Bridging climate, energy, and society: testing applications of high-resolution earth system models to societal challenges

21. December 2023

nextGEMS is working on high-resolution simulations (see post) and part of the projects’ goals is to make this novel science adequate and accessible for society, with the aim to reduce the climate action gap. To achieve this, nextGEMS is working around two main societal challenges: the uptake of renewable energy in national decarbonisation processes and the sustainability of fisheries and marine ecosystems. In this article we discuss our work on energy, and how we are creating links with the energy community using nextGEMS data outputs as our basis.

Diverse Perspectives: Envisioning Energy Transitions

The world’s shift towards decarbonization is intensifying, driven by ambitious goals from supranational initiatives such as in the context of the European Union. Due to its complexity, there is a rich societal debate about the best pathways towards decarbonization, and especially the role of renewable energies in it. One of the sources of uncertainty on how these different pathways might unfold is given by the evolution of our climate, which interplays with policy decisions by amplifying or reducing the impact they are expected to have.

There are several research methods available to scholars which allow for taking a plurality of perspectives into account, as well as the evolution of our climate conjointly, and one of these is scenario modelling. In NextGEMS, we have implemented this methodology to study the interlinkage between climate, energy and socio-political dimensions using as case study the national integrated energy and climate plans, which is a policy present across EU Member States.

Engaging with a diversity of stakeholders

Given the diversity of the actors who directly or indirectly intervene in the policy process and the plurality of perspectives and interests they might bring in, scholars are incredibly using participatory approaches to avoid limiting the range of futures we envisage. Renewables‘ pivotal role in the energy transition equally demands for a co-production approach, as the best form to ensure that all voices are heard. This method starts by constructing together ‘storylines’, qualitative descriptions of our collective future, and thus considering multifaceted narratives that might include societal concerns, biodiversity considerations, land use competition, and democratic decision-making in the construction of decarbonization pathways.

Spain’s Case Study: A Closer Look at Energy Transition Challenges

In the context of the cycle 3 hackathon held at Universidad Complutense de Madrid (see news archive), we organised a stakeholder workshop focused on the energy sector in Spain. Employing a co-production framework, the workshop aimed at generating storylines that, later on, would be used for scenario modelling. Preparatory steps involved engagements with energy experts, brainstorming sessions on renewable energy optimization, and systematic literature review to identify key discourses. Stakeholder mapping and interviews with 50 individuals shaped the workshop’s direction, culminating in 22 participants contributing to the co-production of storylines.

The workshop revolved around three broad storylines—actual, integrative, and distributive: playing with the current system, integrating biodiversity concerns and adding in the role of energy communities. Participants engaged in discussions, challenging and enhancing these storylines, evaluating their pros and cons within the context of their own positions -being these the public, private, third and academic sectors. For 2.5h, stakeholders deliberated around these aspects and proposed forms to evaluate the storylines as well as for their operationalization (see more information about the workshop here).

NextGEMS is working now in this operationalisation, so stay tuned for the results of this study!

Post by Eulàlia Baulenas (BSC)

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