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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."