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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Rio+20 in Summary

The general consensus on Rio+20 appears to be it was much ado about nothing. The outcome document largely reaffirms commitments to the actions which were agree back in 1992, with little evidence of any significant new commitments to sustainable or the international policy infrastructure for achieving sustainability. Specific references to climate adaptation occur in three locations in the outcome document, which largely repeat the findings of the IPCC's SREX report and emphasize the urgency of climate adaptation and the need for widespread cooperation:
  • 188. We stress the importance of stronger interlinkages among disaster risk reduction, recovery and long-term development planning, and call for more coordinated and comprehensive strategies that integrate disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation considerations into public and private investment,decision-making and the planning of humanitarian and development actions, in order to reduce risk, increase resilience and provide a smoother transition between relief, recovery and development. In this regard, we recognize the need to integrate  gender perspective into the design and implementation of all phases of disaster risk management.
  • 190. We reaffirm that climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time,and we express profound alarm that emissions of greenhouse gases continue to rise globally. We are deeply concerned that all countries, particularly developing countries, are vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change, and are already experiencing increased impacts, including persistent drought and extreme weather events, sea-level rise, coastal erosion and ocean acidification, further threatening food security and efforts to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development. In this regard we emphasize that adaptation to climate change represents an immediate and urgent global priority.
  • 191. We underscore that the global nature of climate change calls for the widest possible cooperation by all countries and their participation in an effective and appropriate international response, with a view to accelerating the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions. We recall that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change provides that parties should protect the climate system for the benefit of present and future generations of humankind on the basis of equity and in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities. We note with grave concern the significant gap between the aggregate effect of mitigation pledges by parties in terms of global annual emissions of greenhouse gases by 2020 and aggregate emission pathways consistent with having a likely chance of holding the increase in global average temperature below 2° C, or 1.5° C above pre-industrial levels. We recognize the importance of mobilizing funding from a variety of sources, public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including innovative sources of finance, to support nationally appropriate mitigation actions, adaptation measures, technology development and transfer and capacity-building in developing countries. In this regard, we welcome the launching of the Green Climate Fund and call for its prompt operationalization so as to have an early and adequate replenishment process.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Dealing with Loss and Damage

The Department for International Development (DFID) and European Commission sponsored production of a briefing paper prepared by ActionAid, CARE, Germanwatch, and WWF on the concepts of loss and damage as focal points for future climate change negotiations. The premise of the brief is that regardless of mitigation and adaptation efforts, irreversible losses are likely to arise, particularly in least developed nations. Hence, international negations should include measures for compensating those that experience loss and damage from climate change. However, given the international community seems to face enough challenges with advancing adaptation and mitigation efforts, expecting that same community to simultaneously look beyond risk management at the management of losses would seem to be wishful thinking.

The State of The World's Refugees 2006

The latest edition of the State of the World's Refugees has been released by the UN and summarizes global dynamics from 2000 to 2006. The report implicates climate change as one of many factors contributing to the global burden of refugees - a questionable assertion, but one that is likely popular in some circles. However, in framing the challenges that lie ahead, the report focuses on eight factors:

  • First, states must be persuaded to reconsider their restrictive asylum policies.
  • Second, it must be ensured that the core principles of international refugee law, particularly that of non-refoulement, are not eroded.
  • Third, the security of refugees, particularly women and children, and humanitarian workers, must be enhanced.
  • Fourth, problems relating to protracted situations and the ‘warehousing’ of refugees must be resolved.
  • Fifth, host states must be prevented from undermining the principle of voluntary repatriation in the absence of responsibility-sharing by the international community.
  • Sixth, the problem of smuggling and trafficking of asylum seekers must be addressed.
  • Seventh, the root causes of refugee flows must be given more attention than they receive at present.
  • Eighth, UNHCR must respond to numerous supervisory, accountability and partnership challenges, besides clearly defining its role vis-à-vis internally displaced people.

The Weather Outside is Frightful

A study recently published in Nature Climate Change provides the first large-scale assessment of the potential impacts of climate change on the security of the energy supply. The dependence of thermoelectric power generation on the availability and temperature of cooling water represents a potential source of vulnerability for electricity generators. Model results suggest a decline in average generation on the order of 5 to 20% by mid-century.

North Carolina State Legislature Attempts 'Jedi Mind Trick'

As reported recently in Scientific American, North Carolina has discovered the solution to the challenges of climate change for the state's coastline. To investigate the risks of sea-level rise, the North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission sponsored a study of sea-level rise and the state's vulnerability. That study recommended a sea-level rise benchmark of 1 meter by 2100 be used for coastal planning. The state legislature, however, took exception with that recommendation, and decided that legislators, not scientists, are the best judges of future sea-level rise (picture Obi-Wan waving his hand and saying "this not the sea-level rise estimate you seek"). Hence, they developed legislation that would effectively limit consideration for sea-level rise in planning policy to rates that have been observed historically (roughly 12 inches over a century). So while the proposed legislation is clearly designed to keep the economic wheels on the Carolina coast turning, one wonders how and when such short-sighted decision-making will come back to bite the state.