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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Population and Adaptation

The latest issue of the Bulletin of the World Health Organisation contains an article discussing the role of family planning in addressing the implications of climate change in the least developed nations, as reflected in the National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs):

"While the concerns of the different NAPA reports regarding rapid population growth and climate change are diverse, three key themes emerge: (i) reducing supply – rapid population growth and climate change act cumulatively to degrade the source of key natural resources, for example through soil erosion and deforestation; (ii) increasing demand – rapid population growth is projected to escalate the demand for resources that are diminished by climate change, including fresh water and food; and (iii) vulnerability to natural disaster – rapid population growth heightens human vulnerability to natural disasters caused by climate change, such as by forcing more people to migrate and settle in areas at risk of floods, storms, drought and infectious disease."

The study finds that most NAPAs acknowledge the role of population as a factor contributing to vulnerability, yet few directly raise the issue of population control and family planning as a means of addressing that vulnerability. The same can be said of the developed world, where there continues to be concern about climate change and its potential impacts, but continued population growth, patterns of development and resource consumption are frequently taken as a given. At some point, if we are to get serious about addressing climate risk we have to acknowledge and address the role of demographic change in enhancing human exposure to climate. While the topic of population control will likely remain taboo among developed nations, there are substantial opportunities for rethinking where people are located on the landscape. Otherwise, net vulnerability to climate variability and change will continue to rise even as adaptation helps to reduce risk at the margin.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards

COP-15 has come to a close, not with a bang, but with a whimper. As anticipated, the proceedings fell far short of a new binding agreement on international greenhouse gas mitigation to avoid dangerous climate change. In essence, the international community simply agreed to continue to work toward a low-carbon world, without necessarily specifying the pathway or those responsible for leading the way. As such, nations have largely agreed to do what was originally agreed under the United Nations Framework Convention in 1992. That's not much progress for almost 20 years of policy development. Given the amount of money and energy invested in hosting the conference and transporting its various attendees from different corners of the world, one wonders whether the climate would have been better off if everyone had simply remained at home. One also wonders whether the continued failure to produce a robust international effort on mitigation will spur more regional to local efforts around adaptation.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

New Tools from WRI

The following are a list of new or updated tools from WRI relevant to climate adaptation:

The National Adaptive Capacity framework "WRI is leading the development of a new way of thinking about adaptation planning, using a framework called the National Adaptive Capacity (NAC). NAC articulates a fundamental set of national-level functions that all countries will need to perform if they are to be adapting effectively over time. These functions include assessment, prioritization, information management, coordination, and risk reduction."

Adaptation Planning under a Copenhagen Agreement "As UNFCCC negotiators work to develop shared expectations around adaptation planning, it is critical that they provide a high degree of flexibility to countries, so that planning processes can be domestically “owned” and plans effectively implemented. The UNFCCC should not require countries to undertake specific planning processes or deliver plans in a specific format."

Paying the Premium "In this bulletin, WRI examines current insurance proposals under discussion in the UNFCCC and considers options for a global agreement in promoting insurance as a climate change solution."

CAIT (International) v.7.0 "WRI's Climate Analysis Indicators Tool (CAIT), provides a comprehensive and comparable database of greenhouse gases and other climate-relevant indicators. CAIT 7.0 features greenhouse gas data through 2006 for most countries of the world, updated CO2 projections data, and revised estimates of land-use change and forestry CO2 emissions (1990-2005)."

CAIT-V&A v.3.0 "WRI's CAIT-Vulnerability & Adaptation (V&A) module provides indicators and analysis tools designed to inform policy discussions concerning vulnerability and adaptive capacity. The latest release of CAIT-V&A (v.3.0) features a revised and updated suite of vulnerability indicators, comprehensive source notes and technical documentation, improved mapping and charting tools, and a more user-friendly interface."

Friday, December 11, 2009

COP-15: $10 Billion for Adaptation

COP-15: The EU has pledged 7.2 billion euros (US$10.8 billion) over the next three years to assist developing nations with addressing climate change. The pledge will help address part of the UN request for US$30 billion in immediate funding to aid developing nations, but there is clearly a significant shortfall yet to be satisfied. Furthermore, if the world has trouble pulling $30 billion together to address immediate needs, one wonders whether developed nations will ever find the will to help fund the $100-150 billion in adaptation assistance that it's estimated the developing world will need by 2030.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Climate of 2009

As we approach the end of the year, various research institutions are busily crunching the numbers and offering estimates of where 2009 sits with respect to global mean temperature. At the moment, based upon the GHCN/USHCN/SCAR data, 2009 is shaping up to be the fifth warmest year on record (0.56 C above the 1950-1981 baseline), with the 00's being the warmest decade on record. The new data point also eliminates room to wiggle when it comes to claims such as "the climate has cooled in the past ten years" or "the climate has cooled since 1998," as neither claim can now be substantiated (not that they were ever particularly relevant in the first place).

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Palin on Science Policy

In a clear demonstration that she has no appreciation for the concept of irony, Sarah Plain has penned an opinion piece for the Washington Post highlighting the pitfalls of the politicization of climate science in which she does just that. In the article, she concludes that the Climate-Gate affair "exposed a highly politicized scientific circle" and that there is no consensus on climate change science after all. She then goes on to stress the importance of quality science to the policy process by making inaccurate generalisations about both science and policy:

"But while we recognize the occurrence of these natural, cyclical environmental
trends, we can't say with assurance that man's activities cause weather changes.
We can say, however, that any potential benefits of proposed emissions reduction
policies are far outweighed by their economic costs."

The first sentence above is quite inconsistent with the science on the attribution of global climate change, although I suspect the phrase "weather changes" was used quite intentionally in lieu of "climate changes" given few scientists would attempt to attribute a particular weather event to global climate change. Alternatively, perhaps Palin doesn't understand the distinction between climate and weather, in which case one wonders why she's wading into the debate at all. Nonetheless, this is beside the point. Meanwhile, the second sentence is inconsistent with any of the attempts to actually compare the costs and benefits of climate policy. Yes, cap-and-trade policies will pose costs to the economy (that is in fact their entire point), but integrated assessments such as the Stern and Garnaut reviews have indicated the benefits of moving to a low-carbon economy are substantial in themselves.

She wraps up the piece by stating that Copenhagen is a "politicized conference" which the President should boycott. Well, of course it's a politicized conference. COP-15 is not a scientific conference, it is a policy conference, where politics can, should and will be center stage. Therefore, suggesting a political leader boycott a political event, because it is political doesn't seem to remotely resemble anything approaching a rational argument.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

California Releases its Final Adaptation Strategy

The State of California has released the final version of its Climate Change Adaptation Strategy in the wake of a public comment period earlier this year. The strategy, which was prepared in response to Executive Order S-13-08 from Governor Schwarzenegger, presents an extended discussion of climate change and its potential impacts to California as well as a range of adaptation options to reduce vulnerability and risk.

Key recommendations include:

  1. A Climate Adaptation Advisory Panel (CAAP) will be appointed to assess the greatest risks to California from climate change and recommend strategies to reduce those risks building on California’s Climate Adaptation Strategy. This panel will be convened by the California Natural Resources Agency, in coordination with the Governor’s Climate Action Team, to complete a report by December 2010. The state will partner with the Pacific Council on International Policy to assemble this panel. A list of panel members can be found on the California adaptation Web site.

  2. California must change its water management and uses because climate change will likely create greater competition for limited water supplies needed by the environment, agriculture, and cities. As directed by the recently signed water legislation (Senate Bill X71), state agencies must implement strategies to achieve a statewide 20 percent reduction in per capita water use by 2020, expand surface and groundwater storage, implement efforts to fix Delta water supply, quality, and ecosystem conditions, support agricultural water use efficiency,improve state-wide water quality, and improve Delta ecosystem conditions and stabilize water supplies as developed in the Bay Delta Conservation Plan.

  3. Consider project alternatives that avoid significant new development in areas that cannot be adequately protected (planning, permitting, development, and building) from flooding, wildfire and erosion due to climate change. The most risk-averse approach for minimizing the adverse effects of sea level rise and storm activities is to carefully consider new development within areas vulnerable to inundation and erosion. State agencies should generally not plan,develop, or build any new significant structure in a place where that structure will require significant protection from sea level rise, storm surges, or coastal erosion during the expected life of the structure. However, vulnerable shoreline areas containing existing development that have regionally significant economic, cultural, or social value may have to be protected, and in-fill development in these areas may be accommodated. State agencies should incorporate this policy into their decisions and other levels of government are also encouraged to do so.

  4. All state agencies responsible for the management and regulation of public health,
    infrastructure or habitat subject to significant climate change should prepare as appropriate agency-specific adaptation plans, guidance, or criteria by September 2010.

  5. To the extent required by CEQA Guidelines Section 15126.2, all significant state projects, including infrastructure projects, must consider the potential impacts of locating such projects in areas susceptible to hazards resulting from climate change. Section 15126.2 is currently being proposed for revision by CNRA to direct lead agencies to evaluate the impacts of locating development in areas susceptible to hazardous conditions, including hazards potentially exacerbated by climate change. Locating state projects in such areas may require additional guidance that in part depends on planning tools that the CAS recommendations call for.

  6. The California Emergency Management Agency (Cal EMA) will collaborate with CNRA, the CAT, the Energy Commission, and the CAAP to assess California's vulnerability to climate change, identify impacts to state assets, and promote climate adaptation/mitigation awareness through the Hazard Mitigation Web Portal and My Hazards Website as well as other appropriate sites. The transportation sector CAWG, led by Caltrans, will specifically assess how transportation nodes are vulnerable and the type of information that will be necessary to assist response to district emergencies. Special attention will be paid to the most vulnerable communities impacted by climate change in all studies.

  7. Using existing research the state should identify key California land and aquatic habitats that could change significantly during this century due to climate change. Based on this identification, the state should develop a plan for expanding existing protected areas or altering land and water management practices to minimize adverse effects from climate change induced phenomena.

  8. The best long-term strategy to avoid increased health impacts associated with climate change is to ensure communities are healthy to build resilience to increased spread of disease and temperature increases. The California Department of Public Health will develop guidance by September 2010 for use by local health departments and other agencies to assess mitigation and adaptation strategies, which include impacts on vulnerable populations and communities and assessment of cumulative health impacts. This includes assessments of land use, housing and transportation proposals that could impact health, GHG emissions, and community resilience for climate change, such as in the 2008 Senate Bill 375 regarding Sustainable Communities.

  9. The most effective adaptation strategies relate to short and long-term decisions. Most of these decisions are the responsibility of local community planning entities. As a result, communities with General Plans and Local Coastal Plans should begin, when possible, to amend their plans to assess climate change impacts, identify areas most vulnerable to these impacts, and develop reasonable and rational risk reduction strategies using the CAS as guidance. Every effort will be made to provide tools, such as interactive climate impact maps, to assist in these efforts.

  10. State fire fighting agencies should begin immediately to include climate change impact information into fire program planning to inform future planning efforts. Enhanced wildfire risk from climate change will likely increase public health and safety risks, property damage, fire suppression and emergency response costs to government, watershed and water quality impacts, and vegetation conversions and habitat fragmentation.

  11. State agencies should meet projected population growth and increased energy demand with greater energy conservation and an increased use of renewable energy. Renewable energy supplies should be enhanced through the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan that will protect sensitive habitat that will while helping to reach the state goal of having 33 percent of California’s energy supply from renewable sources by 2020.

  12. Existing and planned climate change research can and should be used for state planning and public outreach purposes; new climate change impact research should be broadened and funded. By September 2010, the California Energy Commission will develop the CalAdapt Web site that will synthesize existing California climate change scenarios and climate impact research and to encourage its use in a way that is beneficial for local decision-makers. Every effort will be made to increase funding for climate change research, focusing on three areas:linkages with federal funding resources, developing Energy Commission -led vulnerability studies, and synthesizing the latest climate information into useable information for local needs through the CalAdapt tool.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Spash Resigns over Censorship Claims

After almost a month of mudslinging in the media (and nine months of negotiations behind closed doors), Clive Spash, Science Leader in CSIRO's Division of Sustainable Ecosystems, has resigned from the organisation over allegations CSIRO has attempted to censor his critique of carbon trading policies such as those currently being pursued by the Australian government.

CSIRO's charter bars its researchers or the organisation from commenting on government or opposition policy, and the organisation has suggested that Spash's paper, The Brave New World of Carbon Trading, crosses the line by advocating against the government's emissions trading scheme. In his defense, Spash has argued his paper is a "dispassionate critique, " and he notes that it is very difficult to undertake policy relevant work on the economics of greenhouse gas mitigation policy without making some comment directly or indirectly on actual policies.

It's probably fair to say that Spash has strong views on the subject of the economics of climate change policy, from the structure of the policies being proposed to address climate change to the underlying social values that underpin those policies. As such, I'm not sure how dispassionate Spash's critique really is. Yet the point here is that while CSIRO's charter may seem sensible on paper, it is rather easy to demonstrate it as being untenable in practice. For example, if the coalition currently in opposition in federal government were to decide that its official party position on climate change is that climate change doesn't exist, does that mean the CSIRO would not be allowed to publish any research to the contrary for fear of violating its charter against commenting on specific policy initiatives? Of course not.

In fact, CSIRO's services have been retained repeatedly by the current government to help defend the science of climate change and address queries by skeptical politicians in the lead up to the vote on the government's ETS. Steve Hatfield-Dodds published a number of studies on emissions trading while employed by CSIRO (e.g., Energy Affordability, Living Standards and Emissions Trading), which certainly seem to address government policy, but in so doing treat that policy as a fait accompli rather than something that should be viewed with a critical eye. Meanwhile, CSIRO researchers have participated in a number of projects that effectively advocate for greenhouse emissions reductions policies through an examination of the costs and benefits of different emissions targets and pathways and their subsequent implications for climate change impacts (e.g., Energy Futures Forum, the Australian Business Roundtable on Climate Change, and of course the Garnaut Review which was anything but apolitical). If one chose (and some do), one could argue that such acts represent CSIRO scientists being asked to lobby on behalf of the federal government. Furthermore, it's worth noting that the powers that be in CSIRO remain markedly silent when the federal government opts not to release (in whole or in part) federally-commissioned CSIRO research on climate change when the government finds the research a bit too controversial or inconvenient.

Thus the critical problem with CSIRO's charter is that it is open to some interpretation and, therefore, inconsistently applied. This is due perhaps to the charter being inconsistent in itself. On one hand, the charter states,

"The Government and CSIRO recognise that there may be divergent views on both issues of pulic interest and the expert advice that is provided in relation to them. The parties each agree that vigorous open debate of these views is important; as is the right of researchers to change their opinion in the light of such debate or new findings from research".
Yet, later, the charter also states,
". . . a responsibility of CSIRO and its researchers is to inform the policy making process. They can do this by conducting the highest quality research and providing the best available knowledge and analysis to government and the public, and by engaging in the public discussion and consideration of their research and findings. They should not be asked by Government to defend or debate the merits of Government policy. As CSIRO employees, they should not advocate, defend or publicly debate the merits of government or opposition policies (including policies of previous Commonwealth governments, or State or local or foreign governments).
Based on my reading, these passages make a distinction between public interest and public policy. Personally, it's hard to see how CSIRO can support the former while ignoring the latter, given that many of the challenges CSIRO is charged with finding solutions to have arisen, at least in part, from institutional decision-making. A charter that encourages researchers to provide critical analysis to government and engage in public debate while simultaneously barring scientists from undertaking such acts when they pertain to government policy is simply schizophrenic. I challenge anyone to develop a consistent way of resolving the internal conflicts of the charter in a manner that doesn't tie the hands of researchers or leave decision-makers in the dark. This clearly hasn't happened so far, which is why CSIRO has just lost another bright mind.

"The Science and Politics of Climate Change"

UEA's Mike Hulme has a timely opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal on 'Climategate', Skeptics, Copenhagen and the politicization of science:

[Excerpt] "Science never writes closed textbooks. It does not offer us a holy scripture, infallible and complete. This is especially the case with the science of climate, a complex system of enormous scale, at every turn influenced by human contingencies. Yes, science has clearly revealed that humans are influencing global climate and will continue to do so, but we don't know the full scale of the risks involved, nor how rapidly they will evolve, nor indeed—with clear insight—the relative roles of all the forcing agents involved at different scales."

WWF, Tyndall and Allianz on Tipping Points

In another example of timely, pre-Copenhagen publication the insurer Allianz commissioned the WWF to produce a study of tipping points in the climate and Earth system. The report examines the socio-economic consequences and insurance implications associated with four key impacts arising from tipping points:

  1. Global sea level rise of up to 2 metres
  2. Shifts in hydrological systems in Asia
  3. Committed die-back of the Amazon rainforest
  4. Shift to a very arid climatology in South-western North America

And just to make sure the study is user friendly, an animated version of the report is also available.

PESETA Project

Just in time for Copenhagen, the European Union's Joint Research Centre has released a report with results from the PESETA project (Projection of Economic Impacts of Climate Change in Sectors of the European Union Based on Bottom-Up Analysis). The project represents an integrated assessment of the impacts of climate change on five key European sectors (agriculture, river floods, coastal systems, tourism, and human health) under climatic and socio-economic scenarios. These impacts are then translated into economic impacts through the use of the GEM-E3 Europe computable general equilibrium model. As with most other similar studies, the reports suggests economic impacts on the order of 0.7 to 1% of GDP, depending on the magnitude of future climate change and the effectiveness of adaptation.

New Adaptation Reports from GTZ

The German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) has released a number of new publications relevant to climate adaptation:

Water and Adaptation to Climate Change, Consequences for Developing Countries
Mark Svendsen and Nana Künkel

Climate Change and Agriculture, Threats and Opportunities
Mark W Rosegrant, Mandy Ewing, Gary Yohe, Ian Burton, Saleemul Huq and Rowena Valmonte-Santos

Climate Change and Security
Alexander Carius, Dennis Tänzler and Achim Maas

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Commonwealth Adaptation Commitment

At the meeting of Commonwealth nations in Trinidad and Tobago last week, nations agreed to the development of a Copenhagen Launch Fund to support adaptation. The fund is scheduled to start in 2010 and amount to $10 billion per year by 2012. Nations agreed to prioritise the most vulnerable nations for assistance and to set-aside at least 10% of the fund for adaptation in small island and low lying coastal states.

The full text of the Port of Spain Climate Change Consensus is available here.

NetBalance Adaptation Forums

In the wake of last week's adaptation forums in Melbourne and Sydney, NetBalance has developed a blog with links to all of the speakers' presentations (including my own).

NCCARF NARP on Social, Economic and Institutional Dimensions of Adaptation

Australia's National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF) is seeking comments on the draft National Climate Change Adaptation Research Plan: Social, Economic and Institutional Dimensions.

The draft National Climate Change Adaptation Research Plan: Social, Economic and Institutional Dimensions has been developed by a writing team with expertise in the field. It is one of a number of research plans being developed by NCCARF and the Australian Government Department of Climate Change to guide and coordinate climate change adaptation research in Australia.

These plans identify critical gaps in the information that is required by governments, industry and the community to develop and implement adaptation responses to climate change. They set research priorities based on these gaps.

Comments should be received by 20th January 2010.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Climate Change Positions at USP

The University of the South Pacific (USP) is expanding its work in teaching and research on climate change, especially on adaptation, with the support of AusAID. USP is currently seeking to fill the following 5 positions:

1 Senior Lecturer in Climate Change
3 Research Fellows in Climate Change
1 Project Coordinator

All of these positions would be based in Suva, Fiji, but involve travel around the region. Details of all these positions and how to apply are on the USP website (Under "employment opportunities").

For the project coordinator post and one of the research fellowships preference will be given to citizens of Pacific Island countries. Applications for those positions close on 30 November; for the more senior positions closing date is 18 December.

If you know of anyone who may be interested, please encourage them to apply. For further information contact or Dr Tony Weir of the Pacific Center for Environment and Sustainable Development (em:

Adapting to Climate Change in Europe and Central Asia

The World Bank has released a study on adaptation in Europe and Central Asia (ECA). The report provides an overview of vulnerability and adaptation concepts and assessment frameworks and reviews the potential climate changes for the region and their implications. In addition, the report provides a range of plausible adaptation options for different sectors in response to different climatic hazards. The report's Executive Summary identifies four key messages:

  1. "Contrary to popular perception, ECA faces a substantial threat from climate change, with a number of the most serious risks already in evidence. Average temperatures across ECA have already increased by 0.5ºC in the south to 1.6ºC in the north (Siberia), and overall increases of 1.6 to 2.6ºC are expected by the middle of the century regardless of what mitigation efforts are undertaken. This is affecting hydrology, with a rapid melting of the region’s glaciers and a decrease in winter snows. Many countries are already suffering from winter floods and summer droughts—with both Southeastern Europe and Central Asia at risk for severe water shortages. Summer heat waves are expected to claim more lives than will be saved by warmer winters.
  2. Vulnerability over the next ten to twenty years will be dominated by socio‐economic factors and legacy issues—notably the dire environmental situation and the poor state of infrastructure—rather than by the changing climate itself.
  3. Even countries and sectors that stand to benefit from climate change are poorly positioned to do so. Many have claimed that warmer climate and abundant precipitation in the northeastern part of ECA (Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine) will open up a new agricultural frontier. However, the region’s currently low agricultural performance, with efficiency and productivity levels far below those of western Europe, does not augur well for its capacity to seize new opportunities.
  4. The next decade offers a window for ECA countries to make their development more resilient to climate change while reaping numerous co‐benefits. While some impacts of climate change are already being felt, they will likely remain manageable over the next decade, thereby offering the ECA region a short period of time to increase its resilience by focusing on actions that have numerous co‐benefits."

Background papers for the report are available here

Australia's National Coastal Vulnerability Assessment

After several years of blood, sweat and tears, the Australian Department of Climate Change has released its National Coastal Vulnerability Assessment. The assessment represents a multi-method approach to the issues, combining the nation's recently completed Smartline coastal segmentation product with coastal infrastructure exposure assessments and local and regional case studies.
The report also devotes a chapter to the issue of adaptation and cites a number of priority components of a reform agenda for coastal management:

1. National standards and benchmarks for coastal development
2. Regional risk assessments
3. Demonstration strategies for areas exposed to high or extreme risk
4. Review and update Building Codes
5. National audit of critical infrastructure in the coastal zone
6. Provision of information and tools essential for decision-making
7. Research to reduce uncertainty about the magnitude of coastal risk from climate change
8. Risk allocation and insurance
9. Ecosystems review
10. Community engagement
11. Build capability of local government
12. Inter-jurisdictional cooperation

Monday, November 9, 2009

Climate Vulnerability in America's Southeast

OXFAM USA has developed an analysis of social vulnerability to climate change for the southeast United States. The analysis draws upon Susan Cutter et al.'s work on the Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI) and intersects this metric with disaster statistics for the Southeast to visualise vulnerability geographically.

As the analysis relies upon secondary data, it's more an analysis of past and/or present climate vulnerability as opposed to future climate change, but the results are likely relevant to the future to the extent that the geographic distribution of demographic characteristics and climate risk remains static.

The report makes only a few generic recommendations regarding what to do about such vulnerability, the first being reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. However, given the entire analysis is based upon combining metrics of social vulnerability (independent of climate) with metrics of exposure to historical climate hazards (i.e., climate variability), mitigation is unlikely to have any impact on the estimates of vulnerability. However, the report also mentions adaptation actions around building community resilience, bolstering emergency management efforts and retrofitting of buildings and infrastructure.

Building Resilience

The current edition of ECOS has a brief article on climate adaptation from an Australian perspective.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Science vs. Policy

The fish wraps are abuzz in Australia over allegations of government suppression of a journal article by CSIRO economist Clive Spash that is critical of carbon trading schemes. Spash contends that his paper was pulled by CSIRO management due to its critique of schemes such as Australia's Emissions Trading System, which is a cornerstone of federal greenhouse gas mitigation policy.

As in the past, both the CSIRO and the government have attempted to assure the public that no gagging has occurred, despite the fact that this is clearly what has happened. As Spash has correctly argued, one cannot engage in research on climate change without stepping on some political toes - if it's not politically relevant, there there probably isn't much point in doing the work. Furthermore, CSIRO's statement that it does not comment on policy at any level of government seems untenable. CSIRO exists to support science and technology research for the benefit of Australia, and it's research capabilities are frequently called upon to inform decision-making. My own work on adaptation within the CSIRO has frequently involved policy recommendations to government agencies as well as critiques of existing policies that act as barriers to adaptation. Stakeholders seek out CSIRO to provide such insights and are currently demanding more commentary in this arena, not less. The question is one of whether researchers are capable of acting as 'honest brokers' (in Roger Pielke Jr. speak) of science and policy rather than advocates for particular policies.

In any case, a nation that is unprepared to look critically at its own policies to manage climate risk is one that is poorly positioned to act effectively in the public interest. And a research organisation that enables such myopia is one in name only.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

On Leave. . .

I'm currently trying to adapt to having a newborn at home, so postings will be light over the next few weeks.

Spooks for Climate Change

Last month, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency announced it was creating a "Center on Climate Change and National Security." Though reportedly a small operation, the announcement is an indication that the issue of climate change and security is getting a serious look at relatively high levels. Perhaps more importantly, it suggests that security challenges are being framed in new ways, with a greater appreciation for complexity, indirect effects and feedbacks.

According to the agency's press release:

"[The Center's] charter is not the science of climate change, but the national security impact of phenomena such as desertification, rising sea levels, population shifts, and heightened competition for natural resources. The Center will provide support to American policymakers as they negotiate, implement, and verify international agreements on environmental issues. That is something the CIA has done for years."

New Reports from the ADB

Climate Change and Impacts on Agriculture in Asia and the Pacific

The ADB-sponsored agriculture sector study, carried out by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), uses predictions of global climate models to develop scenarios to 2050 for Asia and to derive implications for food security. The study recommends cost-effective adaptation responses that could build greater climate resilience into the agriculture sector in Asia and the Pacific.

Climate Change and Migration in Asia and the Pacific

Climate change will influence patterns of migration and human settlements-increasing migration in already highly populated areas in Asia and the Pacific. The climate change and migration study was drafted in cooperation with researchers at the University of Adelaide.The draft study discusses how climate change is likely to influence population displacement, migration and settlement patterns and examines how this will impact development in five sub-regions of Asia and the Pacific.

A New Framework for Funding Climate Adaptation?

OXFAM UK has prepared a briefing paper on financing climate adaptation in developing nations. In short, the brief calls for a framework built around fulfillment of the developed world pledge of providing development assistance equivalent to 0.7% of GDP as well as at least an additional US$50 billion in funding per year. At present, it doesn't appear that either goal is likely to be met in the near future. The paper also argues that existing funding arrangements are complex, uncoordinated and inefficient and, ultimately, the success of international efforts on greenhouse gas mitigation are dependent upon resolving these short-comings to ensure developing nations have a secure access to financing to address adaptation challenges.

Climate Change in Google Earth

As an awareness raising exercise ahead of December's COP meeting in Copenhagen, global climate change scenarios from the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report are now available as .kmz map layers for use in Google Earth.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Policy Guidance: Integrating Adaptation into Development

The OECD has released a report entitled, Integrating Climate Change Adaptation into Development Co-operation: Policy Guidance. It's not entirely clear what one more report on this subject will accomplish, but I guess it can't hurt. . .

"The negative impacts of climate change will hit poor people and poor countries disproportionately, and further compromise the achievement of their development objectives. Integrating Climate Change Adaptation into Development Co-operation provides essential information and advice on how to facilitate the integration of adaptation into development processes. The objectives of this policy guidance are to: i) promote understanding of the implications of climate change on development practice and the associated need to mainstream climate adaptation in development co-operation agencies and partner countries; ii) identify appropriate approaches for integrating climate change adaptation into development policies at national, sectoral and project levels and in urban and rural contexts; and iii) identify practical ways for donors to support developing country partners in their efforts to reduce their vulnerability to climate variability and climate change. While efforts to integrate climate change adaptation will be led by developing country partners, international donors have a critical role to play in supporting such efforts."

New Studies on Adaptation Costs

The past week as seen two new studies related to the costs of adaptation in the developing world. The first is the World Bank's Economics of Adaptation to Climate Change Study which is argued to be the most up-to-date and comprehensive assessment of adaptation costs. The study estimates that adaptation costs in the developing world will be on the order of US$75 to $100 billion per year between 2010 and 2050, assuming two degrees of warming (with the range reflecting different assumptions about changes in rainfall). Granted, the costs in the developed world will likely far exceed those for the developing world, but in any case, no one has yet determined how any nation, much less the international community, will cover these costs.

The second study is the latest release from the International Food Policy Research Institute and addresses climate change impacts and adaptation in the agriculture sector. Climate Change: Impacts on Agriculture and Adaptation Costs projects significant declines in irrigated and non-irrigated crops in the developing world, particularly South Asia. These impacts will result in an increase in child malnutrition by up to 20% by 2050. To avoid this outcome, significant investments on the order of US$7 billion annually are needed to offset the adverse impacts of climate change on malnutrition.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Business Opportunities for Adaptation

OXFAM America has produced a short piece on the "New Adaptation Marketplace," which argues that a number of US industries stand to benefit from the rising demand for climate adaptation.

Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts

The Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts has completed work on the compilation of observed and projected climate change for the state of Wisconsin. The data are available through an interactive mapping portal and include the following variables:

Historical Trends
- Annual Temperature
Seasonal Temperature
- Spring
- Summer
- Autumn
- Winter
- Annual Precipitation
Future Projections
- Annual Temperature
Seasonal Temperature
- Spring
- Summer
- Autumn
- Winter
- Winter Precipitation
Extreme Events
- Heavy Precipitation
- 90° Days

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Brookings Institution on Adaptation

The Brookings Institution in the U.S. has posted two short pieces on climate change adaptation:

Practical Approaches to Financing and Executing Climate Change Adaptation
Humayun Tai (McKinsey & Company)

Executive Summary
"There is increasing consensus that climate change may slow worldwide economic growth and could impact up to 20 percent of the global GDP in the long term, according to the Stern Review. Countries must quickly learn to calculate the risks they face and invest in adaptation measures to couple with their ongoing mitigation efforts. Developed nations will also have to help their developing neighbors adapt—and help pick up the pieces in the wake of climate-related disasters. With these challenges in mind, a first step toward climate-compatible development is helping decision makers assess and address total climate risk. This paper presents an overview of how to estimate the costs of climate change adaptation, how to cover those costs, and practical approaches to build a portfolio of responses for any country or region."
Adaptation to Climate Change: Building Resilience and Reducing Vulnerability
Mohamed El-Ashry (United Nations Foundation)

Executive Summary
"Given the far-ranging adverse impacts of climate change, adaptation must be an integral component of an effective strategy to address climate change, along with mitigation. Adaptation should be approached as an opportunity to rethink development as usual, and should be based on “upstream” interventions that will yield benefits regardless of specific, climate-related events in the future. This policy brief examines win-win strategies for development and adaptation in three key sectors—namely, ecosystems and natural resources, food and agriculture, and health—and focuses on interventions that will be valuable regardless of the uncertainties we face in determining precise climate change impacts."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Economics of Climate Adaptation Working Group

The Economics of Climate Change Working Group has released its framework for the analysis of the costs of adaptation. The report presents a methodology for the assessment of "'total climate risk', from the existing climate as well as from a range of future climate change scenarios, and it quantifies that risk in the context of existing development challenges." Media reports highlighted the big numbers associated with some of the framework's test cases (in China, Guyana, India, Mali, Samoa, Tanzania, the UK, and the US). For example, by 2030, the test cases suggest economic loses on the order of 1 to 12% of GDP due to development, rising to up to 19% in some areas after accounting for a 'high' climate change scenario. However, generally the test cases indicate that the effects of development outweigh the effects of climate change. The good news is that an estimated 40 to 68 percent of the expected economics losses can be avoided through adaptation measures.

The big question is whether any of these numbers are reasonable. For example, the climatic change anticipated in the early 21st century (say 2000 to 2030) is comparable to that which was observed over the previous century. If the world is as sensitive to climate change as what is indicated above, then this suggests there have already been substantial climate change-induced GDP losses in multiple global regions. If true, one could certainly argue that the global economy at least has largely absorbed these adverse effects of climatic change (although certainly there are a few regions that would disagree). Interestingly, the numbers above also suggest that some fraction of economic development must inevitably be written off to cover the costs of greater exposure to climate hazards. So the key to maximising global economic growth is to ensure we live in well-adapted world.

Responding to the Chesapeake Bay Executive Order

In May of 2009, President Obama issued an Executive Order mandating renewed focus on conservation efforts for America's iconic Chesapeake Bay estuary. The EO required the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Interior, Transportation to collectively prepare a series of draft reports with recommendations covering the following areas:

  • Define the next generation of tools and actions to restore water quality in the Bay and describe the changes to be made to regulations, programs and policies to implement these actions.
  • Target resources to better protect the Bay and its rivers, particularly in agricultural conservation practices.
  • Strengthen storm water management practices for federal facilities and federal land within the Bay watershed and develop a best practices guide for reducing polluted runoff.
  • Assess the impacts of climate change on the Bay and develop a strategy for adapting programs and infrastructure to these impacts.
  • Expand public access to the Bay and its rivers from federal lands and conserve landscapes of the watershed.
  • Expand environmental research, monitoring and observation to strengthen scientific support for decision-making on Bay restoration issues.
  • Develop focused and coordinated habitat and research activities that protect and restore living resources and water quality.

On September 9, the agencies released their draft reports. Key recommendations from the report on climate change included the following:

  1. Develop a centralized Chesapeake Bay climate change coordination program to address climate adaptation activities and management decisions throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed;
  2. Integrate climate change concerns into Chesapeake Bay Program activities and strengthen legislative authority;
  3. Enhance existing and/or develop new technical information and decision support tools to better understand, project, and respond to climate change and its impacts e.g., modeling, observation stations, remote sensing, etc.;
  4. Establish adaptation guidance for managing federal programs, federally-managed lands, and federally financed state, local, and private lands;
  5. Develop a coordinated strategy for climate change outreach and education; and
  6. Develop federally coordinated plans for supporting climate change adaptations.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

World Climate Conference

The 3rd World Climate Conference recently concluded its discussion of the fate of climate services in coming decades. In summary, the conference concluded:

  • that present capabilities to provide effective climate services fall far short of meeting present, and future needs and benefits, particularly in developing countries;
  • that the most urgent need is for much closer partnerships between the providers and users of climate services;
  • that great scientific progress has been made especially by the World Climate Programme and its associated activities over the past 30 years, which provides already a firm basis for the delivery of a wide range of climate services; and
  • that major new and strengthened research efforts are required to increase the time-range and skill of climate prediction through new research and modelling initiatives; and to improve the observational basis for climate prediction and services, and the availability and quality control of climate data;

called for major strengthening of the essential elements of a global framework for
climate services:

  • The Global Climate Observing System and all its components and associated activities; and provision of free and unrestricted exchange and access to climate data;
  • The World Climate Research Programme, underpinned by adequate computing resources and increased interaction with other global climate relevant research initiatives.
  • Climate services information systems taking advantage of enhanced existing
    national and international climate service arrangements in the delivery of products, including sector-oriented information to support adaptation activities;
  • Climate user interface mechanisms focussed on building linkages and integrating information, at all levels, between the providers and users of climate services; and
  • Efficient and enduring capacity building through education, training, and strengthened outreach and communication.

supported the development of the proposed Global Framework for Climate Services.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Climate Change in the Arctic

The latest edition of Science Magazine has this review by Post et al. that summarises observed environmental change in the Arctic in response to global climate change.

"At the close of the Fourth International Polar Year, we take stock of the ecological consequences of recent climate change in the Arctic, focusing on effects at population, community, and ecosystem scales. Despite the buffering effect of landscape heterogeneity, Arctic ecosystems and the trophic relationships that structure them have been severely perturbed. These rapid changes may be a bellwether of changes to come at lower latitudes and have the potential to affect ecosystem services related to natural resources, food production, climate regulation, and cultural integrity. We highlight areas of ecological research that deserve priority as the Arctic continues to warm."

Support for Developing Nations on Shaky Ground

Lisa Friedman of Climatewire recently posted this article at suggesting that international agreement around developed world support for climate adaptation in developing nations remains controversial, particularly in the United States:

"The tension over financing appears to be heating up as available negotiating hours slip away. Indeed, as developing nations wait to find out how much money the industrialized world will make available, a growing number of conservative lawmakers are questioning whether any money at all is appropriate."

Adaptation Learning Mechanism

The Adaptation Learning Mechanism's on-line knowledge sharing platform has been revised and relauched. The ALM was initially launched in 2007 to support three key adapatation-oriented activities:

  1. Adaptation practices – what can be done to adapt to climate change on the ground?

  2. Integration of climate change risks and adaptation into development policy, planning and operations – how can policies and plans support adaptation over time?

  3. Capacity building – how can people be better assisted in becoming equipped for adapting to climate change?

The portal allows users to search a range of examples of adaptation practice across multiple sectors and themes. However, at present the content currently appears to be dominated by National Communications from developing nations, which offer little specific detail regarding the three aforementioned questions. As with any such portal, its utility will be dependent upon broad-scale participation by users who are willing to share their experiences in adaptation practice.

Monday, August 31, 2009

South African Farming Sector Vulnerability

The International Food Policy Research Institute has undertaken a vulnerability mapping exercise for South Africa's farming districts. The assessment utilised an indicator approach to develop measures of exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity of different districts to climate variability and climate change. The report concludes that management activities should be tailored to local conditions and effort should be invested in a range of policies and measures in highly vulnerable districts:

"support the effective management of environmental resources (e.g., soil, vegetation and water resources); promote increased market participation, especially within the large subsistence farming sector; stimulate both agricultural intensification and diversification of livelihoods away from risky agriculture; and enact social programs and spending on health, education and welfare, which can help maintain and augment both physical and intangible human capital. Finally, policy makers should invest in the development of infrastructure in rural areas, while in high exposure regions, especially the coastal zones, priority should be given to the development of more accurate systems for early warning of extreme climatic events (e.g., drought or floods), as well as appropriate relief programs and agricultural insurance."
Of course, all of the above measures are probably appropriate regardless of the relative vulnerability of different districts. As such, couldn't the same policies and measures been identified without an assessment of vulnerability that may bias decision-making on the appropriate geographic distribiution of those policies and measures?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Science Communication Podcasts

Podcasts from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences' 2009 Communications Fair are available from the NAS website:

  1. Science for All Seasons: Communicating Science to Diverse Audiences
  2. Information and Misinformation at the Speed of Light
  3. Science and Hollywood: Education Through Entertainment

Assessing the Costs of Adaptation

A new report published by the International Institute for Environment and Development argues that much of the oft-discussed estimates of global adaptation costs for climate change are serious underestimates. Assessing the Costs of Adaptation to Climate Change: A Critique of the UNFCCC Estimates cites a number of factors that have been overlooked in existing estimates including a) excluded sectors, b) incomplete coverage of those sectors that have been included and c) an 'adaptation deficit' due to historical underinvestment by some regions and nations. The report stops short of updating estimates of adaptation costs based upon these criticisms, but argues that such updates are needed.

Fingerprints on Australian Drought

According to media reports, the Southeast Australia Climate Initiative has found "proof" that human-induced climate change is responsible for the drought in the continent's Southeast over the past 15 years. The guilty culprit appears to be strengthening of the subtropical ridge which is driving rainfall to higher latitudes, leaving the Southeast and Melbourne high and dry. However, it appears all are not happy with the conclusions, including the head of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, Rob Freeman, who continues to argue that the rains will eventually return. Undoubtedly, he's not alone, as many in Australia are literally betting the farm that the scientists have got it wrong.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

New Climate & Development Publications

As compiled by the the Institute for Development Studies:

1) Impacts of Climate Change on Livelihoods: What are the implications for Social Protection? Rachel Cipryk

2) The Human Dimension of Climate Adaptation: The Importance of Local and Institutional Issues
Ian Christoplos, Simon Anderson, Margaret Arnold, Victor Galaz, Merylyn Hedger, Richard Klein and Katell le Gouven

3) Adapting to Climate Change: Thresholds, Values, Governance
Goulden, Marisa, Lars Otto Naess, Katharine Vincent and W. Neil Adger

4) Urban Governance for Adaptation: Assessing Climate Change Resilience in Ten Asian Cities
Thomas Tanner, Tom Mitchell, Emily Polack and Bruce Guenther

5) Rural Disaster Risk – Poverty Interface
Tom Mitchell, Rachel Sabates-Wheeler,Steven Devereux, Tomas Tanner, Mark Davies and Jennifer Leavy

6) Children as agents for Disaster Risk Reduction: lessons from El Salvador and the Philippines Tom Mitchell, Thomas Tanner and Katharine Haynes

7) Children, Climate Change and Disasters: An annotated bibliography
Children in a Changing Climate Research Programme

Monday, August 17, 2009

Postdoc Positions at Griffth University

Griffith University (Queensland, Australia) is advertising three 3-year post doc positions to support its work on the South East Queensland Climate Adaptation Research Initiative. This is a CSIRO Collaboration Fund Cluster Project awarded to Griffith University in partnership with the University of Queensland and the University of the Sunshine Coast. The project involves an integrated, multi-sectoral study of climate change impacts, vulnerability and adaptation in the South East Queensland region.

The advertised positions will contribute to Griffith overall focus on human settlements, addressing human health, urban planing and emergency management dimensions.

Information on all three positions is available via:

Professor of Climate Change, University of the South Pacific

The University of the South Pacific is looking for a Professor of Climate Change to promote collaborative approaches to climate studies, environmental studies and education, research, consultancy, and capacity building with special emphasis on climate change impacts, adaptation, and mitigation in the Pacific Island Countries. The Professor will also be the Director of the Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development (PACE-SD). Closing date for applications is 25 September 2009.

For further information and inquiries, contact; phone: (679) 3232323 or fax: (679) 323 1518, referring to position FVC017.

Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission

The Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission has released its Interim Report on the Black Saturday bushfires of February 7, 2009. As the most significant natural disaster (at least with respect to human loss of life) in Australian history, the event has promoted much soul searching. The Interim Report offers dozens of recommendations addressing fire prevention, warnings, emergency management and communication, and post-fire relief and recovery. The majority of eyes, however, will be keenly focused on the commission's critique of Victoria's popular 'stay or go' policy:

From the Executive Summary:

"In Victoria, community response to bushfire is guided by a policy that directs residents to Prepare, Stay and Defend or Leave Early, known more commonly as the ‘stay or go’ policy (Chapter 7). This policy has been developed over many years and reflects an understanding from research into past fires that with proper planning and prior preparation, most buildings can be successfully defended from a bushfire. The alternative is to plan to leave early.

An analysis of this policy approach against the background of the recent fires has led the Commission to conclude that there has been insufficient emphasis on the risks of staying and defending. Unquestionably the safest course is always to leave early. To stay may still be an appropriate option for some, particularly in less dangerous bushfires, but a number of conditions need to be satisfied."

Saturday, August 15, 2009

California's Draft Adaptation Strategy

The State of California has released a draft of its Adaptation Strategy, which is now available for public comment. In addition to a range of specific adaptation strategies for a range of sectors, the report makes a number of high-level recommendations for California.

Key recommendations include:
  1. A Climate Adaptation Advisory Panel (CAAP) will be appointed to assess the greatest risks to California from Climate Change and recommend strategies to reduce those risks building on California’s Climate Adaptation Strategy.
  2. California must change its water management and uses because climate change will likely create greater competition for limited water supplies needed by the environment, agriculture, and cities.
  3. Consider project alternatives that avoid significant new development in
    areas that cannot be adequately protected (planning, permitting, development, and building) from flooding due to climate change.
  4. All state agencies responsible for the management and regulation of public
    health, infrastructure or habitat subject to significant climate change should
    prepare as appropriate agency-specific adaptation plans, guidance, or
    criteria by September 2010.
  5. All significant state projects, including infrastructure projects, must consider climate change impacts, as currently required under CEQA Guidelines Section 15126.2. (BH-2).
  6. The California Emergency Management Agency (Cal EMA) will collaborate with CNRA and the seven sector-based Climate Adaptation Working Groups (CAWGs) to assess California's vulnerability to climate change, identify impacts to State assets, and promote climate adaptation/mitigation awareness through the Hazard Mitigation Web Portal and My Hazards website as well as other appropriate sites.
  7. The State should identify key California land and aquatic habitats from
    existing research that could change significantly this century due to climate
  8. The California Department of Public Health will develop guidance by September 2010 for use by local health departments and other agencies to assess mitigation and adaptation strategies, which include impacts on vulnerable populations and communities and assessment of cumulative health impacts.
  9. Communities with General Plans and Local Coastal Plans should begin when possible to amend their Plans to assess climate change impacts, identify areas most vulnerable to these impacts, and to develop reasonable and rational risk eduction strategies using the Draft California Adaptation Strategy as guidance.
  10. State fire fighting agencies should begin immediately to include climate change impact information into fire program planning to inform future planning efforts.
  11. State agencies should meet projected population growth and increased energy demand with greater energy conservation and increased use of renewable energy.
  12. Existing and planned climate change research can and should be used for
    state planning and public outreach purposes; new climate change impact research should be broadened and funded.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Climate Change and U.S. Wildlife

Climate Change and National Park Wildlife: A Survival Guide is a new report from the National Parks Conservation Association. The report focuses on narratives of potential climate change impact to iconic wildlife across the U.S. National Park system, from coral reefs in the Caribbean to Alaskan caribou. The report offers five management solutions to protect wildlife:

"We can safeguard the wildlife of America’s national parks from climate change if we take the following steps:
■ Stop contributing to climate change
■ Reduce and eliminate existing harms that make wildlife more vulnerable to climate change
■ Give wildlife freedom to roam
■ Adopt “climate smart” management practices
■ Empower national parks to lead by example"

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Climate Change and Australia's World Heritage Areas

If you're looking for a bit of light reading, Australia's Department of Climate Change has released a new 224 page report summarising the potential impacts of climate change on all of the nation's 17 World Heritage properties including the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu National Park, Macquarie Island, and (of course) Sydney Opera House.


Australia's federal government has completed work on its Smartline coastal vulnerability assessment tool, which has been developed as part of its National Coastal Vulnerability Assessment process. The product is available through the OzCoasts website along with an updated national database of beaches.

According to the website,

"The Smartline Coastal Geomorphic Map of Australia is a detailed map of the coastal landform types – or ‘geomorphology – of continental Australia and most adjacent islands (excluding the Great Barrier Reef). As a ‘geomorphic’ map, it represents not just the topography of the coast – the planform, elevation and shape of the coastal landforms which a contour map or digital elevation model may represent - but it also indicates what the differing coastal landforms are made of – varying rock types, laterite, coral, sand, mud, laterite, boulders, beachrock, and so on. The map classifies coastal landforms into differing combinations of form (generalised shape) and constituents (or fabric) which in turn are indicative of the differing natural processes by which each coastal landform has developed."

Monday, August 3, 2009

More Guidance for Adaptation Planning

The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) on behalf of the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) have jointly prepared a manual for climate change adaptation entitled, Climate Change Information for Effective Adaptation: A Practitioner‘s Manual.

The manual focuses on the use of climate information in adaptation, with a target audience of those working in, or responsible for decision-making around, the international development arena. As stated by Schellnhuber in the report's Foreword:

"Since development experts work at a very important interface, they are multipliers of knowledge and therefore can prepare the ground for an accelerated transition to sustainability. The main objective of the manual presented here is to enhance the capacity of those practitioners and decision makers in developing countries by translating relevant aspects of climate change research into their every-day working contexts. This guide describes the concrete steps of (i) how to obtain climate change information, (ii) how to interpret it adequately, and (iii) how to communicate the resulting knowledge in a careful and responsible way."
The report draws heavily on the IPCC's AR4 and is clearly meant to be a primer for the uninitiated, as there's just enough information to help get someone started thinking about how to apply climate information in adaptation and point in the right direction for the next step, but not enough to see one through to the end.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

German Strategy for Adaptation

The Federal Government of Germany has publicly released its German Adaptation Strategy (Deutsche AnpassungsStrategie, DAS). According to the document,

"The aim of the Adaptation Strategy is to reduce vulnerability to the consequences of climate change, to maintain or improve the adaptability of
natural, social and economic systems, and to take advantage of any opportunities."

However, the strategy itself will do little to address the nation's vulnerability to climate change. By and large, the strategy is devoted to summarising the potential climate changes and impacts relevant to Germany and outlining some basic principles for adaptation. The substantive component of the strategy is the commitment to develop an adaptation action plan by the end of March 2011, which will contain the following:
  • Principles and criteria for identifying and prioritising action needs
  • Prioritising federal measures
  • Overview of concrete measures by other stakeholders (on the basis of the dialogue and participation process)
  • Information on financing
  • Proposals for progress review (indicators)
  • Further development of the German Adaptation Strategy and specification of next steps.

Hence, one will have to wait for the Action Plan to see how Germany will achieve the reductions in vulnerability intended by the strategy.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Play to Stop

The EU has teamed up with MTV to get the youth of Europe into the spirit of tackling climate change (apparently the continent's youngsters are a bit slack in the greenhouse department). The 'Play to Stop' campaign is utilising a series of concerts to bring youth together and create 'teaching moments' that encourage Generation Y to participate in greenhouse gas mitigation. And there's heaps of social marketing gadgets like Twitter, Facebook, etc on offer. The concerts will be held in Stockholm, Budapest and, of course, Copenhagen and will be televised via MTV throughout Europe. Details on concert line-ups remain sketchy, but Moby will be headlining the Stockholm show on August 20.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

RFF Adaptation Studies

The United States' Resources for the Future has been active in the adaptation arena recently, producing a range of studies on climate adaptation in various U.S. sectors as well as some work on the international scene. These studies (listed below) are intended to sketch out the state-of-knowledge regarding the implications of climate change in preparation for RFF's more focused work on adaptation policy.

Adapting to Climate Change: The Public Policy Response—Public Infrastructure
James E. Neumann and Jason C. Price
June 2009

Agriculture and the Food System: Adaptation to Climate Change
John M. Antle
June 2009

An Adaptation Portfolio for the United States Coastal and Marine Environment
David Kling and James N. Sanchirico
June 2009

Emerging Climate Change Impacts on Freshwater Resources: A Perspective on Transformed Watersheds
Alan P. Covich
June 2009

Terrestrial Ecosystem Adaptation
Steven W. Running and L. Scott Mills
June 2009

Adapting to Climate Change: Public Health
Jonathan M. Samet
June 2009

Friday, July 10, 2009

Science in America

The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press recently completed a survey of American attitudes toward science. The results reveal the paradox that exists in American society, where Americans value science and have a high regard for scientists, but significantly disagree with the scientific community on fundamental scientific principles. The survey highlights some of the challenges that exist in convincing society to support policies (such as, say, greenhouse gas mitigation or climate adaptation) arising from scientific investigations.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Climate Change Adaptation Specialist

The World Bank is currently recruiting a climate change adaptation specialist for its Washington, DC office.

Details here (applications due 17 July, 2009)

Cities Pilot Project

ICLEI-USA has released a new report summarising work from the Cities Pilot Project, which has documented greenhouse gas mitigation and, to a lesser extent, adaptation efforts in 18 U.S. cities. While ICLEI continues to progress slowly with advancing adaptation efforts, it's quite apparent from the new report that adaptation remains somewhat of a second fiddle to mitigation in the organisation's eyes.

At the request of ICLEI, cities participating in the pilot project responded to a request for information regarding mitigation and adaptation. According to the report, all cities identified the risks associated with climate change (although these risks included risks associated with both mitigation and adaptation). Risks were crudely categorised as "regulatory", "physical," and "general", but if you are like me, these groupings are too generic to be of much utility. Supporting text provides some more specific examples, which reflects the range of risks perceived by cities, but doesn't elucidate how widespread and comprehensive understanding of risk is among these 18 cities. Undoubtedly, some cities are pushing forward with adaptation planning, with the well-known assessment and planning work in Chicago as a case-in-point. However, the lack of detail in the report on actual adaptation efforts suggests Chicago is an exceptional leader in this arena. Other cities may be wise to follow in Chicago's footsteps, but many do not yet appear to be in a position to do so, and it's unclear the extent to which ICLEI-USA has the capability to help support adaptation.
In contrast, ICLEI-Oceania has done some significant work on adaptation and has developed an adaptation toolkit for cities and Local Government. Hopefully, the folks in Oceania will eventually share their tools with their colleagues in America to assist in putting U.S. municipalities on a more balanced footing in responding to climate change.

Much Ado about Nothing (again)

They came, they saw, they agreed once again to do what none of them seem prepared to actually do. Such was the result of climate discussions at the G8 meeting this week in L'Aquila, Italy. The eight nations agreed to limit global warming to 2 degrees C, but failed to agree on any substantive measures that may actually enable such a target to be achieved. I seem to recall that the world agreed to avoid 'dangerous' climate change back in 1992 under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Almost 20 years later, governments continue to reiterate that intent, yet don't actually take the steps necessary to bring such intent to fruition. Meanwhile, as argued here by RealClimate and here by yours truly, it's important to bear in mind that all manner of things can still go wrong with the Earth system at less that 2 degrees of warming. Adaptation anyone?