Sea blue, sun yellow. Lecce’s windswept sky and ancient center’s native stone are Mediterranean colors, even though it’s a few tens of kilometers from the shore. It’s no surprise that the largest Italian climate change research center, focused on the Mare Nostrum, is in Salento’s city.
The Euro-Mediterranean Center for Climate Change was founded here in 2005 (the funding required investment in the South), but it moved to a new headquarters last summer to coordinate the activities of the other national offices: Bologna, Venice, Milan, Viterbo, Caserta, Sassari.
The Cmcc was founded to organize Italian climate science, whether at universities or other entities. To provide researchers with resources, notably supercomputers, that institutions cannot afford. The CMCC incorporated the finest climate research without discarding its origins.
Anthony Navarra, a climatologist, heads the Foundation that runs the Centre while teaching atmospheric physics at Bologna University. The CMCC relies on economist Charles Carrara, former rector of Venice’s Ca’ Foscari and IPCC member.
Another founding father, Richard Valentini, professor of forest ecology at the University of Tuscia and IPCC member when the UN structure won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 with former US vice president Al Gore. Paola Mercogliano, who will head the Italian Society for Climate Science in 2025, is a member.
Milan Polytechnic professor Massimo Tavoni leads the European Institute of Economics and the Environment’s climate change research.
In the new headquarters in Lecce, hundreds of Italian and foreign experts study global warming and its prospective effects. CMCC employs about 260 employees, 44% of them are women and 52% under 40.
“You make a career here very quickly,” says Strategic Committee member Riccardo Valentini. “The young have all been placed in managerial roles, while we “old” ones have carved out a role of direction”.
A multidisciplinary task force with experts in oceanography and sea modeling from global to regional (Mediterranean, Black Sea) and coastal scales, advanced computing, data science, machine learning, and AI, and climate change impacts on terrestrial ecosystems and the agro-forestry sector.
The CMCC grinds Juno data in two chilled rooms split by the center corridor in the basement. The ultimate supercomputer, installed in 2022 a few days after the new headquarters opened, has 1,134 TFlops of computing power and is based on the third generation Intel Xeon Scalable processor and the latest Nvidia GPU.
Juno pairs with Zeus, the supercomputer at the Ecotekne University Campus in Lecce with 348 Lenovo SD530 biprocessor nodes (for 12,528 cores) linked by an InfiniBand EDR network.
The HPC structure can generate 1,202 TFlops. Zeus and Juno interact to make the CMCC Supercomputing Center the largest and most sophisticated computing center in Italy and Europe dedicated to climate change research and its effects on society and economic systems.
They are the “tools of the trade” of CMCC scientists, who, simplifying, do not make measurements in the field but use supercomputers to process data collected by others to predict climate change and its effects on the planet and human activities.
The Foundation’s 11 divisions—”climate simulations and predictions,” “impact on agriculture, forests and ecosystem services,” “economic models for a sustainable Earth,” and “ocean modelling”—are no coincidence.
Climate scientists. “This lets us provide important services for Italian and international institutions,”
The CMCC has fulfilled its founders’ goal of creating a climate change center of excellence in Italy now that she’s grown up. The Lecce Center is a climate science reference worldwide. Since 2006, it has housed the IPCC’s National Focal Point to facilitate communication between the UN Panel, the scientific community, and national public opinion.
International prizes abound. The CMCC was placed 91st in the Top 100 Non-US Institutions, 160th in the World Ranking, 94th in the Top Environment Policy Think Tanks Ranking, and 82nd among the Best Independent Think Tanks in the 2018 University of Pennsylvania Global Go To Think Tank Index Report.
However, the CMCC’s second goal—to become an institutional reference for public decision-makers, institutions, public and private organizations who need technical-scientific help to address the climate emergency—remains to be shown.
However, Italian politicians must take responsibility, not scientific advice. Because science frequently tells painful facts, even apparent ones that no one wants to hear, like the child who yells “the king is naked”. Opportunities are many. Consider the Pnac, the National Plan for Adaptation to Climate Change, and the Pniec, the National Energy and Climate Plan, which will guide Italian mitigation and adaptation measures for decades.
“We contributed to the Pnac,” Valentini explains. However, science-based climate actions are tough for governments, including Italy. In recent years, the Palace has become more cognizant of what science can accomplish for the nation.
The scientist still openly addresses politicians, which may congratulate him and then ignore him. Francesco Bosello, CMCC Economic Analysis and Climate Impact Division coordinator, spoke at a Pniec meeting at the Chamber of Deputies a few weeks ago.
“If we want to stay within the limits of 1.5 ° C we must reach the peak of greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 and then drastically reduce them,” he said, citing numbers. “Until 2015, it was believed that climate change damages would be seen from 2050 onwards. Recently, damages are higher and faster.
A good strategy might save Italy 2% of GDP by 2050. “Achieving the EU goal of cutting emissions by 55% by 2030 could lead to an increase in employment (currently estimated at 330,000 jobs) and growth (0,000 5% of GDP). Finally, “talking about Italy as a ‘European gas hub’ is not far-sighted” given this. CMCC scientists conduct excellent research in hopes that politics will apply it.
The most important recent studies include marine heat waves in the Mediterranean, the map of extreme events in Italy, a guide for G7 leaders on how to align trade policies with climate and economic objectives, a global map of aridity, the effects of drought on agricultural production, the monitoring of the Italian transport system to reduce emissions and energy consumption, and climate change airport safety.
Valentini says, “The report on climate change in Italian cities is particularly interesting because for the first time we have a picture of the situation in those places where most people will live in the future. Seasonal and decadal projections also matter. A picnic depends on the 6-day weather prediction. Economic operations require longer-term data. Imagine ten-year scenarios to aid policymakers.
They require sophisticated methods and computational capacity to anticipate.
The CMCC, under Lecce’s azure sky, is an unusual research institution with no labs. Its lab. Valentini says, “We turned the pyramid upside down.” “Physics, mathematics, biology have always organized science.
But the climate issue has compelled us to start from the problem rather than the disciplines: we gathered together all the abilities and talents needed to address the difficult situation. Today, the CMCC’s winning method should be translated to colleges, where we still think about different courses.