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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Climate Risk in Megacities

The Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and the World Bank have completed their work assessing climate change impacts to Asian Megacities. That work, published in the report Climate Risks and Adaptation in Asian Megacities, examines climate risk and potential adaptation responses in the cities of Manila, Ho Chi Minh City, and Bangkok. The following summarizes the major points emerging from the report:

Key Findings

  1. Frequency of extreme events likely to increase. All three coastal megacities are likely to witness increases in temperature and precipitation linked with climate change and variability.
  2. Increase in flood-prone area due to climate change in all three cities. In all three megacities, in 2050, there is an increase in the area likely to be flooded under different climate scenarios compared to a situation without climate change.
  3. Increase in population exposed to flooding. In all three cities, there is likely to be an increase in the number of persons exposed to flooding in 2050 under different climate scenarios compared to a situation without climate change.
  4. Costs of damage likely to be substantial and can range from 2 to 6 percent of regional GDP.
  5. Damage to buildings is an important component of flood-related costs.
  6. Impact on the poor and vulnerable will be substantial, but even better-off communities will be affected by flooding.
  7. Land subsidence is a major problem and can account for a greater share of the damage cost from flooding compared to climate-related factors.


  1. Better management of urban environment and infrastructure will help manage potential climate-related impacts. Analysis carried out in the city case studies show that sound urban environmental management is also good for climate adaptation.
  2. Climate-related risks should be considered as an integral part of city and regional planning. While improved urban environmental management is important, the studies also show that given the additional costs linked with climate change, cities need to make a proactive effort to consider climate related risks as an integral part of urban planning and to do so now.
  3. Targeted, city-specific solutions combining infrastructure investments, zoning, and ecosystem-based strategies are required. Given that cities are characterized by distinct climatic, hydrological, and socioeconomic features—but also that the urban poor in general are more vulnerable to increased flooding due to climate change—targeted, city-specific, and cutting edge approaches to urban adaptation are needed.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

UNDP Adaptation Toolkit

For those who feel the need for more guidance on how to plan for and implement adaptation strategies, the UNDP has developed an adaptation "toolkit" for practitioners. Unlike the UNDP's earlier Adaptation Policy Framework, the toolkit is rather user-friendly, and its utility lies perhaps in its presentation of portfolios of approaches to undertaking different aspects of adaptation planning. For example, the toolkit contains examples of a range of approaches to framing adaptation planning, developing and applying scenarios, decision-making regarding adaptation options, and stakeholder engagement. As such, users of the toolkit can review individual tools, select those that appear most consistent with a given context, and thereby assemble a comprehensive, but tailored, approach to adaptation. In my humble opinion, society is beyond the point of needing a new and improved framework for adaptation. Rather, what's needed is understanding regarding the specific contexts in which different existing approaches to adaptation are more or less effective. The UNDP's new toolkit at least provides that range of approaches, although one is still left one one's own to determine the appropriateness of those approaches.

For a more lengthy list of adaptation frameworks, look here.

The Economist on Adaptation

The latest issue of The Economist has an article on adaptation that covers the obstacles which have historically stood in the way of adaptation taking center-stage in the climate policy arena, the reasons why those obstacles are are starting to evaporate, and the significant challenge of addressing the capacity gaps of the developing world.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Climate Change in India

The Government of India and the Indian Network for Climate Change Assessment have released an up-to-date report on observed and projected climate change for India, which also includes assessments of climate change impacts to four sectors in four regions. The four sectors include agriculture, water, human health, and forests while the four sectors span the Himalayan region, the Western Ghats, the Northeast, and the coast. While the report frequently notes the importance of, and potential for, adaptation in reducing the adverse consequences of climate change, it says little about specific adaptation policies and measures and their associated costs and benefits. Hence, it's unclear how this thorough assessment of the potential consequences of climate change will be translated into actions to avoid those consequences. Perhaps that is a task for a future report. . .

Pot, Kettle, Black?

USA Today is reporting that a 2006 report produced by Edward Wegman of George Mason University, which was critical of scientific findings of anomalous warming of the northern hemisphere in recent decades relative to the past 1,000 years, has come under fire after independent analyses have uncovered evidence of plagiarism. The report was originally requested by Representative Joe Barton (Texas) in 2005 and subsequently cited by Barton and a host of others as scientific evidence questioning the validity of anthropogenic climate change. Needless to say, one would expect more from climate change contrarians who constantly express the need for a return to traditional scientific methods and more rigorous investigation of climate change.

ICLEI USA's Climate Resilient Communities Program

ICLEI USA recently launched its Climate Resilient Communities Program (CRC), which provides a range of adaptation resources tailored to the needs of local government. Those resources include the Adaptation Database and Planning Tool (ADAPT), as well as information on the science of climate change, guidance on vulnerability assessment and adaptation planning, case studies of adaptation, as well as training and networking for local government staff.

The CRC will be implemented initially in eight cities and counties (and presumably ICLEI would be happy to see a long list of local governments follow suit):

  1. Boston, Massachusetts
  2. Cambridge, Massachusetts
  3. Flagstaff, Arizona
  4. Grand Rapids, Michigan
  5. Lee County, Florida
  6. Miami-Dade County, Florida
  7. San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC)
  8. Tucson, Arizona

Interestingly, ICLEI USA's CRC follows on the heels of ICLEI Oceania's Adaptation and Resilient Communities Program (ARC), which was launched in Australia back in 2008. Much like the CRC, the ARC offered an adaptation toolkit for local government, structured around a risk management paradigm. As usual, Australia appears to be the international trailblazer with respect to adaptation. Nevertheless, it's nice to see the USA finally starting to take up the issue, and ICLEI providing some leadership in this regard.

Last month, the White House Council of Environmental Quality's Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force released it's progress report containing a number of recommendations for how to facilitate adaptation across U.S. government agencies. While these recommendations represent the first step (of many) toward a coordinated federal approach to climate adaption, it's probably fair to say that it doesn't quite reflect the challenges involved in securing that coordination. While one can readily imagine adaptation planning within individual agencies, it's more difficult to envision how the discrete efforts within those agencies are integrated into a coherent federal program. Furthermore, the ultimate goal, as recognized within the America's Climate Choices report on adaptation, shouldn't simply be a federal approach, but a national approach. In any case, the key recommendations are:

  1. Encourage and Mainstream Adaptation Planning across the Federal Government – Climate change will challenge the mission, operations, and programs of nearly every Federal agency. Ensuring that the Federal Government has the capacity to execute its missions and maintain important services in the face of climate change is essential.
  2. Improve Integration of Science into Decision Making – Access to integrated,interdisciplinary science is critical to understanding potential climate change impacts, and informing the development, implementation and evaluation of response strategies.
  3. Address Key Cross‐Cutting Issues – The breadth of certain climate change impacts creates challenges that cut across the jurisdictions and missions of individual Federal agencies. Addressing these issues will require a collaborative approach along with coordination and partnerships at the local, state, Tribal, and regional levels.
  4. Enhance Efforts to Lead and Support International Adaptation – Climate change poses risks and opportunities that are important to many of the U.S. Government’s international development,security, and diplomatic priorities. Climate change adaptation should be a core consideration in the design and implementation of U.S. foreign assistance activities. Agencies should enhance collaboration to support international adaptation objectives.
  5. Coordinate Capabilities of the Federal Government to Support Adaptation – The Federal Government should improve coordination of its science, services, and assessments to better support stakeholders.

As for what comes next, the Task Force states:

"Agencies will initiate a formal adaptation planning process with the support of the Office of the Federal Environmental Executive (OFEE). USGCRP will continue efforts to build a robust body of science and critical tools to support decision making, and interagency workgroups will collaborate to address cross-cutting issues and support international adaptation objectives. In addition, agencies will continue to develop and strengthen individual and interagency adaptation initiatives, such as the National Climate Assessment and efforts to provide climate services (e.g., modeling, decision-support tools)."

Friday, November 26, 2010

Evaluating Adaptation Planning

With adaptation growing in popularity as a complementary risk management strategy to mitigation (particularly in the wake of Copenhagen), one might wonder to what extent the proliferation of adaptation planning is increasing the resilience of institutions and society-at-large to cope with climate change. A paper recently published by myself and co-authors suggests that the plans that are increasingly emerging to guide adaptation may fall short of securing robust responses. In Climate Adaptation Planning in Practice: An Evaluation of Adaptation Plans from Three Developed Nations, we report on a study evaluating several dozen adaptation plans. Our conclusion - while formal adaptation planning represent critical institutional learning about managing climate risk, such planning appears to fall well short of a mature practice.

Preston BL, Westaway RM, Yuen EJ (2010) Climate adaptation planning in practice: an evaluation of adaptation plans from three developed nations. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Change. DOI 10.1007/s11027-010-9270-x

Abstract "Formal planning for climate change adaptation is emerging rapidly at a range of geo-political scales. This first generation of adaptation plans provides useful information regarding how institutions are framing the issue of adaptation and the range of processes that are recognized as being part of an adaptation response. To better understand adaptation planning among developed nations, a set of 57 adaptation plans from Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States was evaluated against a suite of 19 planning processes identified from existing guidance instruments for adaptation planning. Total scores among evaluated plans ranged from 16% of the maximum possible score to 61%, with an average of 37%. These results suggest adaptation plans are largely under-developed. Critical weaknesses in adaptation planning are related to limited consideration for non-climatic factors as well as neglect for issues of adaptive capacity including entitlements to various forms of capital needed for effective adaptation. Such gaps in planning suggest there are opportunities for institutions to make better use of existing guidance for adaptation planning and the need to consider the broader governance context in which adaptation will occur. In addition, the adaptation options prescribed by adaptation plans reflect a preferential bias toward low-risk capacity-building (72% of identified options) over the delivery of specific actions to reduce vulnerability. To the extent these findings are representative of the state of developed nation adaptation planning, there appear to be significant deficiencies in climate change preparedness, even among those nations often assumed to have the greatest adaptive capacity."

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Practical Adaptation

Anthony Nyong, manager of the Compliance and Safeguard Division at the African Development Bank, recently directed some pointed criticism at the international climate science and adaptation communities:

"85 per cent of the money coming to Africa for adaptation is used for 'capacity building' [meetings] in hotels - yet nobody has ever built capacity in a hotel"
Nyong suggested time is being wasted in the study of climate change and adaptation processes by researchers and the pursuit of small-scale adaptation pilot projects. Nyong stressed the need for a new approach to adaptation which focuses on embedding adaptation within a broader and more vigorous development agenda that enhances the capacity of people to cope with climate change.

While climate science will continue to remain fundamental to supporting adaptation efforts, Nyong's comments remind us that the research community has an obligation to see that research translated into action.

U.S. Climate Knowledge

Tony Leiserowitz et al have published a survey of U.S. knowledge of climate change. While the results aren't particularly encouraging (with over 50% of survey respondents scoring an 'F'), this is probably representative of the U.S. public's knowledge of science in general. Nevertheless, it highlights the significant challenges involved in building public support for climate policy (be it mitigation or adaptation). The good news: the survey evidences the long-held public trust in the scientific community.

Friday, October 1, 2010

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Climate Change Strategy

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released the final version of its strategic plan for climate change. The plan focuses on three key strategies: adaptation, mitigation, and stakeholder engagement. When it comes to its proposed actions on adaptation, however, the strategy largely proposes to develop another strategy, specifically a National Fish and Wildlife Climate Adaptation Strategy, along with a range of institutional capacity building activities.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

USGS Continues to Role Out Climate Science Centers

As of September 23, 2010, the U.S. Geologic Survey has announced the hosts of three of its eight regional climate change science centers. North Carolina State University was recently selected to host the southeast regional center, while the consortium of Oregon State University, University of Washington, and the University of Idaho will host the northwest center. The University of Alaska-Fairbanks was awarded the Alaska center earlier this month.

According to the USGS:

"Once fully instituted, the Climate Science Centers will be a “seamless network” to access the best science available to help managers in the Interior Department, states, other federal agencies, and the private and nonprofit sectors. The science agenda of each CSC will be identified through a partnership steering committee that includes Landscape Conservation Cooperatives and other federal, state, and local partners to ensure that the CSC’s work is meeting the priority needs of resource managers in each region."

Fate of the World

Think you can manage the climate change challenge? Well, now you can put your global management skills to the test. Red Redemption, Ltd has released "Fate of the World" - a global strategy game that challenges players to save the world (and humanity) through multiple environmental missions. Apparently, scientists from Oxford University contributed their knowledge to the development of the game's doom and gloom scenarios.

Red Redemption will be accepting pre-orders from October 29, 2010.

Is the UK Adapting? What about the US?

The UK's Adaptation Sub-Committee has reported that the nation still has a long journey ahead in building a society that is resilient to climate change. In its report on the status of the nation's adaptation preparedness, the committee finds that despite evidence of growing capacity and awareness, such capacity building "is not yet systematically translating into tangible action on the ground." The report identifies a range of persistent barriers to adaptation including limited access to information on climate risk, failure by institutions to account for climate risk, market and policy barriers, and low prioritization of climate on institutional agendas.

Meanwhile, a similar report by the U.S. National Climate Adaptation Summit Committee has stressed the need for the U.S. to advance a national adaptation agenda. The committee's report synthesizes the outcomes from the National Adaptation Summit held in Washington, DC in May of 2010. Interestingly, if one compares the two reports, one finds that the U.S. is primarily focused on raising awareness of the issue across U.S. agencies and stakeholders and advocating for more research regarding climate change impacts. The UK, however, appears to be already digging into the institutional barriers that hinder the actual implementation of adaptation policies, which might cause one to think that one of these nations is perhaps further along the path in orienting itself toward the adaptation challenge.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

New Institute for Adaptation

Various media outlets are reporting that a new non-profit institution focused on climate change adaptation is due to emerge in the Washington, DC area later this year. The aptly named Global Adaptation Institute already has a Facebook page, and it appears former World Bank executive Dr. Juan J. Daboub will be the institutes's first CEO. Beyond that, all that is known at this point about the organization is its mission statement:

"Our mission is to enhance the understanding of the world’s pressing need for adaptation to Climate Change and to provide private funding for effective projects that help developing economies adapt to the changing world."

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Much More Ado about Nothing

The InterAcademy Council has released its independent review of the IPCC and provided a number of recommendations aimed at tightening up what it acknowledges to be a generally rigorous process. As with the other various reviews that have emerged in the wake of 'Climategate', the council's report found no evidence of conspiracy, fraud, or incompetence. The measures that are recommended, which, if applied, would place an additional (but not necessarily unwarranted) burden on the IPCC and its authors, are indicative of the lofty expectations placed on the IPCC and the powerful influence it wields in policy circles (not that such influence is evident within actual policy). The greater the stakes in the climate policy debate, the greater the scrutiny the IPCC will receive.

Meanwhile, the Gaurdian is reporting on an interview with the Skeptical Environmentalist himself, Lomborg, who is releasing yet another book on climate change. This time around, Lomborg appears to have changed his tune a bit regarding the urgency of the climate change challenge. With the Skeptical Environmentalist, he argued that climate change was in fact a real problem, but not necessarily a priority for the global economy and human well-being. Now, in Smart Solutions to Climate Change, Lomborg reportedly has called for annual investments of $100 billion per year for R&D to find technical solutions to climate change, paid for by none other than a carbon tax. Technical solutions alone, of course, don't necessarily address the problem. For centuries we've put our trust in a new technology waiting around the corner to address problems of the present. The promise of a technical fix is thus just one more way of avoiding tough decisions. Still, it's a bit of a shift for Lomborg, which is likely to induce shrugs in all the other so-called skeptics.

The skeptics have also taken a hit in Virginia, where a judge has opted not to play ball with the Attorney General. Circuit Court Judge Paul M. Peatross Jr. has set aside a subpoena issued by the AG to the University of Virginia for documents pertaining to the research of former UVA faculty member, Michael Mann, as part of the AG's investigation of potential fraud on behalf of the researcher. The judge ruled that the AG failed to provide a basis for the fraud accusation. One can only wonder what will happen next. . .

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Energy Adaptation Toolkit

The Energy Sector Management Assistance Program administered by the World Bank has produced what it calls a Hands-On Energy Adaptation Toolkit (HEAT), and on can only assume that it's "hands on" because HEAT makes for a more relevant acronym than EAT. In any case, HEAT leads users through the process of assessing the vulnerability of energy systems and developing appropriate adaptation strategies. The tool will look familiar to anyone who's ever seen a risk assessment/management or adaptation planning framework. Apparently, the tool was successfully trialed in Albania and Uzbekistan, so if you have any energy systems or infrastructure that could use some adaptation planning, give it a try.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Climate Adaptation in New Zealand

The New Zealand Climate Change Centre has produced a report entitled Climate Change Adaptation in New Zealand: Future Scenarios and Some Sectoral Perspectives. The report takes a triple bottom line approach to synthesizing adaptation issues across key sectors and interests including primary industries, human health, biodiversity, energy and Maori culture.

Adaptation Costs in the Carribean

The Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF) has released the preliminary results of a study on the Economics of Climate Adaptation (ECA) in the Caribbean. The results span eight countries (Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Dominica, Jamaica, and St. Lucia), but at the moment, the details are limited to a 28-page brochure. In brief, the study finds that climate change could eventually contribute to additional economic losses from severe weather in the Caribbean on the order of 1-3% of GDP (in addition to the current annual average losses of 6% of GDP). However, the study also finds that up to 90% of these losses can be avoided through adaptation mechanisms to reduce vulnerability.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Victoria Bushfire Royal Commission Final Report

Victoria's Bushfire Royal Commission has released its final report on the Black Saturday bushfires of February 7, 2009, which claimed the lives of 173 Victorians, with most victims in the periurban regions of Melbourne. Interestingly, the Commission didn't shy away from controversial recommendations, including proposing that at-risk communities in bushfire prone areas should be depopulated under a "retreat and resettlement" policy:

"Applying land-use planning and building controls to minimise or reduce bushfire
risk presents challenges. In particular, the planning and building systems operate prospectively and have little capacity to deal with past decisions and existing settlements or buildings in bushfire-prone areas, so they cannot account for people who are already living in areas of extremely high risk. The Commission therefore proposes that action be taken to help people move away from those areas where other bushfire risk-mitigation measures are not viable. In particular, the State should develop and implement a voluntary retreat and resettlement strategy—including non-compulsory land acquisition—for existing developments in areas at unacceptably high bushfire risk."

The Commission therefore highlights some of the difficult choices that decision-makers and individuals will have to make. Robust risk management for such events is difficult to envision if development continues to proliferate in at-risk periurban regions. On the other hand, risk minimization has traditionally been difficult to reconcile with individual property rights and demand for amenity lifestyles. Whether the political powers that be are willing to implement such dramatic vulnerability reduction measures remains to be seen, but Australia's development has never shied away from hazards. That seems unlikely to change now.

Update 8/26/2010: The Victoria government has responded to the Commission's recommendations and, not surprisingly, has opted to support those recommendations which represent incremental, uncontroversial responses, while dismissing some of the more transformational changes recommended by the Commission as too disruptive or costly.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Knowledge Sharing Innovation Fund v.2.0

AfricaAdapt has announced the launch of its second edition of its Knowledge Sharing Innovation Fund. The fund provides support in the form of US$6,500 grants for new knowledge sharing initiatives about climate change adaptation that engage marginalised communities on the continent.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Climate Change South of the Border

Feng et al. recently released this paper in PNAS on climate change, crop yields in Mexico, and migration. Although quite timely, the study unfortunately stops short of discussing the larger equity implications of the work. The idea that increased migration pressure could result as a consequence of climate change could add a new dimension to the immigration debate. What responsibilities do developed nations have to environmental migrants given historical responsibilities for greenhouse gas emissions and climate change?


Climate change is expected to cause mass human migration, including
immigration across international borders. This study quantitatively examines the
linkages among variations in climate, agricultural yields, and people’s
migration responses by using an instrumental variables approach. Our method
allows us to identify the relationship between crop yields and migration without
explicitly controlling for all other confounding factors. Using state-level
data from Mexico, we find a significant effect of climate-driven changes in
crop yields on the rate ofemigration to the United States. The estimated
semielasticity of emigration with respect to crop yields is approximately −0.2,
i.e., a 10% reduction in crop yields would lead an additional2%of the population
toemigrate.Wethen use the estimated semielasticity to explore the potential
magnitude of future emigration. Depending on the warming scenarios used and
adaptation levels assumed, with other factors held constant, by approximately
the year 2080, climate change is estimated to induce 1.4 to 6.7 million adult
Mexicans (or 2% to 10% of the current population aged 15–65 y) to emigrate as a
result of declines in agricultural productivity alone. Although the results
cannot be mechanically extrapolated to other areas and time periods, our
findings are significant from a global perspective given that many regions,
especially developing countries, are expected to experience significant declines
in agricultural yields as a result of projected warming.

Economic Evaluation of Climate Change Adaptation Projects

The World Bank has produced an overview report on the topic of evaluation of adaptation projects - an issue that is likely to become increasingly important, yet methods and approaches for evaluation are currently quite limited. This report focuses on understanding the economic basis of evaluation with an emphasis on cost/benefit analysis. However, the report also discusses the role of multi-criteria analysis and real options, both of which provide pathways for expanding the evaluation of adaptation to consider a broader set of values.

From the World Bank:

"Approaches for the Agricultural Sector and Beyond identifies challenges and solutions for carrying out project-level economic analysis of adaptation to climate change, both stand-alone and integrated into broader development projects. The focus is on the agricultural sector, where the impacts of climate change have the potential to disrupt the livelihoods of rural populations and where adaptation must be given urgent consideration."

Monday, July 19, 2010

Den-gue in the US-A

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, multiple cases of locally-acquired dengue emerged in Florida in 2009-2010. The cause of the sudden reappearance of dengue is, of course, unknown. Chances are it's the result of increased international travel, particularly between Florida and other areas of the Carribean and Central and South America were dengue is endemic. Nevertheless, I'm sure someone somewhere is blaming climate change.

IPCC AR5 Authors

The IPCC has released the names of those who will endure the slings and arrows of journalists, skeptics and governments over the next several years as they endeavor to produce the Fifth Assessment Report. The blog pages have been filled with praise and damnation for the IPCC process and/or the quality of the selected authors. As a lead author of WGII Chapter 16, I am, therefore, either contributing to the injection of fresh new insights into the IPCC process or, depending on one's perspective, enabling the IPCC's continued stealth issue advocacy (as Roger Pielke Jr. might phrase it) through the politicization of science. I prefer the former framing over the latter, but in any case, it will be a learning experience.

Mapping Migration

The Center for International Earth Science Information Network at Columbia University and others released a report last month on climate change and migration. While title suggests the report maps climate-related migration, which would be a fairly impressive feat indeed, the maps within largely reflect different determinants of biophysical and socioeconomic vulnerability in different global regions. As such, it seems rather strange that the report suggests (in the Executive Summary) it contains "empirical evidence" of environmental change and migration, particularly given this statement is contradicted in the report's introduction. Nevertheless, it is a nice overview of the issue, which at least attempts to dig deeper into the geography of potential drivers of environmental migrants than most prior treatments of the subject.

From the Executive Summary:

"This report explores how environmental shocks and stresses, especially those
related to climate change, can push people to leave their homes in search of
'greener pastures' … or just to survive. In order to make informed decisions,
policymakers and development actors need a better understanding of the linkages
between environmental change, displacement and migration. This report,
therefore, offers:
  • empirical evidence from a first-time, multi-continent survey of environmental change and migration;
  • original maps illustrating how, and where, the impacts of climate change may prompt significant displacement and migration;
  • policy recommendations that reflect the collective thinking of key multi-lateral and research institutions, as well as nongovernmental organizations working directly with many of the world’s most vulnerable populations."

Temperatures Back at Record-Breaking Levels

After all the pomp and circumstance at the end of the last decade regarding the mythological "cooling" of the planet, global temperatures have stage a bit of a comeback as of late. June, 2010 proved to be the warmest June on record, following on the heels of record average monthly temperatures for March, April and May. Half-way through the year, the Earth seems poised for a new Arctic sea ice minimum and 2010 could prove to claim the #1 spot for global temperature anomalies. But December is a long way away. . .

Stephen Schneider

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Greenhouse 2009

CSIRO Publishing has released a book containing papers from the Greenhouse 2009 conference that was held last year in Perth, Australia. A complete list of the book's contents are available here. I managed to get some of my own work into the book including Chapter 17: Managing Climate Risk in Human Settlements (with Robert Kay) and Chapter 19: A Critical Look at the State of Adaptation Planning (with Richard Westaway).

The book is available from multiple outlets including CSIRO Publishing and Amazon.

2010 International Climate Change Adaption Conference

I've arrived in the Gold Coast, Australia for the 2010 International Climate Change Adaption Conference, which may prove to be one of the largest gatherings of the impacts, adaptation and vulnerability research community to date. Details on all conference events and presentations can be found in the conference handbook.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Fast Start Finance

For those interested in fast start finance efforts under the Copenhagen Accord, ClimateWorks has prepared a publication under Project Catalyst identifying a number of prioritisation criteria for the allocation of the limited funds pledged to date as well as principles for their effective delivery.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Online Development Community

The Center for Sustainable Development has launched an "Online Development Community" featuring a series of networks for knowledge sharing. In addition to one focusing on climate adaptation (which so far appears to be the most popular), networks are also available for a range of other development topics, from water to governance.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Blue Revolution

The Copenhagen Climate Council and Monday Morning have published a report on adaptation and water. The report highlights the lack of attention to the practical aspects of climate adaptation at the local level within international climate negotiations. The authors (Torkil Jønch Clausen and Carsten Bjerg) argue that it is time to move beyond discussing how much adaptation is needed and who will pay for it and begin focusing on the implementation of solutions and overcoming adaptation challenges. Furthermore, water, they argue, is the overarching issue for adaptation, particularly in the developing world.

Adaptation Fund Board Meeting

The tenth meeting of the Adaptation Fund Board will take place in Bonn, Germany on June 15 and 16, 2010. Documents for the meetings, including the meeting agenda are now available from the AFB website.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Climate Adaptation in the Big Apple

The New York City Panel on Climate Change has completed its work on climate change adaptation in the iconic city. The panel was convened in 2008 by Mayor Michael Bloomberg as part of the PlanNYC sustainability strategy. The resulting report presents climate change projections for NYC, potential impacts to the metropolis, and recommended adaptation responses and information needs to address knowledge gaps. While the report identifies a large number of potential options to facilitate adaptation in the Big Apple, as always, one must wait to see how many of these options are actually implemented. Fortunately, and to its credit, the panel discusses both the need for ongoing monitoring of climate change, impacts and adaptation as well as possible indicators that might be used to undertake such monitoring.

Local Action on Climate Change

For those interested in climate adaptation activities at the local scale, two recent events may be of interest:

1. Dunkerque 2010 Call on Climate Action

Local and regional governments gathering under the framework of the European Sustainable Cities and Towns Conference collectively agreed to a series of requests relevant to climate adaptation with a particular emphasis on highlighting the valuable role of local governments in adaptation.

2. Bonn Declaration

Mayors who gathered at the recent 1st Congress on Cities and Adaptation: Resilient Cities 2010 unanimously adopted the Bonn Declaration, which states that global partnerships between national and local governments are critical for success in adapting to climate change.

International Action on Adaptation and Climate Change

As part of all the action in Bonn for the current climate change talks, the WWF and Germanwatch have prepared a briefing paper on international climate change adaptation policy.


Adaptation to the (uncertain) adverse impacts of climate change increasingly becomes a necessity across the globe. This is not for its own sake, but to ensure that sustainable development will be possible, that investments into poverty reduction, food and water security and health will not be undone and that progress achieved towards the Millennium Development Goals will not be reversed.

This paper assesses the state of the adaptation negotiations under the UNFCCC after the historic climate summit of Copenhagen. It compares the current draft negotiating text (June 2010) and compares it to key essentials that an ambitious adaptation action framework needs to contain to assist developing countries live up to the challenge of adaptation. It further provides an assessment of the key unresolved negotiation issues and scenarios of possible outcomes at the next climate summit in Cancún.

The current negotiating text still bears the opportunity to create a strong, implementation-focused adaptation action framework, but requires clarification and strengthening in issues which are key to particularly vulnerable countries. This includes a strong financial mechanism which provides predictable and adequate support, and the establishment of an international mechanism to address loss and damage from climate change impacts with the immediate operationalisation of an insurance mechanism to deal with high-level extreme weather events, amongst others.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Resilient Adaptation to Climate Change in African Agriculture

For those seeking some light reading this Memorial Day weekend, the German Development Institute has produced a report on resilience-based approaches to adaptation in African agriculture. The report is 336 pages, but here's a quick overview from the GDI's website:

Africa’s agriculture faces varying climate change impacts which mainly worsen production conditions and adversely affect its economies. Adaptations thus need to build the resilience of farming systems. Using “resilient adaptation” as a concept, this study analyses how adaptations at farm and policy/institutional-levels contribute to the resilience of Sub-Saharan African agriculture. The developed tool, “the Resilience Check”, provides socio-economic data which complements existing adaptation tools. The underlying development gaps such as insecure property rights, poverty, low self-organisation, inadequate climate data and infrastructure limit resilient adaptations. If farmers could implement recommended practices, existing measures and improved crops can address most impacts expected in the medium-term. However, resource use efficiency remains critical for all farm management types. Development-oriented adaptation measures are needed to provide the robust foundations for building resilience. Reaching the very poor remains a challenge and the externally driven nature of many interventions raises concern about their sustainability. The study recommends practical measures such as decentralising various services and integrating the action plans of the multilateral environmental agreements into one national action plan.

Africa Progress Report 2010

This past week saw the release of the Africa Progress Panel's (APP) 2010 Progress Report. Chaired by Kofi Annan, the APP seeks to assess opportunities and threats to development in Africa, with particular emphases places on commitments made by other nations and the challenges to development posed by global climate change. The 2010 progress report attempts to summarize progress made across the continent over the past five years toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the contributions of developed nations toward these MDGs, and the additional resources that will be needed for them to be achieved.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The WRMF on Index Insurance

The Weather Risk Management Facility recently produced an overview of the issue of weather index insurance. Index insurance, as defined in the report, "is a financial product linked to an index highly correlated to local yields." In contrast to traditional crop insurance, index insurance covers the risk of adverse environmental conditions (e.g., rainfall deficit) as opposed to suboptimal yields or production. As such, there's no threat of moral hazard as those who realize poor yields under favourable conditions can't benefit from an insurance payout. Furthermore, as index insurance is based upon a verifiable indicator, it is eligible for reinsurance, which further spreads the risk.

The report highlights the potential benefits of index insurance for agricultural risk management at range of scales (e.g., individual farmers to government agencies or relief organizations), but also notes some of the challenges. These include the complexity of establishing an index insurance market, which is dependent upon access to reliable environmental monitoring data and the ability to cultivate and maintain consistent market demand. Nevertheless, the report showcases a number of case studies where index insurance markets have been developed, often with success.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

America's Climate Choices

The U.S. National Research Council has released the first three reports from America's Climate Choices:

1) Advancing the Science of Climate Change

2) Limiting the Magnitude of Climate Change

3) Adapting to the Effects of Climate Change

Two additional reports, one on Informing Effective Decisions and Actions Related to Climate Change and the penultimate America's Climate Choices, will be released in the months ahead. Briefs on the various reports are available via the National Academies website, although at the moment getting a decent look at the full report requires a bit of personal financial investment (not sure if that really sends a good message about transparency and promoting public awareness, but what do I know).
The brief on Adapting to the Effects of Climate Change offers an overview of the potential role of adaptation in the U.S., most of which covers similar territory as prior synthesis and assessment products from the U.S. Climate Change Science Program/Global Change Research Program (although none of those products focuses specifically on adaptation). However, the brief does highlight the need for a national adaptation strategy. Given similar rhetoric is emerging from the White House's Climate Change Adaptation Task Force (see here), I think it's fair to say that such a national strategy is in the cards in the next couple of years. It'll be interesting to see what other novel insights and recommendations the report offers.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Adaptation in Kerry-Lieberman

U.S. Senators Kerry and Lieberman have finally unveiled their long-awaited comprehensive legislation to address climate change. The American Power Act (APA) treads over familiar territory as its predecessors: ambitious mid-century targets, market-based mechanisms, investments in renewable energy and carbon sequestration technology, enhanced domestic oil and gas production, and a host of tax credits to make it all go down a little easier. Naturally, the rhetoric from the Senators is full of references to 'green jobs' and 'national security.' Nevertheless, there is no shortage of pundits betting that this piece of legislation is dead on arrival.

On the adaptation front, the legislation focuses on natural resources. Title VI (Community Protection from Global Warming Impacts) includes a range of strategies to facilitate adaptation in natural resource sectors including mandatory federal agency and state-based adaptation plans, reinvestment of emissions allowance revenue in adaptation projects, science and monitoring, and the conservation of wildlife migration corridors. When it comes to the many other sectors that might be affected by climate change, the legislation simply indicates that the EPA Administrator may establish other adaptation programs for thing such as water resources management, fire protection, and coastal watersheds (all of which also have direct implications for conservation of natural resources and biodiversity, but maybe those links have been overlooked). Interestingly, nothing is said about adaptation of the energy sector - a bit strange given this is, after all, an energy bill. Title V (International Climate Change Programs) also includes an international climate change adaptation and global security program to help facilitate adaptation in vulnerable developing nations.

As usual, the Pew Center has links to the legislation.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Progress Report of the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force

The U.S. Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force released it's progress report last month. So far, the Task Force has concluded that there is significant governmental and non-governmental activity with respect to adaptation. However, much of this activity represents the early stages of planning and problem orientation. A number of gaps have already been identified, which the Task Force claims justify the development of a national adaptation strategy:

• Coherent research programs to identify and describe regional impacts associated with near-term, long-term, and abrupt global climate change
• Relevant climate change and impact information that is accessible and usable by decision-makers and practitioners
• A unified strategic vision and approach
• Understanding of the challenges at all levels of government
• Comprehensive and localized risk and vulnerability assessments
• Organized and coordinated efforts across local, State and Federal agencies
• Strong links between, and support and participation of, Tribal, regional, State, and local partners
• A strategy to link resources, both financial and intellectual, to critical needs
• A robust approach to evaluating and applying lessons learned

The Task Force will deliver a final report by October of this year to the Office of the President,which will "detail the development of domestic and international dimensions of a U.S. strategy for adaptation to climate change, agency actions in support of that strategy development process, and recommendations for any further measures to advance towards a national strategy. The Task Force will not, however, deliver a complete U.S. adaptation strategy to the President."

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Adapting Institutions to Climate Change

The UK's Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution has released a report investigating the UK's institutional preparedness for climate change adaptation. The Commission collected evidence from over 80 organisations regarding institutional adaptive capacity and barriers to adaptation. Not surprisingly, the Commission found that the adaptation road is not one that is easily traveled. Many institutions in the UK are ill-equipped to pursue adaptation, yet the context-specific nature of adaptation and adaptive capacity makes it difficult to deliver clear recommendations that are universally relevant. As such, the Commission instead highlighted a number of key considerations in adaptation planning:

1. The policy framework
2. Specific institutional arrangements
3. Resources to build capacity
4. Equity
5. Public engagement

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Climate Change Indicators in the United States

The U.S. EPA has developed a suite of climate change indicators that can be used to monitor both the causes of climate change (e.g., greenhouse gas emissions) as well as the consequences (e.g., tropical cyclone intensities, heat waves, etc.). None of the indicators appear to be particularly novel, but as the report indicates, they were selected based upon "usefulness, objectivity, data quality, transparency, ability to show a meaningful trend, and relevance to climate change".

As a regulatory agency, such indicators help form the evidence base for justifying regulatory action and for demonstrating the effectiveness of those actions. Previously, the EPA lacked firmly established indicators specifically for climate change. As a consequence, if one examines the 2008 Report on the Environment: Highlights of National Trends, one finds that climate change gets little treatment, and there are very few indicators that provide any measure of climate trends. With 24 climate change indicators now available, the EPA is presumably better equipped to monitor and, more importantly, report on U.S. climate change trends.

Pew Center on Federal Adaptation Policy

I've been out of the climate change adaptation game for a few weeks, but I'm slowing trying to get myself caught up with what I've missed. First up, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change has released another report addressing the issue of adaptation. Adapting to Climate Change: A Call for Federal Leadership takes a look at what the U.S. federal government can and perhaps should be doing to drive the issue of climate adaptation from the top down. In so doing, it highlights actions that have been taken in other nations (e.g., Australia, UK) as well as at the state level (e.g., California, Florida, Maryland) as potential models for the design of U.S. federal policy. After 12 years of offering recommendations regarding the design of U.S. policy on greenhouse gas mitigation, it's nice to see the Pew Center finally giving adaptation policy the same treatment.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Breaking News from Adaptation Online

Climate Change & NEPA

The U.S. White House has taken steps toward the development of climate change guidance for the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), one of the key environmental policy instruments for minimising adverse environmental consequences from federally-funded projects. The Council on Environmental Quality has published a draft guidance document for comment, the overall intention of which can be summarised as follows:

"With regards to the effects of climate change on the design of a proposed action and alternatives, Federal agencies must ensure the scientific and professional integrity of their assessment of the ways in which climate change is affecting or could affect environmental effects of the proposed action. Under this proposed guidance, agencies should use the scoping process to set reasonable spatial and temporal boundaries for this assessment and focus on aspects of climate change that may lead to changes in the impacts, sustainability, vulnerability and design of the proposed action and alternative courses of action. At the same time, agencies should recognize the scientific limits of their ability to accurately predict climate change effects, especially of a short-term nature, and not devote effort to analyzing wholly speculative effects. Agencies can use the NEPA process to reduce vulnerability to climate change impacts, adapt to changes in our environment, and mitigate the impacts of Federal agency actions that are exacerbated by climate change."

While a White House source is quoted as saying the guidance is "straightforward, common sense," the release no doubt prompted many rumblings throughout Washington, if not the nation. While the utility of mainstreaming consideration for climate change into agency actions appears initially to be self-evident, the challenge of making such consideration routine is significant. As of yet, there are no standard methods for the assessment of climate change impacts, vulnerability or risk and, similarly, the evaluation of adaptation options and their costs remains a young and naive practice. Meanwhile, the challenges associated with carbon accounting are perhaps even more profound. Should such guidance go forward to become part of the NEPA process, we are sure to see the rapid expansion of practitioners in climate assessment and carbon management. At some point, however, someone should give thought as to how those practitioners will be trained and what methods and standards they will employ.

UPDATE (5/4/2010): Congressional Republicans (led by James Inhofe) are apparently not particularly pleased with the proposed incorporation of climate change into NEPA.

Adapting Australia's Agriculture

Two recent releases have highlighted the role of adaptation in Australian agriculture. The first is a new book from CSIRO Publishing entitled, Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change, provides a comprehensive look at climate change, its implications for Australian agriculture and opportunities for adaptation. It covers multiple agriculture sectors, from cropping to forestry to fisheries, as well as the adaptive capacity of land managers (contents). Further, the linkages between adaptation and mitigation are addressed with a look at greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. The book is available now through CSIRO Publishing.

Meanwhile, a new parliamentary report has been tabled by the House of Representatives' Standing Committee on Primary Industries and Resources, entitled Farming the Future. The Committee was charged with reporting on the potential impacts of climate change to Australian agriculture, the role of government in facilitating adaptation, and the potential contributions of rural research and development to assist in the adaptation process. Ultimately, the report makes a number of recommendations to be taken up by Federal, State and Territory governments. While those recommendations to some extent appear to represent a wish list for Australian farmers, a common theme is the importance of empowering local, community-based solutions as opposed to top-down, 'one-size-fits-all' policies.

Climate Patriots

The United States' Pew Project on National Security, Energy and Climate is currently promoting its Climate Patriots series, which features interviews with notable military leaders who highlight the security benefits of a robust response to climate change.

In Defense of Science

The international press has been quick to illustrate the myriad ways in which climate change science has taken a beating in recent months, thanks to 'Climategate', the IPCC's errors and the so-called resurgence of climate scepticism. Although is it arguable whether such bad PR merits a rethink regarding the state of climate science, scientific institutions are clearly on the backfoot, and much effort is being devoted to reiterating where 'the science' stands. This has manifested with a UN call for an independent review of the IPCC process, not to mention the scientific review of research at the University of East Anglia (which is producing its own controversies) and the scrutiny of Penn State's Michael Mann. Meanwhile, various surveys are indicating that society-at-large may be growing weary of climate warnings (see, for example, here or here).

In Australia, the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology have frequently been called upon to provide updates to the Federal Government regarding the state of climate change science, and recently they did so once again. The latest "snapshot" provides an up-to-date overview of trends in climate and greenhouse gases in Australia. While the brief report received significant media coverage (much of it phrased as "science strikes back"), it really doesn't offer anything new to the increasingly partisan debate in Australia (although the two scientific institutions were quickly accused of playing politics). In fact, while the report presents observed trends, it doesn't provide any evidence regarding the attribution of those trends, other than to reiterate IPCC statements regarding human attribution of observed global changes. Nor does it give the public any indication of why such trends should be of concern. Presenting the science of climate change without directly addressing the "so what" questions that invariably arise is a recipe for apathy. And the more scientists appear defensive, the more they feed the perception that they may in fact have gotten something wrong.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Climate Adaptation Coordinator

Climate Change Adaptation Position at the Wildlife Conservation Society

Job title: Climate Adaptation Coordinator
Reports to: Challenges Director (to be appointed), Chief Conservation Officer (in the meantime)

Description: The Climate Adaptation Coordinator is a full time position based at the Bronx Zoo, the New York headquarters of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). WCS, an international conservation organization, seeks candidates interested in applying their analytical and strategic skills to advancing the cause of conservation of wildlife and wild places.

For more details, see

U.S. Climate Service

After years of workshops, press releases, reports and behind-the-scenes lobbying, the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration has announced it is moving ahead with the creation of the U.S. Climate Service. The new agency will be charged with delivering climate information and analyses, much like the weather service has operationalised weather forecasting. NOAA has launched an Internet portal and has proposed a range of services including climate data analyses, detection and attribution studies, vulnerability and risk assessments, and stakeholder outreach and engagement.

The service is being touted as a major step forward in supporting climate adaptation efforts in the United States. However, much of this is based upon the presumption that access to climate data and information regarding impacts is a current barrier to adaptation. To some extent this assumption is certainly true, although much of the challenges of adaptation facing the United States are probably more closely tied to non-climate factors such as demographic change, poor governance, and societal values. To what extent the Climate Service will be able to engage or even recognise these barriers and identify pathways through which science can ameliorate them remains to be seen. Nevertheless, it is clear that a major milestone has been achieved when climate is recognised as such a significant force as to warrant its own agency.

London Draft Adaptation Strategy

Mayor Boris Johnson has released the Draft Climate Change Adaptation Strategy for London for public comment. Or rather, perhaps one should state that he has once again released the Draft Climate Change Adaptation Strategy for London. Johnson generated headlines around the world back in August of 2008 with his draft strategy, which was due to be finalised in 2009. Here we are in February of 2010, and we're still looking at draft versions of the document - this one appears to be intended to solicit public comment as part of an engagement effort with the broader London public.

The current version of the strategy examines three hazards (flooding, drought and overheating)and their implications on four different asset categories (health, environment, economy and infrastructure). The report subsequently identifies the range of risks arising from climate change, the suite of relevant adaptation options and provides a 'roadmap to resilience' which identifies the responsible agent and timeline for implementing each option.
The mayor is apparently eager for ideas from the public on how to adapt. We'll see what happens next. . .

Winter Weather and Climate Change

The IPCC has taken a few hits in recent weeks, in part due to the fallout arising from the publication of an erroneous estimate of loss of Himalayan glaciers by 2035 within the Working Group II report of the Fourth Assessment Report. The estimate has been attributed to a WWF report which left much to be desired regarding scientific quality and control, and, as a consequence, many are now raising questions regarding the potential pitfalls of including 'grey' literature in IPCC scientific assessments.

Environmental NGOs play an important role as boundary organisations that help to communicate the science of climate change to a the public. However, such communication is inherently biased by organisational agendas, making it difficult to distinguish between situations where science is being used to educated the public from those where it is being used to tell a compelling story (and sometimes the two aren't mutually exclusive).
A case-in-point is a recent report from the National Wildlife Federation, Odd-ball Winter Weather: Global Warming’s Wake-Up Call for the Northern United States. Apparently, the harshness of this year's northern hemisphere winter is just one more example of how climate change is altering our environment with disastrous outcomes. While the report is littered with citations and there may be plausible mechanisms by which a warming global climate can enhance winter extremes, the overall argument is that regardless of what season one considers, any weather extreme is evidence of anthropogenic climate change. Furthermore, climate change is likely to generate counter-intuitive consequences, with the report arguing that ski resorts will experience shorter seasons with less snowfall, yet other areas of the United States will experience higher snowfall totals. Such claims expose both boundary organisations and the scientists whose research they quote to criticisms of bias and alarmism, particularly when potential positives of warmer winters (such as longer growing seasons or reduced winter mortality) are conveniently neglected.

Given how much attention is focused on the challenge of communicating the complexity of climate change, one wonders whether organisations such as the NWF are making the communication effort more difficult than it needs to be. How can the public have confidence in climate science when they are told that the consequence of warmer winters will be less snow except in those regions where snowfall increases? Even if there is a scientific basis for such conclusions, one cannot expect the public (or the media) to comprehend the nuances and such counter-intuitive messages make easy work for climate sceptics.

Punta Gorda Adaptation Plan

The City of Punta Gorda, Florida has prepared a climate change adaptation plan in partnership with a range of federal, state and local organisations which combines impact and vulnerability assessment with adaptation planning and prioritisation through public participation.

The report identifies eight key vulnerabilities arising from climate change:
  1. Fish and Wildlife Habitat Degradation;
  2. Inadequate Water Supply;
  3. Flooding;
  4. Unchecked or Unmanaged Growth;
  5. Water Quality Degradation;
  6. Education and Economy and Lack of Funds;
  7. Fire; and
  8. Availability of insurance

Adaptation options were identified and prioritised through a public workshop resulting
104 acceptable and 34 unacceptable recommended adaptations across the different vulnerabilities. From this exercise, the report identifies a short list of the most acceptable adaptations that included the following:

  1. Seagrass protection and restoration;
  2. Xeriscaping and native plant landscaping;
  3. Explicitly indicating in the comprehensive plan which areas will retain natural shorelines;
  4. Constraining locations for certain high risk infrastructure;
  5. Restrict fertilizer use; and
  6. Promote green building alternatives through education, taxing incentives, green lending.
  7. Drought preparedness planning.

Nevertheless, one can't help but wonder what the implications are of excluding certain adaptation options due to a lack of public support, as it could very well be that a range of adaptation actions are needed to maintain assets valued by society even if society doesn't recognise the importance of those actions. In fact, a closer inspection of the report reveals a range of adaptation actions that are rejected by Punta Gorda which are mainstream responses in other parts of the world.

Climate Change and the SEC

At the end of last month, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission voted to require companies to disclose climate risks to investors. Such risks may include the following:

  • Impact of Legislation and Regulation: When assessing potential disclosure obligations, a company should consider whether the impact of certain existing laws and regulations regarding climate change is material. In certain circumstances, a company should also evaluate the potential impact of pending legislation and regulation related to this topic.
  • Impact of International Accords: A company should consider, and disclose when material, the risks or effects on its business of international accords and treaties relating to climate change.
  • Indirect Consequences of Regulation or Business Trends: Legal, technological, political and scientific developments regarding climate change may create new opportunities or risks for companies. For instance, a company may face decreased demand for goods that produce significant greenhouse gas emissions or increased demand for goods that result in lower emissions than competing products. As such, a company should consider, for disclosure purposes, the actual or potential indirect consequences it may face due to climate change related regulatory or business trends.
  • Physical Impacts of Climate Change: Companies should also evaluate for disclosure purposes the actual and potential material impacts of environmental matters on their business.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

WHO Report on Climate Science, Policy and People

The World Health Organization (WHO) has released a report which provides an update on the science of climate change and human health. Protecting Health from Climate Change: Connecting Science, Policy and People summarises climate change science as well as the various pathways by which climate change can affect human health: air quality, water availability and quality, disease, and exposure to extreme climatic events. The report also emphasises the interactions among poverty, social vulnerability, and public health systems in determining health outcomes. The protection of human health and well-being is argued to be the 'bottom line' in climate change mitigation, and adaptation efforts and policy efforts should be focused on poverty reduction, the maintenance of robust health systems, and climate friendly adaptation strategies for the health sector that don't exacerbate climate change.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

New Adaptation Reports from Canada

Two recent reports on adaptation have emerged from Canada:

A) The Expert Panel on Climate Change Adaptation's report Adapting to Climate Change in Ontario: Towards the Design and Implementation of a Strategy and Action Plan.

Rather than leaping ahead with the development of specific adaptation options for the province, the report "describes the strategic goals and specific recommendations from the Panel to inform both the development of a strategy and an action plan". To this end, the report identifies five strategic goals:

  1. Enhance government leadership
  2. integrate adaptation
  3. Support communities
  4. Develop and disseminate knowledge and tools to manage risk
  5. Collaborate with other governments

The report also recommends the establishment of a Climate Change Adaptation Directorate in the Ministry of the Environment and continued investments in climate science and modelling as well as specific adaptation options to reduce vulnerability to climate change.

B) National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy's report True North: Adapting Infrastructure to Climate Change in Northern Canada. The report focuses on the challenge of climate change and adaptation for the nation's infrastructure, particularly in the higher latitudes, where climate change is proceeding at a more rapid rate than elsewhere.

The report makes a number of recommendations:

  • The Canadian Government should adjust funding vehicles for infrastructure development and rehabilitation so that they become incentives to integrate the risk of damage from climate change in infrastructure decisions.
  • National codes and standards for engineering and construction should be reviewed
    and modified to accommodate risks of climate change.
  • Governments and the insurance industry need to work together so that Canadians continue to have access to affordable insurance in a changing climate and so that insurance products encourage modifications to infrastructure in light of climate risks.
  • Governments at all levels should collaborate with northern experts to develop
    the best possible design and engineering guidelines for the North.
  • The Government of Canada should invest in updating and providing more comprehensive climate data, climate change projections, and information for infrastructure design.
  • The Government of Canada needs to share the expertise and experience of Canada’s North in addressing climate risks to infrastructure with other polar nations as part of Canada’s Northern Strategy.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

UNFCCC Review of Adaptation Costs and Benefits

For those interested in information on the costs and benefits of adaptation, the UNFCCC has prepared a literature review. Potential Costs and Benefits of Adaptation Options:
A Review of Existing Literature
reviews methodological approaches for cost and benefit analysis of adaptation as well as global, national and sub-national studies of costs and benefits. However, the study reveals much of the information on adaptation costs and benefits targets the global or national level, largely to either a) justify expenditures on greenhouse gas mitigation, or b) identify the adaptation needs of the developing world. Yet the implementation of adaptation is likely to proceed at the local level on a project-by-project basis. Hence, and as recommended in the UNFCCC report, significant effort should be invested in the future in better characterising adaptation costs and benefits at the local scale.