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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.

Advance version of World Development Report 2010 now online!

Rosina Bierbaum's picture

After more than a year of research, consultation, and writing, I’m happy to announce that we have just released a “pre-press” version of our report: World Development Report 2010: Development and Climate Change. While the printed books  won’t be ready until the end of October, the advance files (subject to correction and change) are now available on our website, so please feel free to download them and let us know what you think via comments on this blog!

The report, which is the latest in the World Bank’s long-running series on development, emphasizes that developing countries are the most vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change. In fact, they face 75 to 80 percent of the potential damage from climate change. The latest and best scientific evidence tells us that at global warming of more than 2°C above pre-industrial temperatures—an increase that will be extremely difficult to avoid—more than a billion people could face water scarcity, 15 to 30 percent of species worldwide could be doomed to extinction, and hunger will rise, particularly in tropical countries. So it’s overwhelmingly clear that developing countries need help to cope with these potential impacts, even as they strive to reduce poverty faster and deliver access to energy and water for all.
 

A climate for change in Africa

Calestous Juma's picture

Sub-Saharan African countries are bracing for dramatic impacts of climate change. As Andrew Simms of the UK-based New Economics Foundation has aptly put it, they are “caught between the devil of drought and the deep blue sea of floods.”

Africa’s greenhouse gas emissions have been minimal because of its low levels of industrial output. Yet African countries are likely to suffer disproportionately from global warming. They are therefore right to demand that international climate negotiations be based on principles of historical justice.

But behind this seemingly dismal outlook lies a unique opportunity for Africa to lead the way in adopting low-carbon growth strategies. The region is not too heavily committed to the same damaging industries that its industrial counterparts are having difficulties abandoning. African countries therefore need to complete their demand for historical justice with the design of climate-smart policies.

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.

Drought: The ‘dry’ face of climate variability

Nate Engle's picture

    Photo © iStockphoto.com
Drought is not a new problem. People and ecosystems have been dealing with it for millennia; some successfully, and others not so successfully. Scientists have attributed past migrations to wetter regions—and even the decline of entire civilizations—to extremely dry periods lasting for several years or decades. A 1998 World Bank Report by Benson and Clay shows how the 1991-1992 Sub-Saharan African drought affected entire national economies, costing millions of dollars and thousands of jobs.

While people are largely well adapted to the ‘natural’ climate variability of their region (of which drought is one half of the equation, and abnormally wet periods the other), droughts can pose very serious risks when their severity exceeds expected levels, or when they strike in areas which are not used to coping with them. And this is likely to happen more frequently with climate change.

Geoengineering: A Possible Climate Change Insurance Policy?

Michael MacCracken's picture
 A possible Climate Change Insurance Policy

   Photo © ochus b at Flickr under a
   Creative Commons license.

Even if all emissions of greenhouse gases and aerosol precursors ended today, more warming would occur in coming decades than the 0.8°C that has occurred to date, greatly intensifying climate change and its associated impacts. Already, sea level is rising, sea ice and mountain glaciers are retreating, the ranges of plant and animal species are shifting poleward and upward, and the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are both losing mass. Each round of the assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has found that change is occurring more rapidly than previously projected.

Should South Africa tax carbon emissions?

Shanta Devarajan's picture

Since it is the poorest continent, produces less than 4 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and was not responsible for the build-up of CO2 in the atmosphere, there is a strong case that Africa should not have to constrain its growth by mitigating greenhouse gas emissions in the future.  The one exception may be South Africa, which produces 65 percent of Africa’s (and 1.5 percent of the world’s) emissions and, as a middle-income country, may have the capacity to curb emissions in the future.  In a recent paper, Delfin Go, Sherman Robinson, Karen Thierfelder and I explore the costs to the South African economy of a tax on carbon emissions. 

Risk of intensified storm surges: High stakes for developing countries

Susmita Dasgupta's picture
Flood Victims Wait for Relief
Photo © Syed Zakir Hossain/Greenpeace

We are now faced with overwhelming scientific evidence that more intense storm surges and sea-level rise from climate change are serious global threats. Increased cyclonic activity and heightened storm surges are expected from the rise in sea surface temperature now observed at all latitudes and in all oceans. Even small changes in sea level profoundly affect storm surge height and the extent of flooding in coastal zones and adjoining low-lying areas. I think there is a dire need for greater disaster preparedness in countries vulnerable to such storm surges.

An asteroid in a bathtub wrapped in an enigma—is that clear?

Rachel Ilana Block's picture

An asteroid in a bathtub wrapped in an enigma: is that clear?

   Photo © Betsssssy at Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

Having grown up neither British nor celebrating Christmas—and thus without any firsthand experience of plum pudding—I didn’t find it particularly enlightening to learn, in 8th grade chemistry class, that the turn-of-the-century conception of the atom was akin to this fruited, brandied, yuletide delicacy. Surely this metaphor of bits of dried fruit suspended in crumbly pudding meant something real and tangible to someone, but not me. Yet lessons of science must be communicated thus—through metaphor—because, while plum pudding isn’t rich with meaning for everyone, nobody can see atoms with the naked eye either.

The same holds for climate change. We need to understand it in terms of something we can see, someone we can talk to, somewhere we can stand, or something we can—literally—sink our teeth into. And, as with the atom-as-plum-pudding pedagogical tool, important details can get lost in the process.

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