The Helmholtz Climate Initiative

Forests are drying out in Brandenburg, glaciers are melting in Bavaria, hurricanes are raging in the Caribbean, and the Arctic is losing vast amounts of ice. Changes like these and the frequency of extreme weather events such as heat waves or torrential rainfall are steadily increasing. They all share a common underlying cause: man-made climate change. We therefore currently face an incredibly great challenge that we have brought upon ourselves, namely, curbing the causes of climate change as quickly and sustainably as possible while finding ways to adapt to a world experiencing massive transformations.

Helmholtz has been making key contributions to this area for many years. The Helmholtz centers from the “Earth and Environment” research field are excellently positioned in many fields of climate research. However, scientists are performing climate-related research in many other Helmholtz research fields as well, all of which have the potential to make valuable contributions to this major issue. Helmholtz therefore decided to go a step further: The Helmholtz Climate Initiative, originally endowed with twelve million euros, was started on July 1, 2019. (View the press release, July 1, 2019)

The Initiative focuses on the two main clusters Net Zero 2050 (mitigation) and Adapting to Extreme Events (adaptation). As part of 13 research projects in total, Helmholtz scientists are working towards advancing their climate research. They will actively cooperate even more closely to systemically research climate change, as climate change has many causes and affects many areas of our lives. In order to study the impacts of climate change and to develop models for solving these issues, the Helmholtz experts are working together at the intersections of many fields of research. Changing climate conditions affect our health, for instance. We also need new energy sources, mobility and agriculture will have to change, and much more.

Helmholtz Klima-Initiative Organizational chart
Helmholtz Klima-Initiative Organizational chart
Helmholtz Klima-Initiative Organizational chart

However, one organization alone cannot advance a research field as relevant as climate change is to society, which is why Helmholtz intends to collaborate closely with other national and international scientific partners. We plan to cooperate with the best organizations and actors to deal with the issue of climate change in a global, cross-sector approach.

In addition to breaking new ground in scientific research, Helmholtz plans to strike out in a new direction in terms of communication as well. The Climate Initiative will therefore make engaging in active dialog with society at large a special priority. Helmholtz wants to hold such dialog with key players from politics and business, the media, interested members of the public, and especially young people. In this respect, Helmholtz sees itself as an independent provider of up-to-date expert information based on scientific findings, one that seeks active communication with stakeholders in order to move forward on this major challenge together.

The Helmholtz Climate Initiative is financed by the Helmholtz President’s Initiative and Networking Fund. The initially provided twelve million euros will be available for two years. The Helmholtz Climate Initiative is headed by a Steering Committee that President of the Helmholtz Association Otmar D. Wiestler chairs. The Steering Committee members include scientific directors from all Helmholtz research fields.

One initiative, 15 centers: Map of Germany with Centers
One initiative, 15 centers: Map of Germany with Centers
One initiative, 15 centers: Map of Germany with Centers

In total, 15 of the 19 Helmholtz centers are involved in the Helmholtz Climate Initiative.

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