Why Data and Forecasting are so important to avoid climate crises – Interview with Kitty van der Heijden

She criticizes that there are many competing opinions – but that those are only seldom steeped in facts.

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"I think there are two things. One is, I really think we need a lot more data. I think [climate security] is a relatively new phenomenon. I do not think as academia and research institutes we really understand what is happening and how these ecosystems relate to geopolitical changes both within countries and between countries. So we need a lot more research, we need funds for that type of research as it is relatively new and most of what I see, most of what I hear is opinions but they are not steeped in facts.

It is very easy to reason how the crisis in Syria emerged in part because of climate change and water scarcity and wrong policies but having access to the Syrians in that area and really understanding how it worked, that is not so easy. So that is one thing, that is the research, looking back and really understanding what the causal relationships are and these are very complex and multi-disciplinary.

The other part is really, as I said, forecasting, looking at the long term futures. Where will we be 10 years down the line, 20 years down the line, 50 years down the line? What are the potential scenarios? What could happen if we do not act? And then back-casting that and looking at where we can still make an influence. Climate change is happening, we are already at 1.3 degrees temperature rise globally. We will almost certainly, if we are not careful, miss the opportunity for a 1.5 degree world. We are going to have to prepare for a future that is not just about deep decarbonization but building deep, deep, deep resilience in pockets of poverty that otherwise would go on the move."

This interview was conducted at the Planetary Security Conference in The Hague, 5-6 December 2016. It is produced by Paul Müller-Hahl (Lichtbilder Filmproduktion) and directed by Stella Schaller (adelphi).