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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.