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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.