Adaptation Online was launched in 2008 as a clearinghouse for climate adaptation information. Submissions and comments are welcome.
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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 HRhelp@usp.ac.fj or Dr Tony Weir of the Pacific Center for Environment and Sustainable Development (em: weirtoabs@yahoo.co.uk).

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.