University: University of Vienna, Austria

Research topic: Insurance contracts under ambiguity. Application in extreme climatic events

Corina, how did you end up doing research in the area of climate risk?

I am a third year PhD student at the University of Vienna. I studied mathematics and computer science during my undergraduate studies at Ovidius University in Constanta, Romania. Afterwards I specialized in Algebraic Geometry as part of my master studies at the University of Kaiserslautern, Germany. Coming from a theoretical background, I was always interested in possible ways of applying the techniques to solve real world problems. My supervisor suggested risk mitigation for extreme events as a PhD topic, which I found challenging from a scientific point of view and with plenty of applications for the insurance industry.

Where do you see the greatest benefit of modern technology for mitigating the risks of climate change?

I believe that risk mitigation in the context of climate change can benefit greatly from the increase in computational power offered by modern technologies. Through the use of techniques such as machine learning and dedicated software-hardware platforms, complex optimization algorithms used by insurance companies can be accelerated, while lowering the costs. 

How do you want to apply your work in this area in the future?

As my career develops, I would like to move this research to a practical implementation in the insurance industry. At the same time I consider maintaining a strong connection to the academic world in order to further information exchange between the two sides. 

What is your favorite weather-related song?

English Summer Rain by Placebo.

University: KU Leuven, Belgium

Research topic: Multi-risk assessment of hydro-climatic hazards under global climate change

Hossein, how did you end up doing research in the area of climate risk?

I am originally from Iran where I completed both my bachelor and master degrees. Drying up rivers and lakes as well as groundwater depletion were the main water-related problems in Iran when I finished my master degree in 2009. The government blamed these issues as well as prolonged droughts that had started in 1998 on climate change. The possible impact of climate change in a such short period of time inspired me to create a research team composed of my previous classmates. We explored to what extent the water crisis in Iran is due to climate change or water mismanagement. I continued to analyze the impact of climate change in the Middle East in my PhD and postdoc research at KU Leuven, Belgium and focused more on future risk of climate change.

Where do you see the greatest benefit of modern technology for mitigating the risks of climate change?

Human societies can nowadays take advantage of technological advances to cope with the risks of climate change. However, these new technologies are only part of the equation. We need to gather and share information on their usage, raise public awareness of the risks of climate change and ensure we have the capacity to make these technologies effective. I recommend the application of combined strategies that harness the benefits of both soft and hard technologies such as intelligent early-warning systems for floods, modern irrigation systems to increase water efficiency, fog and rainwater harvesting systems, green cities, drought-tolerant crops as well as improved management practices and insurance schemes. Advanced technologies can also be immensely beneficial to provide more reliable projections of hydro-climatic hazards. The modeling of some of these hazards, such as flash flooding in cities, needs a more trustworthy representation of the atmospheric processes that explain the local extreme precipitation. Recent progresses in climate modeling have made such simulations possible, but they are limited to a few areas in developed countries. We need further investment to provide more accurate estimations of hazard and risk for developing countries and poor communities with low levels of capacity to respond to disasters.

How do you want to apply your work in this area in the future?

The projected changes in water availability that my work demonstrates can be taken into account by water managers and policymakers for the planning, designing and operation of water systems and allocation of water resources in the Middle East. Apart from decreased precipitation and prolonged droughts as a result of climate change, another main factor is the increased demand due to burgeoning population, agricultural expansion, urban construction and industrial development. This means we need a flexible adaptation strategy that is constantly updated with new information on future hazards as well as on water demand, which is likely to increase in the future. The implementation of my results depends on the governments in the Middle East countries to first recognize water security as a top national and regional priority for immediate action and investment.

What is your favorite weather-related song?

Set Fire To The Rain by Adele.

University: CRAHI, The center of Applied Research in Hydrometeorology, Barcelona, Spain

Research topic: Flash flood impact forecasting - Bridging the gap between science and emergency management

How did you end up doing research in the area of climate risk?

During my civil engineering undergraduate studies in Munich, I noticed that my interest in the topics revolving around concrete and steel was waning as I was increasingly missing a stronger link to environmentally and socially relevant issues. This drove me into a bit of a motivational crisis that resulted in an Erasmus exchange at the University of Granada, Spain. Leaving the actual progress of my studies aside, I only attended subjects that were truly appealing to me, and so I discovered my passion for water-related topics. When I got accepted to the EU funded MSc program in Flood Risk Management, I finally found a way to study what was most exciting to me: the niche between technical, environmental and social aspects of water. These sectors often lack cooperation and mediation, and extending the knowledge base in this field is where I see the biggest potential to contribute to the mitigation of the climate challenges that our society faces.

Where do you see the greatest benefit of modern technology for mitigating the risks of climate change?

Today, the different types of weather-related risks (floods, windstorms, forest fires, etc.) are usually forecast as separate phenomena, although they have one important thing in common: they all impact our society. Emergency managers do not primarily care about the exact amount of rainfall that will occur in a given area and a certain time span. What interests them most is the socio-economic impact that will result from this event, such as the amount of flooded properties. The ideal scenario would be that all different types of weather-related hazards are automatically translated into impacts. This would allow them to be combined into one overall weather impact forecast, which would greatly improve the decision support for emergency managers in operational settings, and thus mitigate risks.

How do you want to apply your work in this area in the future?

In my opinion, climate risk research too often remains a mere exercise, when researchers approach issues mainly from their scientific point of view. In doing so, they fail to address the actual needs of end-users. This is mitigated best by frequent interaction and collaboration with practitioners. By listening to their perspective and opinions first, research results with a higher practical value can be achieved, which can immediately help to mitigate risks of climate change.

What is your favorite weather-related song?

There are so many great ones! My top three are:

  1. Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles
  2. Primavera by Santana
  3. Sun is Shining by Bob Marley and the Wailers

University: University of Johannesburg, South Africa

Research topic: Resilience in flood risk management strategies of key stakeholders in the city of Accra

How did you end up doing research in the area of climate risk?

I was born in Nakolo – Paga, a small farming community in Ghana. I had my basic school education in this community and high school education in a nearby town, Navrongo. I relocated to Accra for my bachelor’s degree and then overseas for my postgraduate studies. Now I am a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa. I have passion and interest in understanding issues related to environmental risk and their impacts on society, and how I can contribute to finding solutions to these issues.

My interest in the area is due to experiences of flood events that I had in my home region and parts of Accra in Ghana. Through further studies, literature in the field shows that the threat of climate-related risk, especially flooding, is a real global problem with international concerns. Subsequently, my interest in the area keeps increasing. I am into this research area to gain more in-depth knowledge, so I can contribute to research, policy and practical solutions to climate-related risks, in particular flooding.

Where do you see the greatest benefit of modern technology for mitigating the risks of climate change?

Technology has already been of a great importance for mitigating the risks of climate change in terms of risk analysis, evaluation, and reduction. The greatest benefit of modern technology for mitigating the risks of climate change can be seen in the increase in the scope, precision, speed, accuracy, and timeliness in the mitigation process. Technology is growing very fast and it is being applied in many aspects of society at high rates.

The ideal future scenario in my mind is a more advanced use of technology for a higher precision climate risk management for more resilient societies.

How do you want to apply your work in this area in the future?

I would like to apply my work in research, policy, and practice to gain more cross-functional knowledge and experience in the area in the future, so I can make more pragmatic contributions in the field locally and internationally.

What is your favorite weather-related song?

The Storm Is Over Now by R. Kelly.