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CIRCE - Climate Change and Impact Research: the Mediterranean Environment

Summary information

Funding:FP6 - Integrated Project
Total cost:13730066
Ec contribution:10000000
Start date:2007-04-01
End date:2011-06-30
Duration:51 months
Coordinator:Antonia Navarra (
Organisation:National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology – Italy
Themes:Abiotic, biotic and socio-economic impacts
Project name:CIRCE - Climate Change and Impact Research: the Mediterranean Environment
Project summary:Abstract
CIRCE aims at developing for the first time an assessment of the climate change impacts in the Mediterranean area. The objectives of the project are:
- To predict and to quantify physical impacts of climate change in the Mediterranean area,
- To evaluate the consequences of climate change for the society and the economy of the populations located in the Mediterranean area,
- To develop an integrated approach to understand combined effects of climate change,
- To identify adaptation and mitigation strategies in collaboration with regional stakeholders.

The project investigates how global and Mediterranean climates interact, how the radiative properties of the atmosphere and the radiative fluxes vary, the interaction between cloudiness and aerosol and the modifications in the water cycle. Recent observed modifications in the climate variables and detected trends are compared.

The economic and social consequences of climate change are evaluated by analyzing direct impacts on migration, tourism and energy markets together with indirect impacts on the economic system. CIRCE moreover investigates the consequences on agriculture, forests and ecosystems, human health and air quality. The variability of extreme events in the future scenario and their impacts are also assessed.

A rigorous common framework, including a set of quantitative indicators developed specifically for the Mediterranean environment are developed and used in collaboration with regional stakeholders. The results are incorporated in a decision support system tool and disseminated to the relevant users. Possible adaptation and mitigation strategies have been identified. The integrated results discussed by the project CIRCE will be presented in the first Regional Assessment of Climate Change in the Mediterranean area.

The main objectives of CIRCE are to predict and to quantify the physical impacts of climate change in the Mediterranean, and to assess the most influential consequences for the population of the region. The knowledge yielded by the different specialised investigations are linked in an integrated interdisciplinary approach designed to study the total effect of climate change. CIRCE integrates cutting-edge scientific research with the needs of end-users and communities. Thus, CIRCE is able to quantify the impact of global warming on Mediterranean climate variables, whilst also taking into account the regional social, economic and policy aspects of the process. In this way, CIRCE makes a powerful contribution to the definition and evaluation of adaptation and mitigation strategies.

Recent observed changes in climate variables are documented. Detectable trends and variability are identified and described, and then compared with a series of possible explanations. An optimal mix of plausible forcing factors will be derived as the best explanatory interpretation of ongoing changes. In this way, a comprehensive set of data describing the physical impacts of climate change are developed, and then used to assess the consequences of climate change for human society and ecosystems. CIRCE analyses a number of climate parameters including: temperature, precipitation, atmospheric humidity, wind, waves, sea-level rise, surface radiative fluxes, balance between evaporation-precipitation, saline output to the Atlantic, water vapour export, frequency and distribution of extreme events, nutrient loading into the sea, and sensitivity to water stress. CIRCE builds on the extensive modelling experience already available, but it develops specific modelling scenarios for the Mediterranean, in terms of resolution, process and feedback inclusions, understanding and specific diagnostic studies for the Mediterranean area.

The impacts of climate change are analysed and evaluated in their oceanographic, meteorological, ecological, economic and societal dimensions. Information are provided in terms of economically meaningful variables such as productivity changes, variation of resource stocks, shifts in technology and demand patterns. Economic consequences for agriculture are evaluated through estimation of agricultural productivity, management and profit. Similarly, impacts on forestry and on biodiversity are investigated. CIRCE focuses particularly on the direct economic impacts for four crucial sectors for the Mediterranean region: health, tourism, energy demand, and human migration. The project provides the advances required to meet policy needs in these sectors. To do that CIRCE aims to build a new vision of the interactions between climate factors and socio economic evolutions trying to overcome two classical obstacles faced by a number of research projects on climate impacts.

The first obstacle is often the imbalance between physical and natural science and social sciences. In CIRCE this imbalance has been corrected and social sciences are a strong component of the project. CIRCE brings together the natural sciences community and social community in a new integrated and comprehensive way.

The second obstacle is linked to the first, a “climate all vision of society” that is to put climate as the major constraint of human behaviour to understand adaptation. This bias is sometimes necessary for the needs of modelling but then produces irrelevant elements of analysis for policy making. A more realistic approach is needed to match stakeholders and policy maker’s demands.

Most climate impact assessments so far have focussed on a causal chain from climate change to economic and social impacts, adaptation policies being the direct responses to climate impacts.

CIRCE analyses climate impacts as the “joint product” of climate change and socio economic dynamics/ human behaviour which are most of the time independent of climate change. In this non linear approach, impacts of climate change are analysed with reference to specific socio economic scenarios, with particular attention to relevant sector and policies which can actually emphasize or reduce effects of climate change. On the other side response strategies are not pure “adaptation” responses to climate change but a mix of long trends evolutions, progressive reorientation of sectoral policies which can also have positive or adverse effects on resilience or vulnerability to climate change. CIRCE makes a strong point in producing relevant research for the actors of the region. For that reason it is essential to provide assessments that can be integrated in practical decision making, therefore this more comprehensive method is necessary and more able to represent the reality as many impacts – on health, tourism, migration, etc. – cannot be reliably expressed as a function of climate change alone. The end result of the political economy of economic and social policies of the region are not “climate first” but “development first” for a number of years to come. Keeping that framework in mind give the best chance to reach relevant actors and improve relevant strategies. That is the underlying concept of the CIRCE project

The CIRCE Concept
To integrate the assessment of cross-sectoral impacts of climate change, for selected case-study regions, CIRCE adopts a risk-based approach based on the conclusions developed in the specialized investigations. A rigorous common framework, including a set of quantitative indicators tailored specifically for the Mediterranean environment will be developed and used in collaboration with regional stakeholders and policy makers. The results are incorporated in a decision support system tool and disseminated to the appropriate end-users. Likely adaptation and mitigation strategies are identified using bottom-up (via regional workshops) and top-down approaches. The case-study areas will include North African, Middle Eastern and European locations.

The end products of CIRCE will be published in the open scientific literature and summarised in less technical terms in the Final Report - Regional Assessment of Climate Change in the Mediterranean (RACCM).

The RACCM is produced in close consultation with stakeholders. Meetings of the project were held jointly with carefully-selected stakeholders, who contributed to better-defined and more relevant priorities and issues. Thus CIRCE develops an understanding of the different needs of the European Region, and enhance and develop analysis methods, models and indicators. Under the project, the interactive effects of climate change becomes better understood, and predictions of risk and the prior assessment of policy effects are improved. The project thus provides cutting-edge scientific results that helps to establish:
- The methodology for including stakeholders needs and questions in the scientific discourse,
- The information on possible climate changes for the 21st century in the Mediterranean area,
- A framework for the preparation, reviewing and dissemination of the Regional Assessment Report,
- A set of policy-specific indicators and assessments that can be used to:
- Inform environmental reporting,
- Enable international comparisons in terms of quality of life, environment, economy and health,
- Define a set of objectives and targets, and to monitor trends and progress towards these targets.
Project outputs:A database of scientific papers and detailed materials (data, documents, scientific publications) ready to be consulted related to CIRCE is available on the website in the ‘researcher’ area.

A Discovery Service for the CIRCE Metadata Catalogue is also available. The Catalogue includes products and data from CIRCE project.

By the end of the year 2011, the CIRCE project will have accomplished the ambitious Regional Assessment Climate Change in the Mediterranean (RACCM) report which provides a detailed picture of climate in the Mediterranean region. Composed by 5 parts, CIRCE RACCM Report describes changes in progress in atmosphere and in the basin (Part I) and how these changes affect water availability in the region (Part II). Part III investigates effects on agriculture and ecosystems, and Part IV presents the impacts on social and economical dimensions. The last section (Part V) is devoted to case studies, eleven relevant places and zones in the Mediterranean region that are expected to be particularly affected by the impacts of climate change (i.e. Tuscany region, Athens, and Gulf of Valencia).