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A retrospect on the first Belgian Science for Climate Action conference

On 19 and 20 February 2024, the Belgian Climate Centre organized the first edition of the Belgian Science for Climate Action Conference in Maison de la Poste in Brussels. The theme of this inaugural conference was ‘Climate Extremes: Causes & Consequences’.  

 

Over two full days, about 400 scientists, academics, decision makers, and private sector representatives gathered to take part in workshops, debates, and scientific sessions that all together gave a sense of the richness and diversity of Belgian climate research. It was the first time a climate event of this scale with such diverse participants was organised in Belgium. 

 

Climate change is expected to increase both the frequency and intensity of climate extremes, such as severe droughts, heat waves, and floods. Such events can have profound impacts on society and ecosystems, so there is an urgent need to better understand their causes, risks, and consequences. To better anticipate these events, both policymakers and the private sector increasingly need actionable climate science and effective knowledge transfer.  

 

It is precisely to shed more light on the current state of our knowledge and need that more than 70 researchers, scientists, policy makers and public & private sector representatives took the stage during the 18 parallel sessions and 5 keynote sessions that constituted the conference. The information shared during the two days is too broad and diverse to summarise here, but here are a few of the memorable facts and stories we heard:  

 

  1. During the session on sea level extremes and marine heatwaves, we learned that with the current warming of 1,2°C compared to pre-industrial levels, we are getting dangerously close to the tipping points for the Greenland and West-Antarctica ice sheets. Further warming will increase their likelihood and may also trigger tipping points in East-Antarctica. Crossing these tipping points would lead to multi-meter sea level rise over hundreds to thousands of years.  

 

  1. Climate change will have an impact on many sectors, and many aspects of our daily lives, for instance on energy infrastructure. Belgium is a pioneer in offshore wind and our offshore wind energy production is the 4th largest in the world. Renewable energy is a cornerstone of the transition towards net zero. However, a warming climate may see more periods with little wind (and thus, little wind production), especially in the fall, for the North Sea and the English Channel. 

  

  1. In the session on cities and climate extremes, panelists discussed the impact of climate change on cities and urban areas. They will notably experience increases in local temperatures of +1,5°C and 2°C earlier than other areas. For instance, the summer mean projected temperature for Brussels will rise 3.6°C to 4.1°C under the Paris agreement. Therefore, adaptation measures are important, especially in cities. In addition, science is also clear that cities and urban areas are sites of innovation, adaptation, mitigation, and sustainable development.  

 

  1. The session on physical and mental health touched upon both the impacts of climate change on human health as well as how to foster the kind of behavioural changes needed for the climate transition. The importance of co-beneficial factors of behavioural changes was emphasized: certain choices (such as cycling or eating less meat) not only help reduce emissions but also help to improve health. We learned about the importance of the words we use. One speaker pointed out that to convince someone to eat more sustainably, it is more effective to call it “healthy”, to which another researcher added that to convince someone to eat healthily, it is more effective to call it “delicious”. 

 

  1. The session on insuring climate risks made it apparent that the insurance sector is already experiencing the impact of climate change. Damage claims related to natural disasters are rising by 7 percent each year. Globally, over the past 5 years, the insurance industry saw a cumulated natural disaster damage claim bill of up to 100 billion euros. In the 1.5°C warming scenario, the insurance sector expects a 20 percent increase in costs due to climate change related claims. In a 2°C warming scenario, this percentage would be 50 percent higher than today.  

 

In parallel, a poster session (& competition) was being held, spread over 2 days. Out of the 80 submitted projects, a jury selected 3 winners:  

 

  • Olivia Raspoet, ULB, The basal thermal state of the Antarctic ice sheet  

  • Seppe Lampe, VUB, Global burned area increasingly affected by climate change  

  • Eva Beele, KULeuven, Urban forests or urban savanas? Tailoring cooling strategies to spatial and temporal variability in urban environments 

 

Several participants expressed their enthusiasm about the conference with the organisers.  

 

“The place, environment, attendees, format and quality of the interventions (scientific and artistic) were outstanding. I could not have imagined a better kick-off event just one year after the creation of the Climate Centre. That was an inspiring and motivating event that showed all the potential that we have in Belgium.” 

François Massonet, UCLouvain 


With regards to the ecological footprint of the conference, we did what we reasonably could to minimise the impact on the environment and carbon dioxide emissions. Participants were encouraged to come by public transport, most of the catering was vegetarian, and food leftovers were redistributed by a charity to people in need. In total, 38 kilograms of food were distributed to 76 people, thus saving an estimated 55 kg of CO2 emissions.


Presentations


Please find hereby a link to the different presentations that were shared during the plenary and parallel sessions (and that we get a permission to share).


Day 1


Keynotes


Clair Barnes - Extreme Event Attribution what it is, and why it matters
.pdf
Download PDF • 2.69MB
Thomas Dermine - National Recovery & Resilience Plan
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Download PDF • 2.45MB

Compound events & tipping points


Cem Berk Senel - Chicxulub impact event, a brutal tipping point for climate and biosphere
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Download • 10.87MB
Marina Martínez Montero - Are early warning signals of tipping points useful for climate m
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Download • 4.01MB
Violaine Coulon - Ice sheets tipping points and their impact on sea level
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Download PDF • 2.06MB

Resilience of transport infrastructure to climate extremes


Vanhoutte_Resilienceof train operation to climate extremes
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Download PDF • 912KB
Gardelli_Assessing transport resilience empirical insights for real-world data studies
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Download PDF • 1.14MB
vanGeelen_Resilience of road infrastructure
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Download PDF • 1.50MB
Vandermeeren_Making Port of Antwerp Bruges climate resilient
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Download PDF • 2.20MB
Kamoen_preventing damage to railway infrastructure
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Download PDF • 1.27MB
Macharis_Adaptation in the transport sector
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Download PDF • 4.38MB

Biodiversity & agricultural resilience to climate extremes


Nadia Soudzilovskaia_How can experimental work quantify planetary boundaries
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Download PDF • 3.42MB
Jan Vanaverbeke_Climate change interacts with the effect of human activities at sea
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Download PDF • 2.40MB
KristofVanTricht_Climate Resilience in Agriculture
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Download PDF • 3.78MB

Resilience of energy infrastructure to climate extremes

to

Crabs_Impact of climate extremes on offshore electricity production
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Download PDF • 771KB
Witvrouwen_Operating large scale electricity production facilities
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Download PDF • 755KB
Vanhamme_The importance of an integrated energy vision
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Download PDF • 681KB
Smet_Resilience of energy infrastructure to climate extremes
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Download PDF • 2.22MB
Hollevoet_Operational challenges due to extreme weather conditions
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Download PDF • 1.77MB
KristofVanTricht_Climate Resilience in Agriculture
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Download PDF • 3.78MB

Navigating the climate research funding landscape


Tulkens_EU research and innovation
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Download PDF • 961KB
Bex_Climate-related research Brussels-Capital Region
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Download PDF • 1.15MB

Day 2


Keynotes


Jan Rotmans - Embracing Chaos
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Download PDF • 8.89MB

Sea level extremes & marine heatwaves


Aida Alvera-Azcárate - Marine heatwaves in the North Sea, causes and consequences, a focus
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Download • 1.97MB
Edward Van Keer - Coastal vision, more than protection
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Download PDF • 6.42MB
Aimée Slangen - Sea level change in the IPCC sixth assessment report
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Download PDF • 4.55MB

Impacts of climate extremes on the carbon cycle


GrietNeukermans_The biological carbon pump
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Download PDF • 5.76MB
Bernard Heinesch_Responses of terrestrial ecosystem CO2 fluxes to droughts and heat waves
Download • 1.39MB
MarilynRoland_Coping with climate extremes
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Download PDF • 4.90MB
MaheshKumarSha_Measurement techniques for quantifying CO2 in the atmosphere
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Download PDF • 2.48MB

How to create (media) impact with your research


Toon Verlinden_How to get your research in the media
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Download PDF • 9.33MB

Attribution of climate extremes


François Massonnet - Recent and future Arctic and Antarctic sea ice extremes
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Download PDF • 5.42MB
Wim Thiery - When attribution meets demography
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Download PDF • 1.69MB

Q&A with the Belgian Climate Centre


Belgian Climate Centre - Q&A
.pdf
Download PDF • 5.90MB

Cities and climate extremes


Rafiq Hamdi - What the latest science on climate change means for cities and urban areas
.p
Download P • 4.33MB
Sara Top - From sensor to future urban climate
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Download PDF • 5.39MB
Jens Aerts - Modelling extremes, designing resilience
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Download PDF • 11.97MB
Sesil Koutra - Energy transition in urban areas
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Download PDF • 2.27MB

Pictures of the event can be found here (please include a 'photo credit: Noé David' mention should you wish to share and distribute these images yourself) : https://www.flickr.com/photos/200166666@N06/






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