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CASCADES is conceptually rooted in complex system science. The project builds on, and advances, the understanding of cascading climate risks that are characterised by cross-sectoral climate impacts reverberating across geographical and political boundaries.
By addressing these risks and opportunities through cohesive strategies and coherent or integrated policies, Europe may be able to maintain or expand a sustainable competitive advantage globally by improving its ecological, economic, social and institutional resilience.
It is plausible that present institutions and organizations could be pushed beyond their capacity to maintain normal operations when faced with multiple unprecedented pressures from cascading climate risks. At the same time, climate change impacts outside Europe, e.g. through an opening of Arctic sea routes, could present opportunities for European actors and society at large, if strategic adaptations are made in time. By addressing these risks and opportunities through cohesive strategies and coherent or integrated policies, Europe may be able to maintain or expand a sustainable competitive advantage globally by improving its ecological, economic, social and institutional resilience. The concepts of cascading climate risk and coherent, resilient policies to address these risks are thus providing the theoretical underpinning for CASCADES. Moreover, as our understanding of cascading climate risks and their effects is patchy and may well develop along pathways that are counter intuitive, strong and sustained involvement by key stakeholders is planned.
By drawing on the joint expertise of its partners, CASCADES will bridge natural and social sciences and integrate stakeholder knowledge and perceptions of climate risks. Natural and social science research methods are equally important. These methods include amongst others simulations with a wide array of economic and process-based models, cross-sectoral analysis, network analysis, policy analysis, thematic workshops, interviews, focus groups, statistical analysis of existing datasets (such as from the ISIMIP archive) and gender analysis integrated in a common scenario framework. Moreover, because of the important role of stakeholder consultation in CASCADES, policy simulations will be used to engage diverse stakeholders across disciplines, sectors and geographies to enable the consideration of a wide range of topics in the research process: from socio-economic impacts to physical infrastructure damage; from changing disease and nutritional patterns to forced displacement, trade disruption, financial and political instability, and conflict. Only by using a combination of such methods, within a truly interdisciplinary setting, can the consequences of climatic extremes and slow-onset changes be better understood. The relationship between CASCADES and stakeholders is bidirectional to ensure that the cascading risk pathways proposed within the project relate to challenges stakeholders are dealing with and are scrutinized using their expert knowledge. Finally, to mainstream the project’s findings beyond those actors involved in the project, an ambitious dissemination and communication strategy is an integral part of CASCADES.