Climate change – adaptation and mitigation

Polar Bears

Climate change – adaptation and mitigation

Climate change has the potential to cause severe adverse impacts on rainfall patterns, agricultural potential, water resources, and terrestrial, wetland, aquatic and coastal ecosystems, besides increasing the range of disease vectors and rendering coastal areas vulnerable to inundation by the sea.  See: Climate change and future people.

Recent events are consistent with the early stages of climate change.  In addition to storms and storm surges, which have devastating impacts on coastal and deltaic populations, these include changing rainfall patterns in Africa which are affecting food production, and rising temperatures which are increasing exposure to malaria and other diseases.  There is also an acceleration of the Asia-Pacific El Niño-Southern Oscillation, in which the interludes of ‘normal’ weather are shortening between droughts and flood-causing rains.  It is to these interludes that livelihood systems are adapted, since they allow savings and other reserves to be built up to allow survival during more adverse periods.  Their shortening is now reaching a point that exceeds the survival capacity of many traditional societies and coping mechanisms.

Climate change is now seen as a priority area by many governments, and there is the hope that the upcoming Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen will identify a number of policies and methods for tackling this issue by agreeing ambitious, fair and effective emissions reduction targets, and generous funding to help developing countries adapt to climate change.

There has long been an imbalance between mitigation and adaptation financing, since mitigation tends to benefit the donors themselves while adaptation mainly benefits only the recipients.  But there is the fact that adaptation investments must increasingly overlap with all other forms of development assistance, as the links among climate, ecosystem change, poverty and insecurity become ever more obvious.  Moreover, with a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions coming from deforestation and land degradation, an increasing share of mitigation money should also flow to ecosystem protection and restoration, which overlap strongly with adaptation priorities through the need to reduce disaster risk and maintain water catchment functions.

Indonesia is pivotal in the race to fix climate change.  The fourth most poulous country on Earth, with 240 million people, and close to both the developed and developing worlds, it is key to diplomatic efforts aimed at curbing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. It hosted the 2007 UNFCCC meeting, which agreed to negotiate a post-Kyoto treaty.  It is vulnerable to climate change, suffers ever-harsher droughts, and faces losing swathes of its enormous coastal zone to sea-level rise.  Yet Indonesia is among the largest emitters of GHGs, being close behind China and the US due to its high deforestation rate.  Forest losses in just one Indonesian province (Riau) single-handedly offset all the emission gains achieved under Kyoto.  But with millions of hectares of forest in 300 proposed and vulnerable protected areas, Indonesia could benefit hugely (while contributing to mitigation and adaptation efforts) if carbon gains from avoided deforestation could be paid for.  The hunt is on for a fair and effective way to do this.  See: Indonesia and Climate Change: part of the problem or part of the solution?