Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Adapting to a warmer world

The Star (Australia): Learn to live with it – that’s the advice of climate scientists to governments in an impending warmer world.… “Building resilience to withstand the impact of climate change must be a crucial part of any strategy. It is no longer possible to prevent the climate change that will take place over the next two to three decades, but it is still possible to protect societies and economies from the impact to some extent, for example by providing better information, improved planning and more climate-resilient crops and infrastructure,” says Su-Lin Garbett from the office of climate change in Britain’s Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Adaptation measures are wide-ranging. They could be improving climate and weather forecasts or building structures to withstand severe storms. In agriculture, farmers might switch to drought- or salt water-tolerant crops, or even move farms to areas with a more suitable climate. Restoring coastal wetlands or erecting bunds to buffer erosive waves or even relocating towns threatened by inundation are also adaptive strategies.

…“Despite increasing severity of current and potential impacts, a sense of urgency on adaptation to climate change is still missing in many Asean countries,” says Dr Ancha Srinivasan from the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies in Japan. “There are some signs of integration with disaster planning but very little with national and economic planning. No country in the region has a national policy or strategy on adaptation. Adaptation should be given equal focus to that of mitigation.”

…Salveno Briceno, director of the United Nation’s Geneva-based International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, says nations can expect to see more intense natural hazards or new and unfamiliar ones (for instance, a cyclone in the Middle East) that they will be ill-equipped to handle. “To adapt to global warming, nations must reduce their vulnerability to extreme events and build up resilience to disasters. Communities must know how to respond to disasters,” he says.

…To lessen the effect of climatic kinks on agriculture, Dr Vute Wangwacharakul of Kasetsart University in Thailand says Asean nations must, among other things, train their farmers to adjust to climatic variability, enhance climate-warning systems and improve water resources information. He says optimistically that farmers in the region could switch crops because they now grow a high diversity of produce.

…In the long term, adaptation would require a move towards “green growth”, growth based on ecological efficiency instead of market price, says Dr Rae Kwon Chung of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. He says green growth is possible with eco-tax reforms, that is, raising tax on use of energy and natural resources rather than on personal income. Sustainable consumption (by restraining demand for goods) and a shift towards ecological efficiency in businesses and infrastructure are other means towards green growth.

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