We identified a representative pool of potential users of climate information in the seven sectors mentioned previously through a qualitative organisational and policy review analysis, followed by stakeholder mapping. Users’ perceptions, needs, and capacities to employ existing weather and climate products within their decision contexts, as well as providers’ perceptions of users’ climate information needs and provider constraints in developing and maintaining climate services, were then assessed using semi-structured interviews, focus group discussions, and workshops with key informations. Each is described in more detail as follows.
In order to initially identify and refine a representative pool of users from each of the seven sectors, existing policies and laws related to the governance of that particular sector were examined. We also conducted a literature review of formal and grey literature of Chinese climate services studies and initiatives and drew from lessons and good practice examples from climate service initiatives in other countries.
The policy and literature review enabled a rapid organisational analysis of government ministries and agencies involved in the management of that sector, and their broad mandates for action (roles and decision-making responsibilities). Supporting organisations, such as research institutions, and their roles in providing or purveying particular types of scientific information to support decision making were also identified.
The needs for and capacities to use and deliver climate information are shaped by the roles that people and organisations play in designing, producing, and delivering climate services. Frequently roles are broadly categorised as either a provider or a user; the actual roles may more effectively be described as provider, purveyor, or user and the chain of interaction between these stakeholders (Bessembinder, 2012; Street et al., 2015). Providers frequently are national meteorological agencies or climate institutions maintaining observation infrastructure and developing and issuing forecasts to projections, among other information types. Purveyors are often described as those who translate, process, and transform weather and climate information for others; they may be providers themselves and/or be public (research insitutions) or private sector (e.g., media companies) that modify information for specific purposes or to reach particular users. Users themselves can be quite diverse, ranging from researchers engaged in climate risks and resilience studies to policy makers or practitioners like engineering firms or water management institutions, all the way to the general public and media.
In reality, a person’s or organisation’s role can change depending on the specifics of the task at hand, and interactions behave more like a dynamic web rather than a chain (Street et al., 2015). Nonetheless, mapping types of stakeholders within a particular climate service context and their different roles and decision mandates can be a useful means by which to understand subsets of targeted users’ information requirements and to produce climate information more inline with these. Some examples of types of users are in Table 1; we interviewed some researchers, practitioners, policy makers, and media.
User Description Researchers Researchers working on landuse and urban planning, climate impacts, adaptation and mitigation studies and assessments. Discipline and purpose of research determine climate information needs and shape capacities to use. May also be purveyors. Practitioners Engineers, planners, investment portfolio managers: Located within local government, industry, and business, including financial services providers. These represent a diverse and evolving group of users that can use publicly available information, but also are interested in bespoke climate services. Consultancy
Private companies that conduct climate and/or disaster risk analysis, repackage climate information (e.g., seasonal forecasting to decadal prediction and climate projections), and/or support other decision makers, researchers, or the public. May also be purveyors. Policy and decision makers; non-governmental organisations (NGOs) Tend to require more climate and societal/environmental impacts information that direct climate information like seasonal forecasts. Often rely on researchers, practitioners, and consultancies to translate climate information to their particular decision contexts, rather than working directly with meteorological services. Particular decisions makers—such as for directing urban heating or transportation—are more interested in weather than climate information. Education Teachers and those developing educational material and curriculum about climate and climate change. Do not need detailed climate information, General public Potentially interested in seasonal or longer forecasts or predictions depending on sector of employment (e.g., as farmers, but highly diverse requirements and often low capacities to interpret). Information must be simple and related to their concern. Most general public are more concerned with daily to weekly weather. Media Require graphics and information soundbites for news and documentaries.
Table 1. A climate services user typology continuum (adapted from Bessembinder, 2012)
Potential representative stakeholders in the seven sectors were first mapped by the administrative level of operation and roles and then categorised by typology along the provider to user landscape. Stakeholders were additionally identified through study investigator networks and referrals made as to possible interviewees through snowballing.
Semi-structured interviews were used to qualitatively ascertain stakeholder capacities and use of weather and climate information in decisions and operations, as well as level and strength of communication between the user and information providers. User and provider workshops were held separately to allow each group to frankly offer their perspectives about climate services, how such information is/could be used in operations and planning, and/or how such services are currently developed and deployed to different target audiences. Given our networks, it was easiest to arrange workshops and interviews at the municipal- (Tianjin), provincial- (Gansu), and prefecture-level (Linyi City).
Supplementary informal interviews related to climate risk and adaptation planning at the provincial-level were conducted with representatives of four provincial Development and Reform Commissions (DRCs) from Guizhou, Jiangxi, Inner Mongolia, and Ningxia, and research institutions (national- and provincial-level) involved in the Adapting to Climate Change in China Phase II (ACCCII) project funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation in collaboration with the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC). These informal consultations provided additional perspectives on climate adaptation planning contexts and challenges, including the accessibility and limitations of supporting science, and the capacities or providers to deliver policy-relevant information to decision makers in the context of adaptation planning.
The landscape of weather and climate services providers, purveyors, and users in China is complex and frequently blurred within sectors due to divisions of decision-making responsibility and mandates for different ministries, institutions, administrations, and bureaus as historically set by the State Council. The State Council is comprised of ministers from 21 line ministries, 3 commissions, the People’s Bank of China, and the National Audit Office (State Council, 2020)—each of which supervises a single sector, though there is overlap between mandates within a sector. The meteorological services, and now evolving climate services, within China strongly reflect the sectoral nature of Chinese administrative bodies and their historical decision mandates within the Group.
The premier government organisation charged with providing weather and climate information products is the China Meteorological Administration (CMA). At the national level, CMA is organised into a number of internal bodies and institutions. CMA provides weather and climate services within China at five administrative levels—national, regional, provincial, prefectural, and county—through the National Meteorological Center (NMC), the National Climate Center (NCC), the Public Meteorological Service Center (PMSC), 31 provincial meteorological service centres, 14 meteorological bureaus of municipalities and regions, 317 prefectural (or city-level) meteorological offices, and some 2440 county meteorological bureaus—see Fig. 1 (China Meteorological News Press, 2012; CMA, 2016). Weather and climate service provided by CMA may be further categorized by function as observation and information networks, data storage and management; forecasts, predictions, and projections; and dissemination of weather and climate information products as services.
In addition, there are organisations within the public and private sectors in China whose primary climate service roles is that of a purveyor (see Table 2 and the case studies comprising Section 4). For example, in China some private sector companies, particularly in the energy sector, use each other’s forecasts rather than those issued through their respective prefectural meteorological service centre. Other private sector climate service companies, for example, Sprixin Co., Ltd. or Tianyuan New Energy, provide wind or solar radiation forecasting services for wind or solar power enterprises.
User Provider and purveyor CMA (provider) Government ministries and sub-agencies (not CMA—provider and purveyor)
Examples include: Ministry of Water Resources (MWR), Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MARA)
Private sector purveyor:
Weather forecasts and seasonal prediction
Meteorological hazard risk
Climate change projections
Climate change assessments
Weather forecasts and prediction for in-house use
Early warning in-house
Sector-specific hazard risk
Climate change projections in-house
Businesses and public with sector-specific interests (e.g., farmers, cargo shippers) Sector-specific sub-daily to seasonal forecasts and climate
Climate change projections
Weather forecasts and prediction for in-house
Sector-specific hazard risk
Sector-specific weather forecasts and predictions for specific users
Early warning dissemination
General public Weather forecasts
Early warning and hazard warning (co-issued with other ministries/agencies)
Early flood or drought risk warning, hazard warning (co-issued with CMA) Dissemination, but not necessarily production:
Table 2. Weather and climate user, purveyor, and provider landscape in China
The public also turns to mobile phone apps and websites from private sector purveyors (CMA, 2015). These companies have developed mobile phone apps to push weather forecasts and early warning messages. The purveyors do not generate forecasts on their own—they source them through the Beijing Meteorological Service and translate and reformat the forecasts for public consumption. The mobile apps MoWeather (Moji FengYun Software Tech Developing Co., Ltd.) and Caiyun Weather are particularly popular; MoWeather is currently the preferred public source of weather forecasts in many urban areas (ibid).
Water, agriculture, urban planning, and urban heating sectors, as well as climate information provision, within China are administered by a number of different government ministries and agencies operating at different divisions. Provinces, autonomous regions (e.g., Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region), special administrative regions, and the four municipalities (Beijing, Chongqing, Tianjin, and Shanghai) are just beneath the central government in terms of authority. The national-level ministries—central government agencies with particular functions and mandates, such as the Ministry of Water Resources (MWR)—are at the same administrative level as the provinces and coordinate directly with them and provincial departments on monitoring and reporting. Provinces and autonomous regions are further divided into smaller administrative units: prefecture then district and county-level units. The types of weather or climate information they can use or need to support their decision mandates are based on their understanding of vulnerabilities and risks and implications for their sphere, the courses of action open to them for acting upon their mandate (policy constraints) and the resource constraints of the organisation.
|Researchers||Researchers working on landuse and urban planning, climate impacts, adaptation and mitigation studies and assessments. Discipline and purpose of research determine climate information needs and shape capacities to use. May also be purveyors.|
|Practitioners||Engineers, planners, investment portfolio managers: Located within local government, industry, and business, including financial services providers. These represent a diverse and evolving group of users that can use publicly available information, but also are interested in bespoke climate services.|
|Private companies that conduct climate and/or disaster risk analysis, repackage climate information (e.g., seasonal forecasting to decadal prediction and climate projections), and/or support other decision makers, researchers, or the public. May also be purveyors.|
|Policy and decision makers; non-governmental organisations (NGOs)||Tend to require more climate and societal/environmental impacts information that direct climate information like seasonal forecasts. Often rely on researchers, practitioners, and consultancies to translate climate information to their particular decision contexts, rather than working directly with meteorological services. Particular decisions makers—such as for directing urban heating or transportation—are more interested in weather than climate information.|
|Education||Teachers and those developing educational material and curriculum about climate and climate change. Do not need detailed climate information,|
|General public||Potentially interested in seasonal or longer forecasts or predictions depending on sector of employment (e.g., as farmers, but highly diverse requirements and often low capacities to interpret). Information must be simple and related to their concern. Most general public are more concerned with daily to weekly weather.|
|Media||Require graphics and information soundbites for news and documentaries.|