Thursday, October 18, 2007

Jeffrey Sachs on climate change adaptation

Accra Daily Mail (Ghana): Until very recently, manmade climate change was believed to be a crisis of the distant future. We’ve learned, painfully, that we are already in the midst of manmade climate change, with worse to come. Rich and poor countries alike have already been hard hit: killer heat waves in Europe, extreme droughts in the U.S. and Australia, major floods and tropical cyclones in Asia and the Gulf of Mexico, extreme floods and droughts in Africa. Part of our response, of course, must be to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases causing these changes. Another part, however, should be to adapt skillfully to the changes already underway.

Climate change adaptation has become a new key concept for our time. Indeed, a new “adaptation science” is taking shape, which studies how societies in different parts of the world can best anticipate, prepare for, and respond to climate shocks caused by manmade climate change as well as by simple bad luck. The starting point is that climate change poses many kinds of serious risks to society, with different risks for different regions. A sound response will require cooperation across many sectors and approaches.

…No region, not even the richest, is yet ready for these changes. All parts of the world will have to increase their scientific understanding, public awareness, and investments to reduce climate risks and to adjust to climate shocks as they occur. Yet the poorest, as usual are most in the line of fire. The tropics, home to a large proportion of the world’s poor, stands to bear the greatest adverse hits to agricultural productivity. The impoverished dry-land regions – especially in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia -- are already fighting the multiple disasters of drought, degraded pasturelands, and rapidly rising populations. These dry-lands are now likely to become drier still, adding further potentially explosive pressures in places like Darfur, Sudan, the Horn of Africa, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

Yet there are many things that the new adaptation science can allow us to do, to adjust more skillfully to the coming shocks. New sustainable engineering techniques can teach poor farmers new ways to harvest and store rainwater, in order to protect them from the rising risks of drought. Improved seed varieties can add drought-resistant traits to vital food crops. Improved weather and climate forecasting can give a region the advanced warning of seasonal and multi-year climate trends. Financial innovations can create novel market instruments such as rainfall-linked bonds that enable regions to insure against climate risks. There is talk about a new global fund to help poor countries to stop deforestation, and thereby to help them to build up greater ecological resilience as well as to protect biodiversity and reduce the emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere….

No comments: