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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Impacts and Adaptation in Wisconsin

While the State of Wisconsin might currently be embroiled in a debate over the future of collective bargaining, earlier this year, the state produced a new report on the impacts of climate change and possible adaptation responses. The report, Wisconsin's Changing Climate: Impacts and Adaptation, summarizes what is known about potential impacts to a range of key sectors (water resources, biodiversity, agriculture, coasts, and "people and their environment"). When it comes to adaptation, the report largely discusses broad principles (such as the pursuit of 'no regrets' strategies) and generic categories of adaptive responses. Nevertheless, the report appears to be just the opening salvo in what will be a series of reports by the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Garnaut Revisted

Just a couple of years after the 2008 report, Australia's Ross Garnaut is currently rolling out updates of his review of the economics of climate change. The 2011 update is comprised of a series of papers addressing key topics relevant to climate policy in the land down under. Those papers are being released between February and March, followed by a final report in May. Release dates for the papers are listed below:

1.3 February 2011: Weighing the costs and benefits of climate change action
2.7 February 2011: Progress towards effective global action on climate change
3.11 February 2011: Global emissions trends
4.1 March 2011: Transforming rural land use
5.10 March 2011: The science of climate change
6.17 March 2011: Carbon pricing and reducing Australia's emissions
7.23 March 2011: Low emissions technology and the innovation challenge
8.29 March 2011: Transforming the electricity sector

I anticipate a final report that:
a) provides a relatively optimistic outlook on international mitigation efforts
b) finds an increased urgency for climate policy due to growing evidence of climate impacts
c) concludes that the potential benefits of GHG mitigation policy are even more favourable now than in 2008

We shall see. . .

Adaptation and Risk Management

Roger Jones and I recently published a paper in WIREs Climate Change* that reviews the state-of-play with respect to risk management approaches to climate change.

Adaptation assessment methods are compatible with the international risk management standard ISO:31000. Risk management approaches are increasingly being recommended for adaptation assessments at both national and local levels. Two orientations to assessments can commonly be identified: top‐down and bottom‐up, and prescriptive and diagnostic. Combinations of these orientations favor different types of assessments. The choice of orientation can be related to uncertainties in prediction and taking action, in the type of adaptation and in the degree of system stress. Adopting multiple viewpoints is to be encouraged, especially in complex situations. The bulk of current guidance material is consistent with top‐down and predictive approaches, thus is most suitable for risk scoping and identification. A broad range of material from within and beyond the climate change literature can be used to select methods to be used in assessing and implementing adaptation. The framing of risk, correct formulation of the questions being investigated and assessment methodology are critical aspects of the scoping phase. Only when these issues have been addressed should be issue of specific methods and tools be addressed. The reorientation of adaptation from an assessment focused solely on anthropogenic climate change to broader issues of vulnerability/resilience, sustainable development and disaster risk, especially through a risk management framework, can draw from existing policy and management understanding in communities, professions and agencies, incorporating existing agendas, knowledge, risks, and issues they already face.

*Jones RN, Preston BL (2011) Adaptation and Risk Management. WIREs Climate Change, DOI: 10.1002/wcc.97

World Resources Report - Adaptation

If you haven't already heard, the next iteration of the World Resources Report targets climate change adaptation, particularly in the developing world. As part of the WRR process, a website has been created ( ), which features the various research efforts that are being undertaken. Those efforts include the solicitation of 'expert perspectives', national case studies addressing management challenges in different sectors, as well as a synthesis report. A number of commentaries are already available for comment, and if nothing else, the website's "News" page may prove useful, for those interested in adaptation issues.

Mapping Vulnerability

My colleagues and I had a paper accepted to the journal Sustainability Science* this week that discusses some of the opportunities and risks associated with the growing practice of mapping vulnerability to climate change. In that paper, we highlight some of the limitations of vulnerability indices often used in mapping studies as well as the questionable utility of such metrics for actual decision-making on adaptation.

Coincidentally, just this week, I also came across a recent World Bank study entitled, Mapping Vulnerability to Climate Change, which develops a vulnerability index and applies it to Tajikistan. The World Bank study illustrates quite nicely many of the problems we raised with vulnerability mapping practice, from ambiguous vulnerability indices to unfounded claims regarding the decision-relevance of the analysis to a lack of consideration for future changes in biophysical and/or socioeconomic states.

One would assume that the World Bank is capable of more rigorous work, and if this is the type of information upon which future decisions regarding the prioritization of investments in adaptation are going to be based, should be worried?

*Preston BL, Yuen EJ, Westaway R (2011) Putting Climate Change Vulnerability on the Map: A Review of Approaches, Benefits, and Risks. Sustainability Science, in press.