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Friday, May 23, 2008

Resilient Coasts Initiative

Earlier this month, the Heinz Center and CERES launched the Resilient Coasts Initiative, a "first-of-its-kind" collaboration of private and public sector groups to protect coasts from the effects of climate change:

"Over the next 12 months key priorities for the Resilient Coasts Initiative are to identify policy and market-based solutions that may include initiatives to:

*Limit new development in the most vulnerable areas
*Strengthen and upgrade existing buildings to prevent further losses
*Promote infrastructure investments that will help communities adapt to sea level rise.

The Heinz Endowments in Pittsburgh provided seed funding for the Resilient Coasts Initiative. Other key sponsors are AIG, The Travelers Companies, Inc. and the Alcoa Foundation. Risk Management Solutions is contributing substantial technical expertise on climate-driven catastrophe and adaptation modeling."

Bad to Worse in the Alps

The month's edition of New Scientist (UK) contains a brief article pointing to soon-to-be-published work by C Marty on the long-term decline in snow days that has been observed in the Swiss Alps. The study (preprint here), which will appear in Geophysical Research Letters, reports:

". . .a significant step-like decrease in snow days at the end of the 1980s with no clear trend since then. This abrupt change resulted in a loss of 20% to 60 % of the total snow days."

While its up to others to interpret the implications of such work - socially, economically and ecologically - clearly adjustments will have to be made to winter recreation activities in the region, particularly if conditions deteriorate further as a result of climate change. The problem, of course, is that this is one of those impacts for which there are some hard limits on adaptation. Snow-making and greater exploitation of summer tourism are common examples of adaptation strategies for snow fields, but these will only go so far.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Adaptation on Farm

Australia's Bureau of Rural Sciences has released a report, Climate Risk and Industry Adaptation, which examines the preparedness of farmers in the Murray-Darling Basin with respect to drought and climate change. The study ultimately identified four typologies of farmers:

Group A were open to the idea of climate change but still unsure that it was happening and were making increasingly strategic or long-term changes to their businesses.

Group B were skeptical or uncertain whether climate change was happening, but were undertaking some incremental changes to their business anyway.

Group C were open to the idea of climate change but still unsure that it was happening and were feeling overwhelmed or saw climate change as a low priority.

Group D were sceptical or uncertain that climate change was happening and tended to have fewer strategies in place to manage risks.

Evaluating Adaptation

The following is a list of publications on the subject of evaluation of adaptation policies, programs and projects:

1) Evaluation of Adaptation to Climate Change from a Development Perspective

2) Progress on Adaptation to Climate Change In Developed Countries: an Analysis of Broad Trends

3) Monitoring and Evaluation Framework for Adaptation to Climate Change

4) The Climate Crisis and the Adaptation Myth

Monday, May 19, 2008

Google Does Global Warming

A new tool developed for GoogleEarth enables users to view animations of global temperature projections and changes in Arctic sea ice as well as read accounts of the effects of climate change on the Earth system.

Climate Change in Our World is the product of a collaboration between Google, the UK Government, the Met Office Hadley Centre and the British Antarctic Survey.

New Funds for Regional Adaptation in the UK

The UK government is set to pump £450,000 into regional adaptation efforts in the UK:

As reported by

"Under the new scheme, each Climate Change Partnership will be able to bid for funding allocations of up to £50,000 this year, £30,000 next year and £20,000 in 2010/11 to support a range of climate adaptation projects."

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Climate Adaptation: Who Pays?

The UK's Environmental Transformation Fund (ETF) has come under fire after the government has revealed that the mechanism for funding adaptation in the developing world will be provided in the form of loans rather than direct assistance. And so, the debate over who should bear the costs of adaptation shall continue. Those in the development community have a strong point in arguing that such loans force the developing world to pay for the growth of wealthier nations. However, assuming such loans are used to mainstream adaptation in development, aren't distributed in lieu of other assistance and don't overly burden nations with already limited capacity, there remains the potential for good outcomes, particularly if it offers opportunities for significant near-term reductions in vulnerability (without creating other adverse externalities).

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Australia's Farming Future Initiative

The release of Australia's federal budget (the first of the new government) identified priority areas of climate change adaptation, particularly in the agricultural arena.

As reported here,The Australia’s Farming Future initiative is worth $130.0 million over four years, including:

*$60.0 million for the Climate Change Adaptation Partnerships Program to increase our understanding of climate change impacts and improve on-farm preparedness;
*$15.0 million for the Climate Change and Productivity Research Program to undertake research on managing emissions and adaptation; and
*$55.0 million for the Climate Change Adjustment Program to provide primary producers with professional advice, training and re-establishment grants.

In addition, grants of up to $5,500 will be available under the Climate Change Adjustment Program to provide farmers with professional advice on climate change risk management or (more ominously) prepare for a career switch.

A Forestry Adaptation Action Plan ($8.0 million over three years) has also been established for that sector.

Tiempo Adaptation Articles

The April, 2008 edition of Tiempo contains two features on adaptation: one presenting a municipal integrated adaptation planning framework (Mukheibir and Ziervogel; pictured here) and the other (Taylor et al) on technology and the importance of processes and institutions in the targeted use of technology for adaptation.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Adaptation and U.S. Presidential Candidates

There are some interesting differences between the proposed climate change platforms of Senators McCain and Obama. Both candidates have put forth rather ambitious greenhouse gas mitigation reduction targets - 60% (below 1990) by 2050 for McCain and 80% by 2050 for Obama. How either of those targets gets through the U.S. Congress remains to be seen, and were they to overcome that hurdle, one wonders how those targets actually would be achieved. I can't help but recall images of George Bush during his original Presidential campaign where he promised carbon dioxide emissions reductions. . .

In any case, McCain goes the extra mile of making specific mention of the important role of adapting to climate change impacts. In this regard, the more modest emissions target and the acknowledgement of the need for adaptation makes McCain's platform appear to be the more mature. This is no surprise, given his long-term dedication to chasing climate change legislation in the U.S. The lack of adaptation in Obama's platform can be read in one of two ways: either his advisors don't understand the dual strategy approach, or they've intentionally left it off the agenda on the erroneous assumption that adaptation isn't "green".

To read more, go here for McCain or here for Obama.

U.S. EPA Release Draft Adaptation Strategy for Water Resources

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Water has released a draft report for public comment entitled: "NATIONAL WATER PROGRAM STRATEGY: Response to Climate Change." As with many such strategies, it contains extensive discussion of the potential consequences of climate change and the relationships between water resources management and mitigation. It does acknowledge various adaptation issues and offers associated recommendations, although these tend to involve words like "evaluate" and "review" rather than "implement" or "design". This reflects a potential lack of sufficient thought regarding what is to be achieved by adaptation planning and actions, indecisiveness about what should be done and/or hesitancy to implement new policies and measures.

The document is available for public comment until May 28.

Podcast on Sydney's Climate Vulnerability

A podcast interview discussing my work recent work on assessing climate change vulnerability in the Sydney, Australia region is now available here.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Toronto's Adaptation Strategy

Toronto recently released its climate adaptation strategy, AHEAD OF THE STORM….Preparing Toronto for Climate Change:

"The development and establishment of a climate change adaptation strategy is one of the actions contained in the Climate Change Action Plan. This document presents an action-oriented framework that is designed to help members of the public and other stakeholders engage in the process of designing and implementing a climate change adaptation strategy for Toronto."

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Urban Leaders Adaptation Initiative

The Center for Clean Air Policy has launched a program aimed at increasing the resilience of urban cities and counties in the United States to climate change. Funded by the Rockefellar Foundation for a period of three years, the initiative will assist with "policy and investment decisions" relevant to adaptation. It will be interesting to see what this actually means.

The initiatives partners include Chicago, King County (Wash.), Los Angeles, Miami-Dade County (Fla.), Milwaukee, Nassau County (N.Y.), Phoenix, San Francisco and Toronto.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Adaptation in Ecosystems

Recently published research offers conflicting messages on the fate of species in a changing climate:

Writing in PNAS, Deutsch et al. report that the thermal tolerance of insect species in the tropics is narrower than in temperate areas. As a consequence, they conclude "that warming in the tropics, although relatively small in magnitude, is likely to have the most deleterious consequences because tropical insects are relatively sensitive to temperature change and are currently living very close to their optimal temperature."

Meanwhile, Charmantier et al. published more optimistic news in Science. A long-term study of great tit (Parus major) populations in the UK has revealed that phenotypic plasticity has enabled the species to closely track the rapidly changing climate.

Collectively, this suggests that there are no one-size-fits-all generalisations when it comes to predicting ecosystem responses to a changing climate.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Asia Develpment Bank Climate Fund

The Asia Development Bank has established a new climate change fund designed to facilitate both mitigation and adaptation projects in developing Asia.

"ADB will provide an initial $40 million to the Climate Change Fund, which will be open for further contributions from countries, other development organizations, foundations, the private sector and other sources. "

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Stern on Adaptation

Stern is back with a new report outlining the key element of a global deal to drive action on climate change. On adaptation, the report sums up the issue as follows:

"Taken together, all this implies that rather than treating adaptation as separate from development, it should be seen as an additional cost and complexity to delivering standard development goals. . .The most effective way of achieving this is to integrate climate risk, and the additional resources required to tackle it, into planning and budgeting for and delivering these development goals. This requires a portfolio of adaptation responses, from changing planning, policy and institutions (based on better investment in and access to climate information), to improved access to markets (particularly insurance) and technologies (such as crop varieties) and ensuring climate sensitive investments are climate resilient. Adaptation should be understood as the impacts of climate change on standard development outcomes, not whether the response to these impacts can be defined as separable from ‘standard’ development activities."

This largely frames international adaptation efforts in the context of development, which perhaps overlooks the challenges that developed nations will face themselves with respect to adaptation - capacity to adapt and actual adaptation are two different things. Stern also argues that private investment should handle the bulk of adaptation needs in the developing world, with public investment being used to fill critical gaps (e.g., where there is little or no incentive for private investment) or to leverage private investment.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Dumb as We Wanna Be

Thomas Friedman's recent article on the state of U.S. energy policy spells out in rather blunt terms the delusion that the nation appears to be operating under. The U.S. Congress (and let's not forget this one is dominated by democrats) does not appear to have any intention of doing anything that may shift some of the energy market share from fossil fuels to renewable energy any time soon.

While this has some nasty implications for hopes for greenhouse gas emissions reductions, there are perhaps some more immediate economic implications associated with such an unrelenting march down an untenable path. As Jad Mouawad wrote last weekend, none of the possible futures for global oil supply and demand look particularly attractive. The only question seems to be whether rational economics will smoothly drive investment from oil to alternative energy sources at an efficient rate, or whether the transition will be marked by a crunch with many left high and dry.

Release of Climate Mapper Tool

A consortium of research instututions has released the first edition of the Climate Mapper tool.

"The Climate Mapper makes the results of climate change models accessible to a broad user community. With the Climate Mapper, users can assess climate change projections for the 2030s and 2050s against 3D visualizations of landscape. This should enhance vulnerability assessments as development planners consider adaptation strategies for projects."

Although it currently provides coverage only for the African continent, we are promised a global system in the future.

The Climate Mapper and SERVIR Viz can be downloaded at: