Toward an Ethical Framework for Climate Services

Monday, 14 December 2015: 11:50
103 (Moscone South)
Robert Wilby, University of Loughborough, Loughborough, United Kingdom, Peter Adams, Acclimatise, New York, United States, Erika Eitland, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, United States, Bruce Hewitson, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa, Joy Shumake, World Meteorological Organization, Geneva, United States, Catherine Vaughan, International Research Institute for Climate and Society, Columbia University, Palisades, NY, United States and Stephen E Zebiak, Intl Res Inst Climate & Soc, Palisades, NY, United States
Climate services offer information and tools to help stakeholders anticipate and/or manage risks posed by climate change. However, climate services lack a cohesive ethical framework to govern their development and application. This paper describes a prototype, open-ended process to form a set of ethical principles to ensure that climate services are effectively deployed to manage climate risks, realize opportunities, and advance human security.

We begin by acknowledging the multiplicity of competing interests and motivations across individuals and institutions. Growing awareness of potential climate impacts has raised interest and investments in climate services and led to the entrance of new providers. User demand for climate services is also rising, as are calls for new types of services. Meanwhile, there is growing pressure from funders to operationalize climate research.

Our proposed ethical framework applies reference points founded on diverse experiences in western and developing countries, fundamental and applied climate research, different sectors, gender, and professional practice (academia, private sector, government). We assert that climate service providers should be accountable for both their practices and products by upholding values of integrity, transparency, humility, and collaboration.

Principles of practice include: communicating all value judgements; eschewing climate change as a singular threat; engaging in the co-exploration of knowledge; establishing mechanisms for monitoring/evaluating procedures and products; declaring any conflicts of interest. Examples of principles of products include: clear and defensible provenance of information; descriptions of the extent and character of uncertainties using terms that are meaningful to intended users;  tools and information that are tailored to the context of the user; and thorough documentation of methods and meta-data.

We invite the community to test and refine these points.