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Adaptation

It’s Adaptation Time

Neil Adger's picture

It is difficult for many of us to focus on more than one thing at a time. Maybe we are hard-wired that way. But if ever our species needed to evolve such an ability, now is the time. At the same time that we urgently need to decarbonize the global economy, we also need to plan for a very different and much more unstable climate. It’s adaptation time too.

The World Development Report 2010 brings home the urgent need for both decarbonization and adaptation planning. There is a new realism afoot in both the climate change science community and in the development community, brought about by mounting scientific observations of change but also some sobering numbers and projections.

There is, I would say, very little realistic probability of avoiding cumulative emissions that will force the climate system beyond 2°C—unless, of course, there is a significant breakthrough in Copenhagen on mitigation targets, beyond what is presently on the table, and immediate implementation of those targets.

Carbon sequestration by trying to re-create indigenous forests

Julia Bucknall's picture


I saw one of the World Development Report’s recommendations in action yesterday. Kenya’s Green Belt Movement (founded by Professor Wangari Maathai) is working with the Kenya Forest Service, with support from the French Development Agency, a grant from the Government of Japan (PHRD) and carbon credits (both managed by the World Bank), to replant native forests. 

     Mercy Karunditu, Project Officer

The original forest had been cut down and a tough native grass had taken over. Patches of grass had to be cut in order to plant the seedlings of native trees and the grass constantly managed for the first years until the trees were strong enough. The team told us how the carbon credits were planned for 12 years from the start of the project, though it was clear that the trees would still be small at that point. Up front financing for a period of many years is clearly essential. 

Project officer Mercy Karunditu told us of the multiple challenges the team faces in nurturing these seedlings.  First, villagers grazing their animals on the land where the year old seedlings stand at just ankle height.  Second, elephants which destroy the seedlings. Third, fires set by villagers in the native forests to encourage growth of new grass for their animals. And fourth, climate change. 
 
“We used to be sure when the rains would come, now we cannot be sure and when they do come they are very strong and last only for a very short period,” Mercy said. 

 


Getting the operational details right so that teams like this can succeed will be key to making this tool, which brings both mitigation and adaptation benefits, succeed.

Listening to views from around the world

Marianne Fay's picture

Every year, the World Development Report focuses on a different topic of global importance, and, as part of its preparatory activities, consults with various groups around the world.  The 2010 World Development Report on Development and Climate Change is no exception. This report has required unique attention to varying points of view because climate change affects different countries in drastically different ways. Over the past year, as we approached the task of putting together a report on such a significant topic, we sent our team of authors all over the world to consult with representatives from over 40 countries.  We listened to stories about how climate change is affecting them, and sought their views on our report’s evolving messages, which I described in an earlier blog post. We compiled this feedback as it was received, and have posted summaries of these consultations on our website.

Climate dilemmas in Central Asia

Rasmus Heltberg's picture
    Photo © Rasmus Heltberg/World Bank

How should climate change be addressed in Tajikistan, the poorest and—according to a World Bank regional assessment, most climate-vulnerable—country in Eastern Europe and Central Asia?1  On a recent visit to this scenic nation to assess the poverty aspects of climate change, we struggled with this seemingly simple question. Answers remain elusive, given the country’s daunting climate dilemmas. So, while in Dushanbe, I attempted to write about the range of the challenge.

First, consider Tajikistan’s thousands of glaciers, many of which are receding. As they melt, farmers downstream enjoy plentiful water supply and see no need to take action. However, once the glaciers are gone, dry rivers and extreme water scarcity could mean the end of farming livelihoods in some areas.

Every silver lining has a cloud: the impacts of climate change in Europe and Central Asia

Rachel Ilana Block's picture
 Photo © Rachel Block/World Bank

Reading the newspapers last January when Russia suspended the supply of gas to the rest of Europe—with Eastern European countries hardest hit—I could not help but think that the region might be better off with fewer sub-zero days during winter.

On a trip to the Balkans last year, I partook of the colorful summer bounty of peppers and tomatoes enjoyed throughout southern Russia and Southeastern Europe. 

"Dear Diary: August 27th, 2008. Sarajevo.  Best tomato of my life. If this reckless bus driver careens off the mountainside, at least I’ll die satisfied."

What a contrast from the pickles and cabbage my great-great-grandparents subsisted on in Poland and Lithuania! Though I was raised “properly”—with a taste for pickled cauliflower and herring—I could see why the northern reaches of the region might appreciate a longer growing season and more sunny, tomato-ripening days.

Studying (and contributing to) projections of global food supply in the changing climate over the next century, I see precipitous drops in yields projected in already-poor swaths of Africa, and in densely populated and cultivated regions in South and East Asia.  But many have concluded that, globally, there will be enough food to go around—thanks to the expanding role of Europe and Central Asia as the breadbasket of the world—and assuming free and fair international trade in food.
 
A recent report by the World Bank, “Adapting to Climate Change in Europe and Central Asia,” argues that these outcomes can by no means be taken for granted.

Innovative Adaptation

Rosina Bierbaum's picture

co-authored with Arun Agrawal

Everyone agrees that innovation and its diffusion of innovations are key to managing climate change. Meeting the climate challenge in the coming decades will be fundamentally more difficult if we fail to come up with new, more cost-effective technologies.

But global efforts to innovate and share existing innovations fall woefully short of what is needed.

Nowhere is the gap between need and reality more glaring than for innovations related to adaptation. Members of climate change community who care about innovation have had their sights firmly fixed on technological innovations on the mitigation side: to reduce and capture emissions, to geo-engineer climate, to make energy use more efficient, to meet global energy needs through alternative and advanced renewable sources ... the list goes on.

Low-carbon growth: the only sustainable way to overcome world poverty

Nicholas Stern's picture

The two great challenges of the 21st century are the battle against poverty and the management of climate change.  On both we must act strongly now and expect to continue that action over the coming decades.  Our response to climate change and poverty reduction will define our generation.  If we fail on either one of them, we will fail on the other. The current crisis in the financial markets and the economic downturn is new and immediate, although some years in the making. All three challenges require urgent and decisive action, and all three can be overcome together through determined and concerted efforts across the world. But whilst recognising that we must respond, and respond strongly, to all three challenges, we should also recognise the opportunities: a well-constructed response to one can provide great direct advantages and opportunities for the other.

Blogging for pro-poor climate adaptation: II. Wanted: new ideas for combating vulnerability to Climate Change

Rasmus Heltberg's picture

[Originally posted at the Development Marketplace Blog]

In my first blog entry, I mentioned that adaptation to climate change spans a vast range of possible actions and that it can seem a rather abstract concept. Adaptation can range from sea walls to drought-resistant crops to social protection for climate shocks. This big range of possible actions makes it hard to nail down: what does any given country, region, or village really need to do to start adapting? Any two people talking about climate adaptation in poor countries probably carry different mental images of the kind of actions they think will be needed. 

To pretend that we have all the answers—as some of the numerous reports being written on the topic do—is foolish. We are in the pioneer days of gearing up for climate change and no-one knows what actions will ultimately prove most effective.

Blogging for pro-poor climate adaptation series: I. Nailing down pro-poor adaptation

Rasmus Heltberg's picture

[Originally posted at the Development Marketplace Blog]

Nailing down pro-poor adaptation
   Photo © Planinternationalty

We hear that climate changes – ongoing and those to come – are hitting the poor the hardest and the soonest. So what can we do about that?

Well, adapting to climate change is such an abstract and wide-reaching concept I find it sometimes hard to nail down. How do you actually adapt, especially if you are poor and struggling to put food on the table and send your children to school? I find myself wondering what are the ideas that can help poor people cope with harsh weather?

Innovative adaptation goes beyond “good development”

Nate Engle's picture

Innovative adaptation goes beyond good development

   Photo © Scott Wallace/World Bank

Adaptation involves both preparations and responses to climate change impacts. But how does it differ from simply carrying out "good development"? In many ways, adaptation is good development, at least up to a certain degree of climate change. Sustainable development, if achieved, makes society more resilient to climate stresses and better able to respond to climate impacts. However, one of the main arguments we will make in the next World Development Report is that climate change will challenge the current development paradigm.

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