A global group of climate and tech experts have come together to form Earth Virtualization Engines (EVE) – a collaboration that envisions a world where “everyone knows how climate and climate change affect them, and where this knowledge empowers them to act.“
The group uses innovative technologies to “enhance climate services globally” and lower the barriers to accessing climate models and the vital information they provide to communities.
Australian experts a key part of new climate collaboration
Australian experts are set to play a leading role in the collaboration, with Professor Christian Jakob (Director of the soon-to-launch 21st Century Weather) a participant of the summit and signatory to the statement.
“If funded, EVE will revolutionise the way we create climate change data and turn it into actionable climate information at local granularity, globally. The very high resolution modelling and data analysis systems, which only programs of the scale of EVE can develop and maintain, will provide information at weather scales. Those are the scales we need to make decisions on and our current tools are simply not adequate for the task. Through EVE we have the opportunity to change this” says Jakob.
Fair and accessible climate and weather data is a central pillar of the EVE proposal. As stated by the group:
“EVE is a technology project, and is rooted in the experience that technology, increasingly through the use of AI, can improve the quality of information while simultaneously lowering the barriers to its access. EVE is aware, however, that this requires the engagement of the users of the information (or their trusted representatives) in its production. That is why EVE places such an emphasis on capacity development and exchange in its centers of excellence, to enable co-production at the forefront of technology. Ideally EVE would give every country in the world the capability to train people to develop models, AI algorithms, and tailor climate information to meet their needs. This is a tall task, and because it touches on the more difficult question of how humans and social systems interact with new sources of information, EVE also must engage research and researchers from the social and behavioral sciences.”EVE Summit Statement – July 24, 2023
Artificial intelligence a “game changer” in making climate models more accessible
“AI is one of EVE’s core technologies” according to the group statement.
“It can make models more performant, and thereby fit for greater purpose. EVE distinguishes between AI Inside, to refer to what is done to help the models perform better, and AI On-Top which describes methods to increase information extraction from model output and data. EVE will greatly expand the scope of AI in every regard. EVE’s digital commons anticipates the use of generative AI to enable interactivity (AI On-Top) with large amounts of data, and this is envisioned to be a game changer.”EVE Summit Statement – July 24, 2023
Australia a key stakeholder in EVE
Professor Jakob says EVE is “the culmination of several years of discussions in several fora I have been involved with for quite some time, such as the World Climate Research Programme’s Digital Earths Lighthouse activity.”
“Thanks to the tireless work of the EVE leadership, especially Bjorn Stevens at the MPI for Meteorology in Hamburg, we now have a joint vision, mission and ideas for their implementation to take to potential funders” says Jakob.
Australia will be a key beneficiary of EVE, but also a vital contributor.
“We have major decisions ahead: how do we build a robust renewable – and hence entirely weather dependent – electricity grid as the weather that drives it is changing before our eyes? How extreme will it get? How can we adapt to avoid the most severe consequences. Australian expertise in the weather, climate and related sciences will be absolutely vital to co-design and implement the EVE systems. Given its resources and experience Australia should and must play a leading role in establishing an EVE node in the Southern Hemisphere.”
New Centre of Excellence “firmly on the EVE agenda”
21st Century Weather (a new ARC Centre of Excellence due to launch in 2024) will be an important part of the EVE collaboration. As the Centre Director, Professor Christian Jakob will lead Australia’s contributions.
“Our Centre’s goal is to understand how Australia’s weather will change as the climate is changing” says Jakob.
“This puts us firmly on the EVE agenda. We will develop and apply the kinds of models EVE aims to operationalise, albeit with strong limitations in our ability to use them for the predictions EVE will ultimately aim to make. Nevertheless, the science to develop the models and to use them to understand weather change will be of high relevance to EVE and through our international science partnerships we are excited to be part of the EVE fabric.”
What’s next for EVE?
The EVE group will seek funding and establishment support at COP28 in Dubai.
“The outcomes from the Berlin Summit for EVE will be presented and discussed at the World Climate Research Programme Open Science Conference in Kigali Africa, in October 2023. We are engaging with the WMO and the organizers of COP28 to obtain their formal support, based on which we would develop an implementation plan and governance structure.”EVE Summit Statement – July 24, 2023
Read the full statement below (republished from https://eve4climate.org/)
Earth Virtualization Engines (EVE)
An international federation of centers of excellence to empower all people to respond to the immense and urgent challenge of climate change
Every day, more and more people are waking up to the consequences of Earth’s changing climate. Changes in weather, water, and ecosystems are catching communities unprepared, and scientists by surprise. These changes are highlighting how little we know about basic questions, such as for whom the monsoon rains may falter, or even fail; or more generally, whether warming is causing shifts in atmosphere and ocean circulations and how these may connect to more frequent and intense heatwaves, wildﬁres and ﬂooding. Climate change is also exposing a fundamental injustice, whereby those least responsible are impacted the most. Efforts to know more, and plan better, are severely under-resourced, and inequitably distributed, deepening both the sense of anxiety and the injustice. This increases the disruptive potential of climate impacts for all. EVE responds to this new reality.
EVE envisions a world where everyone knows how climate and climate change affect them, and where this knowledge empowers them to act. By generating entirely new and inherently better sources of information, EVE strives to catalyze a change in the broader ecosystem of data and services to deliver a just, equitable and scientifically grounded basis for action.
EVE will be made up of international centers of excellence, each accessing outstanding computational and data handling capabilities, and each embedded within the rich and expanding landscape of climate-related data, experiences, and information. This will enable EVE to fill a data space with climate projections of much greater fidelity, with local granularity, globally. And to link these, through a digital commons, to data describing the physical, biological, chemical, and social dimensions of the Earth system. EVE’s digital commons will efficiently expose data to new (e.g., generative AI, augmented reality) methods of analysis and proactive information production. This will enable stakeholders to construct and interact with their own climate scenarios. EVE’s technical ambition will strengthen the capabilities of all sorts of communities to command new technologies – built on scientific excellence, transparency, and openness across disciplines –to rise to the specific challenges climate change poses for them.
EVE will add modelling capacity beyond the reach of most countries, let alone existing modelling centers. This capacity is urgently needed to improve model fidelity, to assess impacts, and to integrate observations, globally. EVE’s digital commons will provide access to software and infrastructure-as-a-service that would otherwise not be available at the necessary scale, nor aligned with emerging technologies. Through a commitment to international cooperation and capacity development, EVE’s centers of excellence will extend, accelerate, and further open the generation of climate information of unprecedented quality and salience to enhance climate services globally.
Each of EVE’s centers of excellence will:
- apply and advance the best available science to continuously grow and refresh a data space with small ensembles of km-scale multi-decadal global climate projections, juxtaposed with larger ensembles at coarser granularity;
- establish and maintain equitable access to a space of interoperable data and software, through open and secure protocols aligned to global standards and conventions, as part of an emerging ecosystem of planetary data;
- support and encourage the innovative uses of data to generate information particularly on local climate impacts and interactively expose it to users, especially those that would not otherwise have access, and to develop standards and trust in their global use;
- cooperate with existing operational climate services and practitioners at all levels, as well as research infrastructures and programmes in the natural, information and social sciences, to amplify both their own and EVE’s impact;
- include a strong component of well-tailored capacity development, outreach, and exchange, to enrich EVE’s with local knowledge, and to bridge divides to train and employ new developers and users of climate information globally.
Each EVE center of excellence will require experts to maintain and advance state-of-the-art computing and data facilities, to improve its models (physically and computationally), to support training and capacity development, and to engage with users to enlarge the public sphere of climate information. To meet these requirements, alongside EVE’s computing and data demands, will require a funding rate of about €300 million per year per center. Three to five centers should be sufficient to fill the data space of future projections, and at the same time extend access to, and engage, communities globally in using it. Global governance is key to the creation and sustainability of EVE. This could be in the form of an international treaty, or through coordination of self-governed centers by the WMO, UNEP or other inter-governmental organizations. Independent of the governance model, EVE will be charged with maintaining consistent and open delivery of value to the widest possible user community and to support constructive innovation through scientific excellence.
By comparison with the climate-change impacts it seeks to predict, EVE is asking for a tiny investment. All the more so that it takes advantage of an enormous opportunity. And that is to confidently open the door to new worlds. Worlds where water managers in Bhutan can, with confidence and trust, interactively explore the interplay between adaptation strategies and different scenarios of global climate change. Where agriculturalists in northern India, or managers of blue-carbon mangrove stocks in Bangladesh, can anticipate the implication of Bhutan’s choices; and where climatologists working in Cape Town can investigate how it all couples back to influence weather, water and ecosystems globally. EVE will allow impact communities, who link ecological changes to patterns of weather and water, to leverage ever richer descriptions of present and past climates to scenarios for the future, to develop strategies for building resilience. EVE’s ability to bring forth such worlds will come as much from the fidelity of its new models, as from the power of its new technologies, as from its ability to equitably engage those who need its information most.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are scientists really ‘surprised’ by the changes?
Yes, but not by every change, and by different changes in different ways. To be clear, climate science has long established why Earth is warming, and has developed models that have explained its broad trends and contours. Scientists understand, in general terms, how some forms of extremes might change with warming. What’s lacking is a specific understanding of such changes, as is needed to guide adaptation. Often this is because projected changes in atmospheric and oceanic circulations and patterns of precipitation differ from one model to the next for reasons we don’t understand. While this makes it hard to form expectations, and hence be surprised, there are a growing number of cases where models do agree with one another, but observed changes behave differently, i.e., surprises. A prominent example is the persistence of La Niña conditions over the past half-century (the present El El Niño notwithstanding), others include the slowdown in warming between 1998-2013, or the rapidity of arctic sea-ice decline in 2012.
What is meant by the ’expanding landscape of climate-related data and information’?
In addition to the reanalyses, which are often the starting point for global climate data, a great many organizations and agencies collect and disseminate climate-related data directly–from satellites, networks of ground sensors, gliders, ﬂoats, and drones, to integrative ecosystem supersites. EVE will strengthen these services by making it easier to access their data and combine them with reanalyses and to climate projections with local granularity, globally, by increasing access to open and interoperable data and software, and through the equitable distribution and use of this capacity.
What is meant by the phrase ’local granularity, globally’?
There is no unequivocal definition of local, but many people would associate it with the environment that they can perceive with their senses, and the space over which they typically move under their own power, if not a somewhat larger area. This defines local to be about 1 km, or perhaps between 0.1 km to 10 km. Infrastructures are constructed, lives are lived, and impacts are felt on this scale of ‘granularity’. This has been appreciated for some time, and has motivated work in climate services to ‘downscale’ models with much reduced (100 km) granularity to finer scale. Hence the phrase ’local granularity, globally’ emphasizes the importance of the km-scale for impacts, globally; for observations whose footprint is often on a local scale, globally; and for how important climate processes (ocean eddies, overflows, orographic effects, atmospheric convection) influence much larger-scales, sometimes referred to as upscaling.
Aren’t there already a great number of digital twinning activities, what makes EVE different?
There are a handful of related activities (e.g., Destination Earth, NVIDIA’s Omniverse, and the DITTO Programme of the UN Ocean Decade). EVE draws impetus from them, but is larger in scope. EVE differs also through its focus on establishing a sustainable and equitable global footing that better links to the landscape of climate-related data and information, adds interactivity at scale, and is constituted to enable global capacity building, cooperation, and co-development. Depending on local circumstances, an EVE center could, however, emerge as an outgrowth of an existing activity.
Isn’t EVE adopting a technocratic approach that risks increasing inequity?
EVE is a technology project, and is rooted in the experience that technology, increasingly through the use of AI, can improve the quality of information while simultaneously lowering the barriers to its access. EVE is aware, however, that this requires the engagement of the users of the information (or their trusted representatives) in its production. That is why EVE places such an emphasis on capacity development and exchange in its centers of excellence, to enable co-production at the forefront of technology. Ideally EVE would give every country in the world the capability to train people to develop models, AI algorithms, and tailor climate information to meet their needs. This is a tall task, and because it touches on the more difficult question of how humans and social systems interact with new sources of information, EVE also must engage research and researchers from the social and behavioral sciences.
What role will AI play in EVE’?
AI is one of EVE’s core technologies. It can make models more performant, and thereby ﬁt for greater purpose. EVE distinguishes between AI Inside, to refer to what is done to help the models perform better, and AI On-Top which describes methods to increase information extraction from model output and data. EVE will greatly expand the scope of AI in every regard. EVE’s digital commons anticipates the use of generative AI to enable interactivity (AI On-Top) with large amounts of data, and this is envisioned to be a game changer.
Does EVE aim to replace existing modelling activities?
No. EVE is additive and complements existing activities by targeting important scales that would otherwise be out of reach, i.e., EVE’s ‘local granularity, globally’. EVE emphasizes better information provision, whereas research also targets knowledge creation, and these are symbiotic. EVE thus needs and benefits from ongoing modelling activities, for instance as coordinated by the World Climate Research Programme, but at the same time, it will also support those external research efforts through its technology development, its ability to set standards, by increasing their access to frontier computing, and by providing career paths for their trainees.
Why 3-5 centers of excellence?
A smaller number of centers risks not meeting the ambitious computing requirements to fill the required data space with the required diversity in modelling approaches. Too few centers also make it more difficult to engage a sufficient breadth of users, thereby limiting access to data and expertise. More centers could help EVE be more inclusive, sample more climate trajectories, and engage more users. However, given each center’s need to access a critical mass of human resources for model development, to innovatively develop and maintain infrastructure, etc., the reality of limited human and financial resources, and EVE’s novelty, having fewer centers, each with a higher profile, is advantageous.
How much power would an EVE center consume, and is this sustainable?
EVE’s use of high-performance computing requires substantial electricity resources. Based on practice at some of the world’s leading supercomputing facilities, it is estimated that each EVE center would need to access approximately 50 MW of power. The compute resources need not be sourced from a dedicated site but must facilitate interoperability of software and data, maintain computing co-proximate with the largest sources of data. By focusing on the development of just a few centers, and concentrating the powered delivery to access renewables and favor circular economies, for instance through productive use of ‘waste’ heat, EVE will be exemplary of responsible power production and usage.
How was EVE’s budget estimated?
The €300M per center per year price tag was estimated based on the current budget of international organizations whose profile overlap with parts of EVE’s remit, and it anticipates a roughly equal split between funding for staff, running costs (mostly power), and investments (hardware procurements).
Will EVE take away resources from existing efforts?
EVE relies on a vibrant climate research and services community, and cannot be funded at their expense. EVE centers can be expected to employ some of the leading climate science, climate impact, climate services, and technologists world wide, but in the end this will represent a very small fraction of these workforces. Without simultaneously strengthening ongoing research activities, EVE would lose access to trained staff, would become less innovative, and would fail to adequately understand and communicate its outcomes. Without simultaneously strengthening existing climate services EVE would lose its ability to connect its data and information provision to the communities it must serve, let alone scale this globally. In this sense, EVE will only be successful if it strengthens climate science and service more broadly.
The outcomes from the Berlin Summit for EVE will be presented and discussed at the World Climate Research Programme Open Science Conference in Kigali Africa, in October 2023. We are engaging with the WMO and the organizers of COP28 to obtain their formal support, based on which we would develop an implementation plan and governance structure.
What would happen without EVE?
Without EVE urgently needed information for adaptation and resilience building would be of inferior quality, and much less accessible to those that need it most. Some of EVE’s key technologies and methodologies may be developed anyway, but more slowly and then only by, and for, the few who can afford to do so. Climate information for business, ﬁnance, and global policy, would continue to proliferate, but would lack standardization, inclusivity, and a compelling tie to the best available science. Without EVE, research laboratories would continue to explore the frontiers of computing, but with diminished access, little participation from the global South, and a reduced ability to link their findings and technologies to inform climate actions. Climate services would continue to do their best to exploit advances in the science to inform users, but would be handicapped in their efforts. The operational aspect of EVE, the co-production of regularly updated information that matches the rapid pace of innovation, would be lost. The world won’t be empty-handed, but it would be left with less, and less trusted, information, leaving many less resilient. Just as profoundly, a chance to engage many more people in new, and more equitable, economies at the nexus of emerging technologies and sustainable development would have been missed.
Signatories are available at https://eve4climate.org/ and the PDF below: