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Disasters

We’re Putting Climate and Disaster Risks in Focus

Jane Ebinger's picture

 Scott Wallace/World Bank

Strengthening disaster and climate resilience must become an integral part of our development work. With global temperatures continuing to rise, we know that volatile and extreme weather events will become more frequent, and that poor and vulnerable populations will be most at risk when that happens.

So I was pleased to recently welcome a group of international development experts to the World Bank Group’s headquarters in Washington who are all working – tirelessly – to develop climate and disaster risk screening tools.

These tools are exactly what they sound like: They provide due diligence at the early stages of project design to ensure that climate and disaster risks are flagged. Screening is a first, but essential, step to make sure that these risks are assessed and managed as we work on climate and disaster-resilient development.

All of this will help us better predict and prepare for risk, allowing nations and communities to build the capacity they need to grow resilient, and to put in place response measures in a warming and more disruptive climate.

The participants at the workshop this month were all on board with the idea that we must partner and work together to be able to meet these challenges. They agreed that the next step for the group will be to develop a questionnaire that would allow for a comprehensive mapping of existing screening tools, and to help determine potential areas of collaboration going forward.

With an Eye Toward the Future: Building Resilience in a Changing World

Habiba Gitay's picture

 Chatchai Somwat/Shutterstock

Typhoon Haiyan, the Category 5 super storm that devastated parts of the Philippines and killed thousands late last year, continues to remind us, tragically, of how vulnerable we are to weather-related disasters.

As the images of destruction and desperation continue to circle the globe, we’re also reminded that those most at risk when natural disaster strikes are the world’s poor – people who have little money to help them recover and who lack food security, access to clean water, sanitation and health services.

Over the last year, as one major extreme weather event after another wreaked havoc and claimed lives in the developing world, terms such as "resilience" and "loss and damage" have become part and parcel of our efforts here at the World Bank Group – and for good reason.

Developing countries have been facing mounting losses from floods, storms and droughts. Looking ahead, it’s been estimated that up to 325 million extremely poor people could be living in the 49 most hazard-prone countries in 2030, the majority in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

These scenarios are not compatible with the World Bank Group’s goal to reduce extreme poverty to less than 3 percent by 2030, or with our goal to promote shared prosperity.

Why We Must Engage the Private Sector in Climate Change Adaptation Efforts

Alan Miller's picture

 Lauren Day/World Bank

Late last month, I retired after spending more than 30 years in the climate arena, the last decade as a principal climate change specialist at the International Finance Corporation.

During the span of my career, climate change has moved from the sidelines to be recognized as a serious development challenge. And while we’re still far from achieving the international commitments needed to avoid potentially dangerous and even catastrophic climate events, much has been accomplished.

Scientists have reached near-consensus about climate change and its impacts. We’ve also seen the creation of several significant donor-supported climate funds, as well as a steady increase in policy and financial support for climate-friendly technologies.

In one critical respect, however, we need more progress: making the private sector a partner in helping nations build resilience and adapt to climate change.

Effective Weather Forecasting Strengthens Climate Resilience

David P. Rogers's picture

 Curt Carnemark/World Bank

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released late last month, provides the strongest evidence thus far of how humans influence the Earth’s climate.

Weather hazards, already a present reality, are likely to become more extreme as a consequence of a rapidly warming planet.  Floods, droughts, storm surges and heat waves threaten the lives and livelihoods of everyone, but disproportionately effect the poor who are often most vulnerable and exposed to disaster risks.

Building resilience in this new world requires investments on many fronts, including in the often-neglected and underfunded national meteorological and hydrological agencies that give nations the capacity and ability to warn and respond effectively to weather-related hazards.

Increasing Flood Risks Create Major Challenges for World's Coastal Cities

Stéphane Hallegatte's picture

 NOAA via Wikimedia
The flooding of New Orleans, caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, illustrates the vulnerability of cities that are highly dependent on coastal defenses. Photo: NOAA [http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Katrina-new-orleans-flooding3-2005.jpg]

Increasing flood risks create a major political and institutional challenge for the world’s coastal cities, as ambitious and proactive action at the local level over the next decades will be needed to avoid large-scale flood disasters. However, the implementation of flood risk management policies meets many obstacles.

In a recent study written with colleagues Colin Green, Robert Nicholls and Jan Corfee-Morlot as part of an OECD project on urban vulnerability, we estimate how flood risks could change in the future in 136 coastal cities, in response to increasing population and wealth, local environmental change, and climate change. We find that because current flood defenses and urbanization patterns have been designed for past environmental conditions, even a moderate change in sea level is sufficient to make them inadequate, thus magnifying flood losses to catastrophic levels. If no action is taken to reduce flood vulnerability, most coastal cities would become inhospitable and dangerous places to live, with annual losses in excess of US$1 trillion dollars.

What can be done?

Our analysis suggests that upgrading defenses could mitigate these losses and the impacts of rising sea levels. However, these upgrades need to include a package of risk management policies. First, coastal defenses should make use of the protection the environment can offer for free: Marshes, seagrass beds, coastal and kelp forests, and coral reefs provide natural buffers that absorb the energy from waves and storms, making it easier and cheaper to protect urban development. In addition artificial constructions are also required to provide full protection. We are not only talking about dykes: a city surrounded by dykes will need pumping systems to drain rainfall water, and a harbor will need moving barriers to let ships in and out of the port.

New Climate Report Emphasizes Urgency

Jane Ebinger's picture

 Wutthichai/Shutterstock

Bangkok is a vibrant, cosmopolitan city, home to more than eight million people. However, a new report released by the World Bank today paints a grim picture for the Thai capital. It notes that, without adaptation, a predicted 15cm sea-level rise by the 2030s coupled with extreme rainfall events could inundate 40% of the Thai capital and almost 70% of Bangkok by the 2080s. While I certainly hope it doesn't happen, words cannot describe the impact this would have on the lives and livelihoods of people residing in this city.  And Thailand isn’t the only country that could be affected by rising temperatures. 

The report - Turn Down the Heat:  Climate Extremes, Regional Impacts, and the Case for Resilience - was commissioned by the World Bank’s Global Expert Team on Climate Change Adaptation and prepared by a team of scientists at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics. It looks at the latest peer-reviewed science and with the aid of advanced computer simulations looks at the likely impacts of present day (0.8°C), 2°C, and 4°C warming across three regions – Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and South East Asia. It focuses on the lives and livelihoods of people in the developing world by analyzing the risks to agriculture and food security in sub-Saharan Africa; the rise in sea-level, bleaching of coral reefs and their impact on coastal communities in South East Asia; and the impact of fluctuating rainfall patterns on food production in South Asia. The poor and the vulnerable are the ones that will be most affected by the impacts of climate change.

Grassroots Leaders: Empowering Communities is Resilience Building

Margaret Arnold's picture

 Margaret Arnold/World Bank
Participants at the first Community Practitioners Academy meeting, which was held ahead of the Fourth Global Platform for Disaster Reduction in Generva. - Photos: Margaret Arnold/World Bank

Communities are organized and want to be recognized as partners with expertise and experience in building resilience rather than as clients and beneficiaries of projects. This was the common theme that emerged from the key messages delivered by grassroots leaders at the Fourth Global Platform for Disaster Reduction taking place in Geneva this week, organized by the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR). The Global Platform is a biennial forum for information exchange and partnership building across sectors to reduce disaster risk.

Ahead of the Global Platform, 45 community practitioners from 17 countries - Bangladesh, Chile, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Nicaragua, Peru, Philippines, Samoa, Uganda, Venezuela, and the United States - met for a day and a half to share their practices and experiences in responding to disasters and building long-term resilience to climate change, and to strategize their engagement in around the Global Platform. I had the privilege to participate in this first Community Practitioners Academy, which was convened by GROOTS International, Huairou Commission, UNISDR, the World Bank, Global Facility for Disaster Risk and Reduction (GFDRR), Act Alliance, Action Aid, Japan NGO Center for International Cooperation (JANIC), Cordaid, and Oxfam, and was planned in partnership with the community practitioners from their respective networks.

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.

A dire situation in Bangladesh

Nate Engle's picture
Photo by Mohon Mondal
Photo: © Mohon Mondal, Local Environment Development and Agricultural Research Society, Bangladesh.

Estimates assessing how many people will be displaced or forced to migrate because of climate change impacts are wide-ranging. But anecdotes of where climate-related migration is already taking place are beginning to crowd newspapers, radio and television programs, and various internet sources. Other than the low-lying islands which could be completely consumed by rising ocean waters, perhaps nowhere else in the world are these stories more pronounced than in Bangladesh.

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.

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