KNOWING: „We will grow to like the alternative“

KNOWING: „We will grow to like the alternative“

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Foto von Gábor Molnár auf Unsplash

The latest IPCC synthesis report makes it even clearer: It can not be mitigation alone anymore. We need to adapt to an already changing climate. The research project KNOWING aims to find the most appropriate measures under the general condition of mitigation. Project coordinator Alexander Millonig from the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology on the projetct’s goals and benefits for society.

SCC: We know the earth is heating up due to the emissions of greenhouse gases, we know the reason for the mess we’re in and we actually also know what to do: To reduce greenhouse gas emissions drastically in the next years. So what is still left unknown? Why do we need KNOWING?

Millonig: Although many things are known already, there is a lot we do not know. What is still unknown yet is how to reach climate neutrality and at the same time how to adapt as best as possible to the changes that are going to come and which we cannot avoid anymore.

The main issue that we have to deal with, is that all adaptation measures are more or less also contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. So if, for example, we build new infrastructure to protect a region from flooding, or if we install new buildings for vertical farming, or if we install air conditioning because it is going to get hotter in the cities, the production and the installment and the energy needed is a contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

What we need to find out in KNOWING is how to reach climate neutrality, meaning to stop emitting greenhouse gases, and at the same time, how to make sure that the measures that we are taking to adapt to the different situations in the future do not contribute to more greenhouse gas emissions and will not jeopardize our efforts for climate neutrality.

Measures which actually help reaching climate neutrality

SCC: What will KNOWING offer to affected stakeholders?

Millonig: We already know a lot, but we don’t really know which measures to combine. So if a decision maker wants to reach climate neutrality and also make sure that the region can adapt to climate impacts, it is not known which measures to combine, when to set the measures and really how to plan this transition pathway and how to make sure that the right measures are taken at the right point in time. This also means that we need to provide such a plan, such a pathway, and this is the major contribution for practitioners, so for decision makers, for stakeholders. And not the least target group of our project are the citizens themselves. To make them understand why it is so difficult to reach climate neutrality.

Foto von Gábor Molnár auf Unsplash

SCC: KNOWING is working closely together with four „Demonstrator regions“, with stakeholders in Italy, Estonia, Spain and Germany. Can you tell us how this works?

Millonig: As a „Horizon Europe“ project, KNOWING is not just a research project, it is a „Research and innovation action“. That means that we also need to do something in the real world. It is not only about finding out how to do things, but also to start doing these things. It is crucial to involve stakeholders, authorities and citizens in the regions as soon as possible to co-create these solutions and to not just know what measures should be taken, but also which measures are actually really appropriate and are feasible for a region.

We will find out which goals to prioritize, which measures are actually helping to reach these goals. We will involve citizens to also take some actions and to support this, because we know that we need to change a lot of what we are used to, things that we have grown close to. Nonetheless, we will also grow to like the alternative and probably it will be even better.

Looking at the interconnections between models

SCC: To quantify and simulate these interactions, you chose the method of „System Dynamics“. Give us a short overview: Why did you choose this method? How will a simulation look like?

Millonig: We will develop some kind of simplified version of the real world, the actual purpose of a model. In general, we have many models that look at specific areas of reality. Take for example transport models, climate models or land use models and so on. Each of these models takes one part of reality and tries to simulate it.

What all these models cannot do, is talk to each other. If we have a transport model and we’re feeding it with transport data and simulating some kind of measure in there, we will find out what it would mean for the transport world. So, would it increase traffic, would it reduce traffic and whatnot. But we know very well that transport is not only influencing traffic itself, but it is also influencing land use, for example. If you have faster connections, for example, you could also travel further. And that is what we have been observing over the last decades. That people are travelling further and not, let’s say, saving time by travelling the same distances as before.

We need to find out how models can talk to each other.

There is no all-including-model, that would be much too complicated and much to insecure. So what we arre trying to do with the system dynamics model, is looking at the interconnections between those models. The system dynamics model thus tells the land use model: „Hey, you know that measure in the transport model has this effect in your reality.“ So the land use model knows what to measure and what the effect in the land-use-world will be. We are building a network of interrelations between models, which helps us to assess what is the overall impact of a measure. Are there any rebound effects or even backfiring effects? And how can we avoid these effects or use their synergies in a way we yet didn’t even think of?

OVOS Play App © Markus Bacher

Explaining climate change adaptation to the wider public

SCC: If you want to learn more about system dynamics, we will talk about this way of modelling in more detail with Martin Zach from the AIT soon. So, KNOWING is working closely with affected stakeholders but also with civil society. How can people interact with this project?

Millonig: If you are in one of the four demonstrator regions, there will be different opportunities to connect. But we do not only want our demonstrator regions to reach their goals. We have „Follower regions“, which are also interested in the same climatic issues. We will use the generalized pathways to adapt them to these regions and see what is needed to reach the best adaptation. So if you are living in a demonstrator region or in a follower region, it will be very easy. There will be local representers, who will be in charge of connecting people to the project, providing information involving them and so on. If you are outside of the project, there is also the opportunity to get in touch with us via the website or through our social media channels.

Furthermore we are going to develop specific tools that can be used by the wider public, for example the KNOWING app, which is going to explain climate interrelations, the yet existing knowledge in the area of climate change to anybody who is interested in the project. We are going to provide different contact points on the website via the KNOWING app, in the hubs in the regions, to make sure that everybody has an opportunity to connect with us and to get more information and also to let us know their perspective because this is also one of our main interests here to learn from people, from different walks of life, from different positions, to make sure that we are developing and providing something that has an impact in all these different realities and helping wherever possible.

About Alexandra Millonig:

Alexandra Millonig studied urban and regional planning at the Vienna University of Technology, specialising in transport research and sociology. She has been with the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology since 2005, where she conducts mobility and climate repsonse behaviour research as senior scientiest in the field of Climate Resilient Urban Pathways. She is the project coordinator ofthe KNOWING project.

Project Coordinator KNOWING Alexandra Millonig © forbes_spielberg
Foto von Gábor Molnár auf Unsplash