Climate change means we must navigate a sea of data to make informed decisions about climate risk and resilience.
Jaci and her team are helping Australia to prepare and plan for a world affected by ever-changing ocean, atmosphere, and climate dynamics.
Your career has been about explaining the impacts of climate change. What changes have you seen?
Between five and 10 years ago, people used to ask me if climate change was real. Nobody asks that anymore. They just ask, what is it going to do to me? What should I be worried about?
Now it's so clear the effects of climate change are impacting Australia with bushfires, floods and extreme weather, people want to know how much of that is climate change and whether is it going to continue.
As a result, there is an accelerating demand on us for climate information. One of the big challenges ahead is how we’re going to deliver at scale to everybody who wants that information.
Who does CSIRO work with on climate information?
Everybody needs climate information. We are seeing an expansion in our range of stakeholders across government, the private sector, and Australian communities.
We’re increasingly working with the private sector. This is because of the need for companies to declare their climate risk under the guidelines of the Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). We’re looking at how we can help provide the best quality and robust information to companies who need to write those reports.
TCFD began as a voluntary set of recommendations intended to guide investor-grade risk disclosures. It is now the common thread across international legislation on climate disclosure.
What role is the private sector playing in navigating the climate challenge?
The private sector is extremely motivated to address and understand climate risk. Insurance companies, for example, need to understand the future risks they are insuring against and how to cost their products accordingly. I think we will see the private sector really driving Australia’s response to understanding and preparing for our future climate.
What inspired your work in developing climate information resources for primary producers?
Growing up in rural Australia, I have a strong sense of the impacts of changing weather on communities - particularly through the year-to-year climate variations that affect agricultural production.
Earlier in my career, I got to work directly with farmers across Australia and understand more about what kinds of weather and climate information would actually be useful for day-to-day decisions and long-term planning.
Understanding the impact of what we do is so critical. Knowing that our work is more than the journal papers we publish is shaping the way I lead the Climate Science Centre.
Our climate research is always new and interesting, but it becomes truly valuable when we can collaborate with applications and end users, like the agriculture and energy sectors.
Who do you think will be most affected by climate change?
One of the most difficult conversations I’ve had was with Pacific leaders. They asked me if I could tell them which year they will need to leave their country due to sea-level rise. These answers aren’t black and white. But we are working in partnership with Pacific countries to understand their climate risks and ensure they are getting the best information possible.
There’s no one-stop-shop for climate change information and there never should be. People need different sorts of climate information, and it should be delivered in different levels of complexity. There are many other agencies building climate change information pathways. In Australia, the Australian Climate Service has commissioned the national Climate Risk Assessment, which will help provide a portal for Australians to understand climate risk.
How important is collaboration in climate science?
The climate challenge is bigger than any team and certainly bigger than CSIRO. Climate change is already upon us and the only way to get ahead is for us to partner across Australia drawing on all our resources, from universities to research institutes, the private sector, and knowledge brokers.
What are you hoping to achieve at COP28?
COP is a great chance to showcase the excellent science and impact coming out of CSIRO, Australia's national science agency.
It is also an opportunity to understand how other countries are tackling the challenge of how to translate what we know about the future climate into effective and real action. This isn’t as simple as it sounds and I’m keen to learn from other countries’ failures and successes.