On April 1, the United Nations Working Group II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a somber report detailing not only the climate-change-related problems that are in store for us, but also, more immediately, the ones that are already manifest. Among the latter are excess flooding, extreme weather events and food shortages.
Also contained in the report, Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, the final draft of Part 2 of a four-part report, were recommendations as to what can be done now to mitigate and avoid future damage. Here are the highlights of what pass for positives in the report.
“Climate-change adaptation is not an exotic agenda that has never been tried. Governments, firms, and communities around the world are building experience with adaptation,” said Chris Field of the Carnegie Institution for Science, one of the co-chairs of the panel that developed the report. “This experience forms a starting point for bolder, more ambitious adaptations that will be important as climate and society continue to change.”
Tribes have taken more of a hit, and thus more of a lead, on climate change than many other groups and nationalities globally.
Below are ways in which the rest of the world can follow suit.
1. Look at Climate Change in Terms of Risk Management
Managing the risks of climate change has crept into the debate with this latest report. Risk, essentially, is “the continuing process to identify, analyze, evaluate, and treat loss exposures and monitor risk control and financial resources to mitigate the adverse effects of loss,” according to a definition on Marquette University’s website. What this means on the ground, in UN parlance, is that the effects that are already happening must be dealt with. So too with the effects that have not yet come to pass. The name of the game now is not just to forestall further damage but also to plan for the inevitable damage that is already set in motion by current conditions and behaviors that don’t look to be changing any time soon.
2. Tackle the Underlying Causes of Vulnerability
In prior reports and studies, the response to the need for adaptation was based more on dealing with hazards themselves, the UN report said.
“But more recently, the focus has been on tackling the underlying causes of vulnerability such as informational, capacity, financial, institutional, and technological needs,” the report stated.
3. Create Safety Nets for the Most Vulnerable
Doing so will both protect the actual vulnerable parties, and buffer the effects for anyone not directly affected, or who are affected by interactions with those people who are directly affected.
“Engineered and technological adaptation options are still the most common adaptive responses, although there is growing experience of the value for ecosystem-based, institutional, and social measures, including the provision of climate-linked safety nets for those who are most vulnerable,” the UN report said. “Adaptation measures are increasing and becoming more integrated within wider policy frameworks. Integration, while it remains a challenge, streamlines the adaptation planning and decision making process and embeds climate sensitive thinking in existing and new institutions and organizations. This can help avoid mismatches with the objectives of development planning, facilitates the blending of multiple funding streams and reduces the possibility of maladaptive actions. The increasing complexity of adaptation practice means that institutional learning is an important component of effective adaptation.”
4. Consider Moving From Incremental Change to Transformative Change
Changing slowly is workable up to a point, the UN report said, but at some juncture it must give way to a paradigm shift.
“While no-regret, low-regret and win-win strategies have attracted most attention in the past and continue to be applied, there is increasing recognition that an adequate adaptive response will mean acting in the face of continuing uncertainty about the extent of climate change and the nature of its impacts, and that in some cases there are limits to the effectiveness of incremental approaches,” the UN report said. “While attention to flexibility and safety margins is becoming more common in selecting adaptation options, many see the need for more transformative changes in our perception and paradigms about the nature of climate change, adaptation and their relationship to other natural and human systems.”
5. Use Local Knowledge, Especially Traditional
This is already being done, and two of the examples given in the UN report involve working with tribes. In California, the Pinoleville Pomo Nation is working on solar power and related issues along with universities, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and governmental departments of housing and urban development, the UN said. In addition, on reservation lands in the western United States, the UN cited work on health, water supplies and environment with the help of universities and affiliated nongovernmental organizations, tribal offices federal agencies.
6. Engage the Private Sector Along With Local Governments and Civic Groups
The UN report points out that the private sector, as a holder of money reins in many cases, can be key players in forming adaptation strategies. Likewise local governments, civil organizations and NGOs can play a part but often lack resources. The trick, the report said, is to get them all to understand they are stakeholders with the same interests—though coming at these interests from varying perspectives—and get them to work together.