Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change – a brief run-up to DSDS 2013

OECD Climate ChangeNicholas Stern, the author of the 2006 government-commissioned review on climate change, recently shared his current views at WEF, Davos, that he got it all wrong on climate change. He says it is far, far worse than earlier predicted with the planet on track for a 4 degree rise in temperature.

As a run-up to the Delhi Sustainable Development (DSDS) 2013, I will be putting out some posts on the topics that this summit will be looking into. This Summit couldn’t have taken place at a more opportune time with Nick Stern talking about the danger of climate change (one of the topics of the Summit)

Human activities inject about 8 billion metric tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere – and roughly 80% comes from fossil fuel burning and the rest 20% associated with  deforestation. Here is one fact – The current CO2 concentration levels is more than 30% greater than that of the mid-18th century and hasn’t exceeded in the last 420,000 years and most probably in the last 20 million.

This is a reason enough for panic. Adapting to the impacts of climate change either has to be a proactive approach or it will be thrust upon the countries when the impacts actually start to occur. In fact if we look at the crazy weather patterns across the world, we begin to see the bigger picture. Australia or US are in as much danger as the tiny islands of Kiribati or Seychelles – it is strikingly evident!

Science indicates the climate change as human induced – the only debate is about the projected rate and the extent of damage.

So, countries have to chalk out strategies that will be suitable for the world that will be witness to more and more of climate related impacts – and none of those impacts are good news. We can either adapt or we can mitigate the carbon released into the open. Either strategies are costly and don’t really protect us from the inevitable. But one which makes more economic sense is the one countries are looking at. Countries that have time can and must mitigate carbon and countries that are looking at just a few decades need to vehemently adapt to the impacts that climate change will bring on them.

Here are few action areas where countries can work:

  • Coastal cities and related growth in them
  • Water use and Sustaining the bio-diversity and natural ecosystems
  • Infrastructure development (green buildings etc.)
  • Sustainable Agriculture (including GMO’s)
  • Embedding climate change impacts into financial products (Insurance etc.)

In fact many countries are already working on the above areas. But there are barriers in the economics and mainstreaming of these areas – exactly what the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) work looks at. The three major areas OECD is working on are:

  • Economics of Adaptation
  • Mainstreaming Adaption in development
  • Adaptation in developed countries

Download the most recent work of OECD on Adaptation to Climate ChangeOECD Climate Change

OECD supports governments by providing the analytical foundation required to develop efficient and effective policies that promote adaptation to climate change. Policies, innovation, private sector engagement, risk management and measuring and evaluating the adaptation interventions are some of the areas this report looks at.

One of the many deliberations that will happen at the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit 2013, taking place from 31st January, will be on Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change & Mitigating Emissions of Greenhouse Gases and Associated Co-benefits. This session will be moderated by John Vidal, the Environment Editor of The Guardian, UK. It would be interesting to hear what the outcomes of the discussions would be. Hopefully some action areas should emerge.

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