Tackling the climate crisis requires rapidly exchanging knowledge across geographic, economic, and disciplinary boundaries. That’s why the theme for Open Access Week 2022 is ‘Open for climate justice’. To mark this, we’re talking to researchers who’ve published open access climate research under Springer Nature’s Transformative Agreements to find out more about their work and why they feel open access is so vital for tackling climate change.
In this blog, we hear from Dr Daniel Balting, a doctoral researcher at the Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, part of the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany.
The climate crisis has brought with it ever-more severe weather events across the globe. This summer was one of the hottest ever recorded in Europe, with the extreme heat leading to over 24,000 heat-related fatalities, and the worst fire season ever recorded. Parts of China and North America also suffered intense heat waves, with China issuing its first national drought alert and more than half of the United States in drought.
Often, however, it is the nations and people who contribute least to emissions that are the most impacted by these dramatic changes in our climate.
“For me, climate justice is about approaching current man-made climate change as a global social problem,” says Dr Daniel Balting, whose research – published open access (OA) in npj Climate and Atmospheric Science – explores the impact of a warming climate on drought risk for the Northern Hemisphere.
“The focus needs to be on how the consequences of climate change manifest themselves in an unequal way and on the question of how those who cause climate change can compensate for that. This is a very urgent question for the international community, as regions and countries that contribute least to climate change often suffer the most from its consequences.”
In the context of climate justice, Dr Balting’s research helps to identify regions particularly affected by climate change and to develop possible adaptation strategies for them.
“In our publication, we discussed the expected drought conditions in summer in the northern hemisphere,” explains Dr Balting. “For this purpose, we examined three different emission scenarios using the latest versions of climate models. Among other things, we found that the drought hotspots are located particularly in the subtropics. There, a moderate to extreme summer drought in today's climate is expected to become a new normal by the end of the 21st century under the warmest scenario. On average, under the warmest future scenario, the drought occurrence rate is projected to be 100% higher than that of the low emission scenario.”
Dr Balting’s research is part of a global effort across disciplines to study, understand, and mitigate the impact of climate change. To answer the need for better cross-disciplinary understanding and communication on this vital topic, we’ve brought together curated research on subjects bridging climate policy, social impact, meteorology, food production, physics, chemistry, and more.
Across the globe, researchers, campaigners, politicians, policymakers – and society at large – need access to research about the climate crisis. This makes OA publishing all the more important, allowing anyone, anywhere to learn from – and build upon – the results of the research published.
“For me, OA publishing is a core element of climate justice,” agrees Dr Balting. “In order for us all to assess how the climate is changing, we need findings from science. Science, in turn, is obliged to provide barrier-free access to precisely this knowledge. Knowledge must be available to all in order to enable a fair and balanced discourse.”
“Open access is also appealing to me as a scientist for several reasons,” he continues. “It eliminates complicated payment barriers for reading the research, so the publication can reach a much larger number of interested parties, researchers in other fields or the media, for example. This can lead to higher citation numbers, but it is also my personal concern that knowledge or science should be available to the whole of society, regardless of financial status.”
And publishing OA had a number of benefits for Dr Balting, as he explains:
“I was very positively surprised by the impact of our OA publication. Especially for me as a young scientist, the interest was overwhelming on many levels: on the main page of the journal alone, the publication was accessed over 6,000 times within the last few months. On top of that, there is also the number of views of shared versions, which is made possible by OA. And the article has already been cited seven times since its publication in December 2021. What makes me particularly happy, however, is that we were even contacted by private individuals who wanted to know more details or had questions. This shows how successful an OA publication can be.”
Dr Balting published his research under the Projekt DEAL agreement. This meant that as a corresponding author affiliated with a German university or research institution, he was eligible to publish OA with the publication fees covered.
“The Projekt DEAL agreement makes OA publications much easier and less complicated for us scientists,” he says. “Administrative procedures, which are necessary for every publication, are reduced to a minimum and at the same time, there are no complicated payment procedures.”
Publishing OA is a step on the road to ensuring that research can be accessed both across disciplines and outside of academia. But for Dr Balting, there is more still to be done.
“Research can be very complicated and often difficult to understand from the outside,” he explains. “OA is a basic building block that makes it possible to present research work transparently and to share the results in an uncomplicated way. However, it is important to present the results of research as clearly as possible to the outside world in order to increase its societal impact. What sounds so simple can be a very difficult task. It is increasingly important to support researchers in this.”
About Dr Daniel Balting
Daniel Balting is a climate scientist at the Alfred Wegner Institute and works, among other things, on the topic of droughts. He looks at both historical climate conditions and scenarios for the current century. He completed his doctorate at the University of Bremen in the field of physics with highest grade.