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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Planning for Climate Change in Sea Change Communities

Australia's National Sea Change Task Force has released a study examining the planning dimensions of climate change for coastal communities. The report compares "best" and "current" Australia practice with respect to coastal management and planning, leading to the following recommendations in pursuit of sustainability:

    1. That all State and territorial planning authorities enact high level planning policy to "mainstream" climate change mitigation and adaptation considerations in all coastal planning decisions, to ensure long term liveability and adaptability for coastal communities;
    2. That in response to climate change, local councils undertake an initial vulnerability assessment.
    3. That a formal climate change vulnerability assessment be undertaken at regional or local scales to support strategic land use planning decisions and significant development assessment in coastal amenity areas.
    4. That carbon impact of future land use or development forms must become an explicit consideration in all strategic land use planning and development assessment processes in coastal areas.
    5. That in any adaptive response to climate change, consideration be given to the possible "equity" issues that may arise as a result of financial (eg. pricing policy) or regulatory (eg. building codes), and the differential impacts for particular members of coastal communities that may be particularly vulnerable to pricing or regulatory
    6. That a mechanism be established to encourage and enable collaboration between neighbouring local councils in responding to climate change.
    7. That Federal and State governments support local councils in building expertise and in undertaking the necessary vulnerability assessments and adaptation planning work with dedicated funding and data resources.
    8. That further research on understanding and responding to social vulnerability to
      climate change impacts be undertaken, with priority assistance given to coastal areas where physical exposure, socio-economic disadvantage, and population instability coincide.
    9. That an intergovernmental agreement involving all three levels of government be developed to clearly state the commitments and responsibilities of Federal, State and Local Government in planning for climate change.

Adaptation in Central Europe

The Southeast European (SEE) Climate Change Framework Action Plan for Adaptation was launched last week in Sarajevo by the environmental ministers of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia acting under the auspices of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) and the Regional Environmental Centre for Central and Eastern Europe (REC).

"The five countries agreed to implement systematic observation, improve data
exchange, develop climate change scenarios, produce climate change risk maps, establish national early warning systems against harmful effects of weather variables to human health, construct irrigation systems in drought prone areas, rehabilitate the existing and construct new flood protection and drainage systems."

California Climate Risk and Response

A new report by Fredrich Kahrl and David Roland-Holst at the University of California-Berkeley attempts to put a value on the annual economic damages to the State of California, arriving at a figure of 7.3 to 46.6 billion/year.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Climate and Australia's Infrastructure

The Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering has published a study of the impacts of climate change on Australia's infrastructure entitled Assessment of Impacts of Climate Change on Australia's Physical Infrastructure (see also this report from 2007 on climate impacts to infrastructure in Victoria). One of the key conclusions noted in the Executive Summary states:

...there is an urgent need to establish national guidelines for the evaluation, design and planning of infrastructure subject to the effects of climate change. These guidelines would represent appropriate policy solutions to climate change adaptation by considering the expected consequences of climate change and would be assessed within a risk assessment framework. Due consideration should be given to financial, legal, social, environmental and emergency management matters.

In addition, the report notes other barriers to adaptation including the lack of professionals with appropriate training to facilitate climate risk assessments and the design of appropriate adaptation strategies. Furthermore, the study acknowledges that adaptation "may require intervention by Government to ensure that planning is fully integrated."

GEF Strategic Priority on Adaptation

For the Global Environmental Facility's Council Meeting on the 11-13th of this month, the GEF has prepared a report on the completion of its Strategic Priority on Adaptation. This pilot project provided $50 million to help fund adaptation in the developing world - the first major investment by GEF directly in the adaptation arena. According the the report, the pool of funds has now been fully allocated and the funded adaptation projects have been initiated. However, those projects are still in the early stages of implementation. Therefore, future work remains in seeing these projects through and evaluating their performance. Nevertheless, the report also comments that there continues to be strong demand for such GEF-funded adaptation programs and projects.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

ACF Report on Australia's "Special Places"

The Australian Conservation Foundation has released a new report which puts a new spin on the traditional review of climate change impacts. Saving Australia's Special Places offers a tour of Australia's iconic landscapes (including the traditional "Aussie Backyard" and the potential fate of these icons in a changing climate.

Management of Forest Lands

The Defenders of Wildlife have released a new report discussing the implications of climate change for the management of forest lands in the United States.

From the Executive Summary:

"Strategies for conserving biological diversity will need to be modified to incorporate consideration of climate change, such as reconsidering which species may be of greatest concern, or size, number, and location of protected areas. However, most of what needs to be done soon is what we’ve known we need to do for a long time: reducing habitat fragmentation, increasing populations of at-risk species, and controlling invasive species. Conservation strategies need to recognize that species can be expected to move and adapt independently as climate changes, and that novel ecosystems will arise."

Consortium for Capacity Building

After the demise of the National Center for Atmospheric Research's programs to address the vulnerability of communities to climate variability and change from the bottom-up, the University of Colorado has announced that it intends to pick-up the Consortium for Capacity Building with assistance from the Rockefeller Foundation.

Climate Crime?

This recent article in Melbourne's The Age speculates on the new avenues of crime that are opening up within the climate change industry. The article is based upon a recent special report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute entitled The thin green line: Climate change and Australian policing. From heat-induced outbreaks of crime to dodgy dealings in carbon trading and offsets to responses to natural disasters, the report argues that the law enforcement sector is just one of many that will have to get on board the climate adaptation bandwagon.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Australia Announces Adaptation Research Networks

The Australian Department of Climate Change has announced seven adaptation research networks that will be part of the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility:

  • Terrestrial Biodiversity -James Cook University -$400,000 per year
  • Water Resources and Freshwater Biodiversity -Griffith University -$400,000 per year
  • Marine Biodiversity and Resources -University of Tasmania -$400,000 per year
  • Settlements and Infrastructure -University of NSW -$447,000 per year
  • Disaster Management and Emergency Services -RMIT University -$205,000 per year
  • Social, Economic and Institutional Dimensions -University of Melbourne -$376,000 per year
  • Health -Australian National University -$240,000 per year

The networks were developed to foster an inclusive collaborative research environment, through:

  • Open exchange of information and sharing of resources.
  • Contributing to the work of the Facility in synthesising existing and emerging research and in developing National Adaptation Research Plans.
  • Contributing to the implementation of National Adaptation Research Plans, by assisting the Facility in the establishment of research teams.
  • Nurturing the careers of young investigators and research students by promoting a sense of community, collaboration and strong, effective mentoring, and encouraging them to shape the future direction of the research fields.

California Department of Water Resources has released a new report entitled, Managing an Uncertain Future; Climate Change Adaptation Strategies for California's Water. The report identifies 10 adaptation strategies for the state's water managers to cope with a changing climate. Overall, these strategies reflect broad themes of action as opposed to specific policies and measures, so it appears that considerable work will be required for these to be operationalised to reduce the sector's vulnerability:

  • Strategy 1: Provide Sustainable Funding for Statewide and
    Integrated Regional W ater Management
  • Strategy 2: Fully Develop the Potential of Integrated Regional Water
  • Strategy 3: Aggressively Increase Water Use Efficiency
  • Strategy 4: Practice and Promote Integrated Flood Management
  • Strategy 5: Enhance and Sustain Ecosystems
  • Strategy 6: Expand Water Storage and Conjunctive Management of
    Surface and Groundwater Resources
  • Strategy 7: Fix Delta Water Supply, Quality and Ecosystem Conditions
  • Strategy 9: Plan for and Adapt to Sea Level Rise
  • Strategy 10: Identify and Fund Focused Climate Change Impacts and
    Adaptation Research and Analysis

Economics of Australian Drought Relief

As part of the ongoing Australian Government inquiry into the drought assistance policy, the Productivity Commission has released a draft report on the economics of drought assistance in Australia (see this prior post on the review of the science of drought).

Key points
Many Australian farmers and rural communities are experiencing hardship as a result of a severe and prolonged drought. While this is not new to dryland farming, the ‘irrigation drought’ is uncharted territory.
Australia has always had a variable climate, with drought being a recurring feature. Looking to the future, most agricultural regions need to prepare for higher temperatures and for some, more frequent periods of exceptionally low rainfall.
Most farmers are sufficiently self-reliant to manage climate variability.

– In 2007-08, 20 per cent of Australia’s 150 000 farms received drought assistance, totalling over $1 billion, with some on income support continuously since 2002.
– Even in drought declared areas, most farmers manage without assistance. For instance, from 2002-03 to 2006-07, on average, more than 70 per cent of dairy
and broadacre farms in drought areas received no drought assistance.
All governments agree that the current approaches to drought and Exceptional Circumstance (EC) declarations are no longer the most appropriate in the context of a changing climate. In marked contrast to the policy objectives, current drought assistance programs are not focussed on helping farmers improve self-reliance, preparedness and climate change management.
EC Interest rate subsidies and state-based transport subsidies are ineffective, canperversely encourage poor management practices, and should not extend beyond 2009-2010.
EC household relief payments are limited to those in drought declared areas.
– All farm households in hardship should have access to temporary income support designed for farming circumstances, after which the standard community safety net should apply.
The EC declaration process is inequitable and unnecessary. It should
not be extended to new areas and existing declarations should terminate by the end of 2009-2010.
The National Drought Policy should be replaced with expanded objectives for Australia’s Farming Future. These would recognise that the primary responsibility for managing risks, including from climate variability and change, rests with farmers —underpinned by more appropriate forms of government support.
Research, development, extension, professional advice and training to improve business management skills can help build farmers’ self-reliance and preparedness.
– These areas warrant significant government funding provided they are well targeted, area appropriate and deliver a demonstrable community benefit.
Farm Management Deposits, despite their use for tax deferral, have encouraged farmers to save and to be more self reliant, and should be retained.
Policies relating to water, natural resource management and climate change all impact on farm businesses and local communities and need to be better integrated.

Mike Edwards has an interesting post on globalisation, poverty and climate vulnerability at Reuters Foundation's Climate Change Blog. The following is a snippet:

"The poverty-vulnerability linkage makes me think about Australia and
the current situation faced by Aboriginal Australians. For 40,000 years,
Aboriginal Australians have managed to sustain a truly unique, thriving and rich
culture on one of the most inhospitable continents on Earth. Aboriginal people
have experienced extremes in weather and climate, and have adapted successfully
to these changes. Just over 200 years ago, the continent was invaded by the
British and, since then, most Aboriginal people have been assimilated into a
culture that is alien to them and has forced many into conditions of poverty.
Those people who were, in the past, some of the most adaptive people to changes
in climate now rank among the most vulnerable. The wonders of development,