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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Garnaut Final Report

Ross Garnaut has released the final report of the Garnaut Review. The bottom line with respect to emissions targets is as follows:

Australia should indicate at an early date its preparedness to play its
full, proportionate part in an effective global agreement that ‘adds up’ to
either a 450 or a 550 emissions concentrations scenario, or to a corresponding
point between. Australia’s full part for 2020 in a 450 scenario would be a
reduction of 25 per cent in emissions entitlements from 2000 levels, or
one-third from Kyoto compliance levels over 2008–12, or 40 per cent per capita
from 2000 levels. For 2050, reductions would be 90 per cent from 2000 levels (95
per cent per capita).

Australia’s full part for 2020 in a 550 scenario would be a reduction
in entitlements of 10 per cent from 2000 levels, or 17 per cent from Kyoto
compliance levels over 2008–12, or 30 per cent per capita from 2000. For 2050,
reductions would be 80 per cent per capita from 2000 levels or 90 per cent per

If there is no comprehensive global agreement at Copenhagen in 2009, Australia, in the context of an agreement amongst developed countries only, should commit to reduce its emissions by 5 per cent (25 per cent per capita) from 2000 levels by 2020, or 13 per cent from the Kyoto compliance 2008–12 period.

Effectively, this recommends for a deferment on any decision on a target until after Copenhagen. Nevertheless, the costs associated with any of these different emissions trajectories are argued to be justified under a range of policy arguments (largely associated with the long-term damages of unmitigated climate change vs. the costs of mitigation).

The report also discusses the role of adaptation measures in addressing climate impacts, but does so from a fairly narrow perspective. While arguing for a local, bottom-up approach to adaptation, the report seems to overlook issues of adaptive capacity (the phrase doesn't even appear in the relevant chapter) and the role of social vulnerability in driving adverse climate outcomes. Instead, the report largely expresses adaptation in terms of technical fixes, infrastructure upgrades, and policy adjustments to influence water and food markets. But then, it's fairly clear that the Garnaut Review was never about comprehensive approaches to reducing the risks of climate change.

Climate Impacts in Europe

The European Environment Agency has released a new report entitled, Impacts of Europe's changing climate - 2008 indicator-based assessment. An update to the 2004 report, this one makes use of 40 different indicators to track the effects of climate change (although, many of these indicators are rather traditional climate variables) and provides projections of future impacts. The report closes with a call for adaptation and research to address a range of knowledge gaps.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

New Funds Pledged for Climate Change

Ten countries (Australia, France, Germany, Japan, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States) have collectively pledged $6.1 billion in assistance to developing countries for mitigation and adaptation efforts. The funds will be channeled through the Climate Investment Funds administered by the World Bank.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Vulnerability and Adaptation in Sydney (part 2)

The Sydney Coastal Councils Group (SCCG), Australia has released another report as part of its project investigating climate change vulnerability and adaptive capacity in the region. This new report summarises the outcomes from 15 workshops conducted with SCCG member local governments and identifies a broad range of barriers and opportunities at the local government level with respect to adapting to climate vulnerability and change. The report goes on to make a number of recommendations for capitalising on these opportunities and breaking down barriers.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

In the Journals (July 2008)

Climatic Change

*Special Topic - Learning & Global Climate Change

In the Journals (August 2008)

Climatic Change

*Special Topic - The Stern Review Debate

Climate Research

1) Influence of climate change on agricultural land-use potential: adapting and updating the land capability system for Scotland

2) REVIEW: Climate change in the uplands: a UK perspective on safeguarding regulatory ecosystem services

Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change

1) Topical scientific and practical issues of wildland fire problem

2) Methodology for identifying vulnerability hotspots to tropical cyclone hazard in India

3) A discussion of the potential impacts of climate change on the shorelines of the Northeastern USA

In the Journals (June 2008)

Climate Research

1) Heterogeneous intra-annual climatic change drive different phonological responses at two trophic levels

2) Simulated effects of climate change, fragmentation, and inter-specific competition on tree species migration in northern Wisconsin, USA

3) Sensitivity of the snow energy balance to climatic changes: prediction of snowpack in the Pyrenees in the 21st century

4) Forecasting water allocations for Bundaberg sugarcane farmers

5) Fluctuations of winter wheat yields in relation to length of winter in Sweden 1866 to 2006

6) Influence of the North Atlantic Oscillation on Mediterranean deep-sea shrimp landings

7) Frameworks for analysing the economic effects of climate change on outdoor recreation

Mitigation and Adaptation Options for Global Change

*Special Issue: Assessment of Climate Change, Impacts, and Solutions in the Northeast United States

Queensland Seeks Comments on its Climate Strategy

The Queensland Government has released an "Issues Paper" that,

"seeks feedback on the effectiveness of existing measures, the issues relevant
to our major sectors and possible measures to mitigate greenhouse as emissions
and adapt to climate change

The report summarises the policies that are on the table to address both greenhouse gas emissions reductions as well as adaptation. However, the only apparent feedback pathway is through submission of comments via mail or email, and, as usual, there's no way of knowing how those submissions will be incorporated into the development of future policy.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Adaptation Board

The third meeting of the UNFCCC's Adaptation Fund Board is currently underway in Bonn.

Adaptation in The Financial Times

The Financial Times ran this article this week, which provides a nice primer on the subject of climate adaptation and highlights the public confusion over the distinction between adaptation and mitigation, uncertainty in the costs of adaptation, and the implications of planned vs. autonomous adaptation.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Australian Farmers' Perceptions of Climate Risk

A new report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Farm Management and Climate, provides insights into how Australia's farmers perceive the changing climate as well as their responses:

"Nationally, 65.6% of agricultural businesses reported that they considered the climate affecting their holding has changed and 62.4% reported that the perceived change in climate had an impact on their holding. Approximately half (49.5%) of agricultural businesses reported a change in the management practices on their holding in response to perceived changes in climate.

The most commonly reported perceived change in climate affecting the holding was a change in rainfall patterns (92.1%), followed by more extreme weather events (74.2%) and warmer temperatures (49.6%)."

"The Economist" on Climate Adaptation

An article in this month's edition of The Economist reviews the issue of climate change adaptation, highlighting the fact that it has finally gained a level of respectability among a broad range of interests. However, the costs of adaptation will have to be paid by someone, and so far there is no clear framework by which international needs will be met.

Britain Pledges Climate Aid to Bangladesh

Douglas Alexander, the UK's International Development Secretary today announced a new partnership to Bangladesh that will provide £75 million to assist in adaptation efforts to reduce vulnerability to climate change. Given the persistent vulnerability of Bangladesh to climate variability in the present day, it's probably more accurate to state that the funds represent development and natural disaster management assistance. However, as is often the case with the developing world, addressing such current, acute vulnerability is a limiting step in preparing nations for future climate change.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Lloyd's Report on Coastal Communities

Lloyd's has released a new report as part of its 360 Risk series that provides an insurer's perspective on the risks that climate change poses to coastal communities. The report examines a number of case studies spanning developed and developing nation perspectives assuming a range of defences and climate scenarios. The report's Executive Summary provides six key lessons:

  1. If no action is taken, losses from coastal flooding for high risk properties could double by 2030 Therefore, adaptation is vital. While mitigation through reducing greenhouse gas emissions is the only effective way to turn the tide of climate change, adaptation is vital given the potential future rate of climate change.

  2. With an effective adaptation strategy, future losses can be reduced to below present day levels In almost every case study in our report, adaptation would reduce losses resulting from climate change in the 2030s to less than the present day. The losses for high-risk properties could be reduced by 70% through using flood defences together with flood resilient and flood resistant measures.

  3. The insurance industry can encourage adaptation by policyholders through incentivisation Governments and insurers can play a key role by providing further financial incentives for adaptation; for instance, they can set policy premiums at a level that more closely reflects the risk to which individual properties are exposed. If adaptation measures are not implemented, insurance will become more expensive and less available.

  4. Locations and circumstances There is no single solution for managing coastal flood risk for all future situations or eventualities. Society will need to be flexible enough to take account of the uncertainties surrounding the consequences of climate change.

  5. Currently, poor land use policy and increasing urbanisation are key drivers of rising flood risk Climate change adaptation measures must therefore take account of other factors that affect flood risk in coastal areas, such as planning policies.

  6. The world cannot insure its way out of climate change Insurance is an effective way of managing individual risk that cannot be dealt with by adaptation. Adaptation and effective risk-informed development planning are the only means of reducing total risk.

Collectively, these conclusions highlight the potential benefits of adaptation as well as the fact that human agency, not just climate change, is a major component of rising social vulnerability in a changing climate.

Friday, September 5, 2008

New Zealand Climate Adapatation Initiative

New Zealand's Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology have announced a partnership to fund climate change research and adaptation efforts. The partnership represents the second phase of research under the Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change Plan of Action. The total amount of funds available to fund research is approximately $3.038m for short-term projects and $8.887 in medium-term projects and programmes.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Garnaut Review Releases Supplementary Report

The Garnaut Review has completed work on a draft supplemental report outlining recommended targets and timetables for greenhouse gas emissions reductions. The report generally supports Australia's long-term target of 60% emissions reductions (relative to 2000) by 2050, but proposes an interim target of a 5-10% reduction by 2020 (depending on how far the international community is willing to go). Undoubtedly, many in the environmental community will find this to be inadequate, but to his credit Garnaut acknowledges the significant difficulties that exist with respect to getting international agreement on significant near-term targets:

"It is not realistic to expect that the international community would, in
the few years immediately ahead, agree on the even tighter emissions
containments and reductions consistent with a 450 world."

As such, Garnaut argues that stabilising greenhouse gas concentrations at 550 ppm would be a significant accomplishment, although Australia should continue to push for more stringent cuts.

The report also looks at the question of the costs and benefits of mitigation and finds that Australia will suffer a modest cost in its pursuit of a 550 ppm target over the next half century, but this cost will be recovered in the latter half of the century due to avoided climate damages and other economic benefits.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

London's Adaptation Strategy

The City of London has released its draft Climate Change Adaptation Strategy. While news reports claimed it was a "world first" product, the broad range of adaptation strategies documented here just over the past few months demonstrates that such claims are perhaps a bit of an over-statement.

Nevertheless, the report does identify and discuss a number of key risks to the city and presents a range of potential options for adaptation. However, as if often the case, little mention is made of the city's current and future capacity and resources to implement such adaptation options and the various barriers that may exist.

Maryland Release Climate Change Action Plan

The State of Maryland has released its Climate Change Action Plan, which outlines its proposed activities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the state's vulnerability to climate change. With respect to adaptation, the report emphasises the importance of sea-level rise and coastal storms and includes proposed strategies for addressing a range of key issues:

  1. Reduction of Impact to Existing and Future Growth
  2. Financial and Economic Well-Being
  3. Protection of Human Health,
    Safety and Welfare
  4. Natural Resource Protection
  5. Adaptation and Response Toolbox
  6. Future Steps and Directions

African Climate Change Fellowship Program


"Applications are invited for the inaugural round of African Climate Change
Fellowships. The African Climate Change Fellowship Program (ACCFP) aims to
support African professionals, researchers and graduate students to undertake
activities that will enhance their capacities for advancing and applying
knowledge for climate change adaptation in Africa. The program is jointly
administered by the global change SysTem for Analysis, Research and Training
(START), the Institute of Resource Assessment (IRA) of the University of Dar es
Salaam and the African Academy of Sciences (AAS), with financial support from
the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada and the United
Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID)."

NYC Lauches Climate Change Task Force

The rapid roll-out of instutional arrangements to address climate change continues, with New York City's Mayor Bloomberg announcing the formation of a Climate Change Adaptation Task Force and the New York City Panel on Climate Change. . .

"The task force, which was one of the 127 initiatives proposed in PlaNYC, the City’s long-term sustainability plan, is made up of City and State agencies, authorities and private companies that operate, maintain, or control critical infrastructure in New York City. Advising the task force is a panel of experts from academic institutions and the legal, engineering, and insurance industries. These groups will begin the process of creating a coordinated plan to adapt our roads, bridges, and tunnels; mass-transit network; water and sewer systems; electric, gas, and steam production and distribution systems; telecommunication networks; and other critical infrastructure. This effort is one of the most comprehensive and inclusive strategies ever launched to secure a City’s critical infrastructure against the effects of climate change. The Rockefeller Foundation’s Climate Change Resilience program has awarded a $350,000 grant to fund the work of the Panel on Climate Change."

See also a 2008 report from the NYC Department of Environmental Protection and Colombia University entitled: The NYC DEP Climate Change Program Assessment and Action Plan.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Climate Change Policy in the Asia/Pacific Region

Japan's Institute for Global Environmental Strategies has released its second white paper on climate change. Entitled Climate Change Policies in the Asia-Pacific: Re-uniting Climate Change and Sustainable Development, the report has four objectives:

  1. to feature the most important environmental policy agenda for the region in
    2008—a response to the challenges posed by climate change in Asia and the
  2. to broadly summarise the current climate change situation in Asia and identify
    emerging issues, and to review effective policy approaches that have been
    adopted in the region;
  3. to present a number of broad policy recommendations that will promote
    sustainable development focussing on climate friendly development for the region,
    drawing from IGES research programmes, where appropriate; and
  4. to identify the critical policy research agenda over the next decade for the region.

Wise Adaptation

Japan's Ministry of the Environment has prepared a report focused on the concept of "wise adaptation", which identifies a number of considerations deemed necessary for ensuring effective and efficient implementation of adaptation policies and measures. For example:

  1. Promotion of regional vulnerability assessments
  2. Monitoring, and adoption of early warning systems that utilize monitoring
  3. Utilization of a diverse range of options
  4. Utilization of both long-term and short-term perspectives
  5. Utilization of observation results, and introduction of adaptation measures that
    ensure a certain degree of clearance
  6. Mainstreaming of adaptation
  7. Effective and efficient realization of low-vulnerability “systems with flexible response
  8. Promotion of co-benefit-type adaptation
  9. Improvement of society-wide adaptive capacity by utilizing insurance and other
    economic systems
  10. Development of systems of cooperation and coalition with relevant organizations
  11. Promotion of voluntary initiatives through entities that allow for a detailed
    approach at the local site
  12. Development of human resources

Climate Impacts and Adaptation in Asian Cities

The World Bank has released a new report entitled Climate Resilient Cities: A Primer on Reducing Vulnerabilities to Climate Change Impacts and Strengthening Disaster Risk Management in East Asian Cities. According to the Executive Summary, the report has been prepared,

as a guide for local governments in the East Asia Region to better
understand the concepts and consequences of climate change; how climate change
consequences contribute to urban vulnerabilities; and what is being done by city
governments in East Asia and around the world to actively engage in learning,
capacity building, and capital investment programs for building sustainable,
resilient communities.