"Science Goes Society" Symposium Spotlights Climate Change Challenges in Municipalities

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From left to right: NatureLife President C.-P. Hutter, District Administrator Dietmar Allgaier, Mayor Jürgen Scholz, HLRS Director Prof. Dr. Michael Resch, President of the Association of Municipalities of Baden-Würrtemberg Steffen Jäger, Head of the HLRS Visualization Department Dr. Uwe Wössner, HLRS Project Manager Thomas Obst, and moderator Volker Angres

Stuttgart/Sersheim, April 25, 2024 - The Sersheim culture and sports hall was transformed into an arena for science and climate protection. In the "Science goes Society" symposium, a large LED wall with 3D simulations showed what local villages, cities, forests, and fields could soon look like in the face of climate change. They also showed where precautions can be taken in terms of sustainable development and disaster prevention. Many concrete examples of how municipalities are already preparing for the challenges of climate change — with droughts and heat waves on the one hand and heavy rainfall with flooding and erosion on the other — were presented in hands-on demonstrations and at exhibition stands. In addition, the event addressed the enormous challenges that climatologists and environmental scientists predict we are facing, many of which are still underestimated by the population. The event was moderated by Volker Angres from Mainz, long-time head of the ZDF environmental editorial department.


"It is certain that climate change will bring huge changes. The only question is where and when," said Prof. Dr. Michael Resch, Director of the High-Performance Computing Center at the University of Stuttgart (HLRS) at the opening of the "Science goes Society" symposium. The event was held in this format for the first time.

The mayor of the congressional model municipality of Sersheim (Ludwigsburg district) — who is also the president of the 4.3 million-member Baden-Württemberg State Sports Association and is committed to sustainability and climate protection — welcomed renowned experts from the fields of science, urban and regional planning, and municipal practice, including the president of the Baden-Württemberg Municipal Association. Also present were representatives of public administrations; district, city, and municipal councils; and citizens concerned about their climate future. In addition, schoolchildren could engage in direct dialog with the practice-oriented researchers.

"This is exactly what we need more than ever," said District Administrator and patron of the symposium Dietmar Allgaier: Together with his district council, Allgaier committed in January to an ambitious climate protection program and launched a focus year on climate protection and biodiversity conservation. "New challenges need new partnerships. My compliments go to the municipality of Sersheim, the supercomputing center and all partners in the new 'Science goes Society' format," Allgaier stated. "Even if the recent rainy winter means that the soil is better supplied with water again, we must continue to expect heat and periods of drought and must not lull ourselves into a sense of security with short-sighted thinking. The negative signs of climate change are making themselves felt everywhere.”

View of audience at Science Goes Society event

Approximately 120 representatives of local communities attended the event.

Welcoming around 120 participants to the symposium, Mayor Scholz pointed out, "As a municipality in the district of Ludwigsburg that is located at the transition between the Stuttgart metropolitan region and the more rural area of the Stromberg-Heuchelberg Nature Park, we are at a location where landscape, agriculture, and housing settlements meet. This means we have to be prepared for the changes that climate change will bring to both rural and urban areas." The situation he described is one in which many municipalities in Baden-Württemberg find themselves.

Following a welcoming address by Gemeindetag President Steffen Jäger, Professor Jörn Birkmann of the University of Stuttgart devoted his statement to the topics of climate change, extreme weather events, and human invulnerability. This included discussing how local authorities can take action and how digital information can be used to reduce climate change effects. Principal Ranzinger from the Bietigheim-Bissingen vocational school center focused on the topic of action competence in climate prevention, the well-known gap between knowledge and preventive action. Vanessa Kruse from the Stuttgart Regional Council provided information on what information is available concerning flood risks —knowledge that is already available for use by municipalities. Maps posted during the accompanying “maker fair” also helped make this clear.

Making the unknown visible

Simulations and predictions in the fields of climate change and disaster prevention — in flood forecasting, for example — often require the processing of large amounts of data. This is where the High-Performance Computing Center Stuttgart comes into play. One focus at the center is the simulation and visualization of climate change and extreme weather events. Another is investigating how HPC and simulation technologies can provide support in crisis situations. Artificial intelligence (AI) can also help to overcome these global challenges. HLRS researchers presented specific projects during the event, including a simulation used to predict intensive care unit occupancy in Germany during the COVID-19 pandemic, a dike breach simulation, and a forest fire simulation at the European level.

Simulation and visualization also open new avenues in sustainable urban planning. How digital twins can support urban planning and, above all, the imagination of stakeholders was also a subject of the presentations. One example is the digital twin of the city of Herrenberg. "Digital twins can be used to develop models that do not solve problems directly, but can contribute to the sustainable development of a municipality," said Professor Resch. Ultimately, the aim is to be able to plan in a far-sighted and cost-saving manner. On the LED wall, the otherwise abstract results of simulations became very concrete and imaginable.

Making better use of public knowledge

Imagination is one thing, knowledge about what can happen is another. "Today, we also have to think about the completely impossible, because many things could become reality in the frighteningly near future," said Claus-Peter Hutter, President of the NatureLife-International Foundation and event partner at the symposium. Hutter suggested that much more citizen knowledge — also known as citizen science — should be collected and processed as a bundled treasure trove of knowledge about the landscape, local settlement structures, and events that often occurred a long time ago — such as storms and floods, as well as their effects. "Even the best planners and local politicians cannot replace this old knowledge, and they should use it to understand what the future might hold. This applies in particular to disaster prevention," said Hutter, adding, "When the knowledge carriers, many of whom are already over eighty years old, are no longer with us, it will be too late. No AI can replace them, and a 3D printer cannot spit out contemporary witnesses."

According to Professor Michael Resch, "Science goes Society" should not be a flash in the pan, but rather establish itself as a series. "Whenever we can contribute to crisis management using high-performance computing, we get in touch and bring our ideas and results to society. We maintain an ongoing dialog with those responsible."

About the High-Performance Computing Center Stuttgart

The High-Performance Computing Center Stuttgart (HLRS) was established in 1996 as Germany’s first national high-performance computing center. As a research institution affiliated with the University of Stuttgart and a founding member of the Gauss Centre for Supercomputing, HLRS provides computing resources for academic users and industry. HLRS operates state of the art high-performance computing systems and provides advanced training in HPC programming and simulation. The center also conducts research to address key problems facing the future of supercomputing. Among HLRS’s areas of expertise are parallel programming, numerical methods for HPC, visualization, cloud computing, high-performance data analytics, and artificial intelligence. Users of HLRS computing systems are active across a wide range of disciplines, with an emphasis on computational engineering and applied science.

Press contact

Sophia Honisch
High-Performance Computing Center Stuttgart
Tel.: +49 (0) 711 / 685-68038, honisch(at)hlrs.de