Flexible adaptation policies needed in developing countries
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — The well-respected London School of Economics is warning that developing countries must start considering climate change impacts in their long-term planning. That includes looking at potential changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events to avoid “locking in” vulnerabilities, which could lead to significant and potentially irreversible damage in the future.
Recommended steps include a focus on concrete adaptation measures like early warning systems for extreme weather and flood defenses, as well as softer adaptation measures, such as public awareness-raising and evacuation planning.
Policy makers should look at low-regret strategies to cope with a wide range of possible climate conditions. For example, bigger reservoirs can be built to maintain an adequate supply of water even under a wide range of potential rainfall conditions in the future. As a specific example, new coastal defense systems could be built with broader foundations so that they can be increased in height at a later date rather than re-constructed entirely to protect against higher sea levels.
The report by Dr Nicola Ranger and Su-Lin Garbett-Shiels was prepared as a contribution to the World Resources Report 2011, and points out that “uncertainties in computer model projections about future climate should not stop good adaptation decisions being made today.” It stresses that “by building flexibility into adaptation strategies from the outset, increasing climate resilience, even with deep uncertainty about future impacts, should be no more challenging than other areas of policy.”
The authors describe these as ‘no-regrets’ and ‘low-regrets’ options because they begin to create some benefits in the short term, no matter how the climate changes in the future and even if the potential long-term benefits are never realized. Such measures can help reduce deaths from extreme weather events, which have killed about 850,000 people in low- and middle-income countries during the past 30 years.
Planning policies should discourage the construction of new homes and businesses in areas that are already susceptible to flooding and which are likely to become even more threatened as the climate changes.
Policy-makers should also move faster and harder on core development priorities, as it has been demonstrated that economic diversification, poverty alleviation, and improvements in healthcare, education and sanitation all have multiple and immediate benefits, while also significantly reducing vulnerability to the impacts of future changes in climate.
The report concludes that adaptation and development are not opposing priorities that must be weighed up against each other by countries with limited resources. Rather, adaptation and development priorities can be aligned and climate change strengthens the case for pushing faster and harder’ on development priorities and investments, with a greater awareness of long-term risks.