become climate-neutral by 2050, climate mitigation* efforts are crucial in our strategy for how to deal with climate change. Reducing our energy consumption is a significant mitigation step. In the Netherlands, 15% of energy is consumed in the Rijnmond area around the port of Rotterdam, in large part by a major petrochemical industry cluster.

*Climate mitigation encompasses measures such as technologies, processes, or practices that reduce carbon emissions or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases.

Issue

The Rotterdam port petrochemical industry cluster is Europe’s largest. It consumes 70% of the Rijnmond region’s energy. A large part of this energy is wasted (64%, 203 petajoules). More than half of that energy is lost with wastewater. In addition, most energy processes within these industries rely on fossil fuels, which has a significant impact on the climate.

Energy use must be minimised and fossil fuels should be replaced by renewable sources if climate change is to be mitigated. Electrification of processes opens up the possibility to use more renewable energy and can greatly impact decarbonisation. Recovering wasted heat would significantly reduce energy consumption and is a first step towards a more circular industry. 

Supporting industries in a transition towards climate-neutrality depends on identifying how best to reduce their carbon footprint without sacrificing production or performance. The IMPETUS Atlantic team is creating a digital tool that supports decision making about pathways towards an effective energy transition for EU industry.