Climate change is firmly on the agenda in Zwolle

/ Author: Jaap van Sandijk
© CBS
What existing data can be used to adapt to climate change, and what new data in this field does the region of Zwolle need most? These were the questions that two students at the Windesheim Honours College had to answer for their graduation thesis. The study, which yielded interesting insights, was given a flying start by the Climate Campus and the CBS Urban Data Centre, both based in the Hanseatic town of Zwolle.

Climate Campus

Founded in 2017 by the Municipality of Zwolle, the Climate Campus in Zwolle and the IJssel-Vecht delta is an alliance between more than 40 partners. Its objective is to find a robust, innovative way to make the city and the delta climate change-proof. The knowledge centre has attracted renowned institutes such as the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI), the CBS Urban Data Centre/Zwolle, TU Delft ETD and the Land Registry and Mapping Agency, as well as various consultancy firms, housing corporations and educational institutions. The Climate Campus, which aims to encourage local creativity and entrepreneurship to achieve climate change adaptation, identifies both the existing data on climate change adaptation and the data we will need in the near future.

Agriculture, water and space

Arthur Denneman, internship supervisor and Environmental Statistics Project Manager at CBS, says, ‘The two researchers on this project are talented students from the Windesheim Honours College. The existing knowledge of the Climate Campus and the CBS Urban Data Centre/Zwolle gave them a flying start.’ The researchers decided to identify the local data requirements in terms of agriculture, water and space. To achieve this, both students interviewed experts in the field. The National Climate Adaptation Strategy (NAS), which produces a national picture of the effects of climate change, was a useful resource. Denneman: ‘The NAS’ diagrams identify around 100 effects of climate change in eight different sectors. In their research, the students – Harm Jan Haasjes and Pascal Kist – pared these down to the top five most urgent effects on agriculture, water and space.’

‘Microdata is becoming more and more important. Just think about the weather: precipitation can vary hugely from one square kilometre to another’

Fragmented data management

Student Harm Jan Haasjes focused on the most pressing effects climate change is having on agriculture. He summarises these effects as ‘including reduced availability of water, increased instances of disease and pests and lower yields.’ He mentions the importance of microdata in his recommendations. ‘Microdata is becoming more and more important. Just think about the weather: precipitation can vary hugely from one square kilometre to another. Using existing microdata (available under special conditions from CBS, Ed.), you can specify the yield and the damage for each plot of land.’ Haasjes believes CBS can provide a great deal of relevant information in that area. ‘During our interviews, we found that not everyone knew that CBS can also obtain satellite data and information on specific plots. There’s a lot of fragmentation in the data management, because the data is stored with different agencies.’ The students concluded that climate change adaptation can be achieved in a better and more efficient way if existing organisations such as CBS, KNMI and RIVM join forces in a network.

Connecting information

The Municipality of Zwolle is keen to see more follow-up research. According to Renate Postma, policy advisor on climate change adaptation at the Municipality of Zwolle and the initiator of the Climate Campus, ‘What is even more important than the results is the insight we have gained: how you can connect each other’s information when you work in partnership. This project is a great first step towards a closer working relationship in the future. There’s so much material here that we have to follow up on. The Climate Campus was only recently set up, and you need good examples of smart partnerships. This is a great example of that.’ Haasjes explains the success of the four-month research project by referring to the participants’ enthusiasm, both nationally and locally. ‘Everyone was so motivated and interested,’ he recalls. The knowledge from the CBS Urban Data Centre/Zwolle and the Climate Campus, that gave the students a running start, was another important factor. Arthur Denneman: ‘The CBS Urban Data Centre/Zwolle and the Climate Campus are firmly rooted in local practice. We couldn’t have done this research without them.’