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Friday, January 30, 2009

Centre for Climate and Development

UK'S Department for International Development is launching a new institution to facilitate adaptation in developing nations through the provision of climate information and adaptation options as well as mitigation options. Interestingly, the current rhetoric surrounding the new centre doesn't appear to address one of the key issues in developing nations, which is the presence of robust institutions for applying knowledge and effectively implementing adaptation actions.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Exceedence of Critial Heat Thresholds in Melbourne

Southeast Australia has suffered under a heatwave this past week, with temperatures today in Melbourne peaking at 44C (111F). The weather conditions have revealed that Australian systems are ill-equipped to cope with extreme heat. Disruption of power supplies due to infrastructure failures along with peak demand on the electricity grids approaching the limits of production indicate that Victoria's energy system becomes increasingly unreliable above 35C and begins to breakdown altogether around 40C. Meanwhile, Melbourne's rail network has fared worse. A reported 450 rail services were canceled in Melbourne yesterday and widespread service disruptions were also apparent today. In addition, finger-pointing between Connex (the service provider) and the unions suggests that system dysfunction is not only a function of the climate, but also institutional conflict. The predictability of such problems during extreme heat events suggests the current coping capacity of critical systems is quite limited. What conclusions should we draw about the capacity of Australia's city's to adapt to future climate change?

Australian Government Announces LAP Phase 2

The Australian Department of Climate Change (DCC) has opened Phase 2 of its Local Adaptation Pathways Program. During Phase 1, DCC provided funding of up to $50,000 to 50 local governments around Australia to support the development of local climate risk assessments and adaptation plans. Phase 2 offers grants of $75,000 (or more for consortia of local governments) and is apparently designed to target "outer regional, remote and very remote" communities.

Expressions of interest will close on 25 February 2009.

Consequences of Adaptation

A new study has highlighted the potential pitfalls associated with reactive adaptations to climate change. Kearney et al. have utilised a model of the distribution and abundance of the Aedes aegypti mosquito in Australia to simulate the response of dengue transmission in a changing climate. The authors conclude: "While we predict that climate change will directly increase habitat suitability throughout much of Australia, the potential indirect impact of changed water storage practices by humans in response to drought may have a greater effect." The implications of this study are that while climate change itself may pose an increased risk of dengue (consistent with prior work by Tony McMichael and others), such risk may be exacerbated by the behavioural responses of humans to other climate impacts such as drought. This leads to questions regarding how to value differential costs and benefits of adaptation policies and also suggests that more strategic, and holistic views of climate change and adaptation policy development may be needed if humans are to avoid simply trading one consequence for another.
Kearney et al (2009). Integrating biophysical models and evolutionary theory to predict climatic impacts on species' ranges: the dengue mosquito Aedes aegypti in Australia, Functional Ecology, doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2435.2008.01538.x, is published online on 28 January 2009.

Climate Action in Fresno, California

The City of Fresno has released are report entitled, Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Climate Change in Fresno, California. The work was commissioned by the city and carried-out by researchers at UC-Fresno and it summarises estimates of projected changes in the region's climate as well as a range of greenhouse gas emissions reduction and adaptation strategies of potential relevance to the city.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Adaptation Finance

The Institute for Development Studies has released a brief entitled Principles for Delivering Adaptation Finance. The brief outlines four core principles for financing adaptation in developing nations:

    1. Country ownership: eligible states should be allowed to set their own adaptation priorities through dialogue with other in-country stakeholders, supported by finance delivery mechanisms that promote programmatic approaches to adaptation. However, in recognising the considerable differences between states, delivery mechanisms will need to be flexible and tailored to specific needs and contexts. For example, Annex I countries suggest that some states will require capacity building on managing fiduciary risk to improve accountability and transparency before programme-based approaches to adaptation can be supported. Other countries will require assistance to scale up adaptation efforts and to create effective institutions and planning approaches for adaptation. In some cases, project-based funding will be needed to catalyse, develop capacity, mobilise and test scaling-up possibilities.
    2. Prioritising the most vulnerable: with climate change being cast as a social justice issue by many, adaptation delivery mechanisms must channel resources effectively to those most in need as a priority. Integration of adaptation into Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers and national adaptive social protection mechanisms are options where pro-poor state-led processes are potentially effective in reaching the most vulnerable groups. In cases where states are unable to provide adaptation goods and services to those people, alternative delivery mechanisms – such as through CSOs or regional institutions – may be necessary. In many cases, a blend of delivery channels is likely to be most effective at reaching all groups. Care must be taken to protect the ‘country ownership’ principle wherever possible.
    3. Mutual accountability: the governance of international adaptation delivery mechanisms must be transparent, equitable in representation and power, and possess clear lines of accountability. At country-level, adaptation M&E structures should also be: transparent, locally owned, formulated in partnership with other stakeholders and subject to clear accountability measures.
    4. Harmonisation: delivery mechanisms at a country level must not become
      unnecessarily fragmented and must not duplicate functions. Measures to counter fragmentation at this level may include multi-donor trust funds, an approach recently adopted by Bangladesh to ‘harmonise support for its national climate change strategy’. Once eligibility criteria are set, eligible states and those prioritised within states, should be able to directly access financial and technical resources, with minimal transaction costs.

U.S. Coastal Sensitivity to Climate Change

The U.S. Climate Change Science Program has released another of its "synthesis and assessment" products, Coastal Sensitivity to Sea-level Rise: A Focus on the Mid-Atlantic Region.

Highlights of the report include the following:

  • Rising water levels are already an important factor in submerging low-lying
    lands, eroding beaches, converting wetlands to open water, and exacerbating
    coastal flooding. All of these effects will be increased if the rate of sea-level rise accelerates in the future.
  • Most coastal wetlands in the mid-Atlantic would be lost if sea level rises one meter in the next century. Even a 50-cm rise would threaten most wetlands along the Eastern Shore of Chesapeake Bay.
  • Possible responses to sea level rise include seawalls, bulkheads, and other shoreline armoring; elevating buildings and land surfaces (including beaches
    and wetlands); and allowing shorelines to change and moving structures out
    of harm’s way. Those three approaches have very different environmental and social impacts.
  • Preparing now can reduce the eventual environmental and economic impacts of sea level rise.
  • Some governmental and nongovernmental organizations are already starting to prepare for sea level rise.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Australia's King Tides

On January 12, a King Tide affected the east coast of Australia. In New South Wales, the State Government used the event as an opportunity to educate the public about climate change. Individuals were encouraged to head to the beach and snap photos at high tide:

"The king tide will provide an opportunity to see areas along the coast that are subject to flooding and at risk from erosion and storm damage. It is also an opportunity to raise awareness of the long-term challenges of sea level rise. In
recent workshops around the state, the Department has presented forecasts of
climate change impacts, including the potential for sea levels to rise by 40cm
by 2050 and by 90cm by 2100."
Meanwhile, in Brisbane, Queensland, the King Tide caused flooding in some areas, revealing the potential vulnerabilities that exist under current climate variability.

Local Adaptation in Washington State

As reported by the Record Journal, a project along the Nooksack River in Whatcom County, Washington has been developed to study climate change impacts and adaptation at the local level. The project partners include the Whatcom County Flood Control Zone District (FCZD), the Alcoa Foundation and the Geology Department at Western Washington University.

Extreme Adaptation

The new Palazzo Versace Hotel, under development in Dubai (famous for its climatological excesses such as Ski Dubai) will reportedly have the world's first refrigerated beach so that guests can enjoy the sand despite the nation's stifling heat.

COMESA Adapation Project

The Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Government of Norway have signed an agreement through which Norway will provide US$2.5 million in funding to support a climate change program by COMESA, the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC). The program is intended to "build and strengthen the capacity of African countries to address adaptation and mitigation to climate change, and to facilitate an African dialogue on the inclusion of sustainable agriculture and land-use practices, forestry, biodiversity conservation, and maintenance of environmental services in the post Kyoto Climate regime."

Adaptation and Mitigation in Development Programs

The World Bank has published a 'practical guide' on the incorporation of considerations for climate change into adaptation and mitigation within international development programs and projects:

"The purpose of this study is to draw on all available material in order to provide targeted guidance on the linkages between the design of development programs and the objectives of adapting to climate change and limiting emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs). The report should be useful to practitioners in development organizations (multilateral and bilateral institutions) and countries for a better understanding of the implications of development programs and policies on climate change, as well as the implications of climate policies on budgetary and related operations."

2009 AMS Annual Meeting

I'm currently in Phoenix, Arizona attending the American Meteorological Society's annual meeting, where the issue of adaptation to climate change is unavoidable. In particular, climate adaptation is perhaps the unifying theme in the 4th Symposium on Policy and Socio-economic Research. I presented a paper in Monday's session on Adaptation and Vulnerability to Climate Change and Extremes, entitled Are We Adapting to Climate Change? Research and Methods for Evaluating Progress.