Friday, May 29, 2009

Development community must accept uncertainty

Anna Barrett has a great report in Climate Feedback: Uncertainty in regional climate projections isn’t going away, and that’s an inconvenient truth the development community will have to face, says Christoph Müller of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impacts Research in Germany. Müller recently authored a report on expected climate change impacts in sub-Saharan Africa, at the behest of the German Development Institute (GDI), a Bonn-based think tank. A top recommendation of the final report, published 24 April and presented at the IHDP conference last month, is that adaptation strategies should not be motivated by specific impact projections, but instead should work on reducing vulnerability to environmental change in general.

An expert on climate impacts on agriculture and land-use, Müller found while scoping the report for GDI that there was a mistaken assumption by development experts that many of the current uncertainties in predicting climate change will soon clear up. “In the adaptation community, they often have the feeling that if we wait for another five years, we will know exactly what the weather will be,” he says.

So he turned the focus of the report around from cataloging impacts to dealing with uncertainty. “This report basically is trying to raise awareness that you will never get very accurate projections of what you will have to adapt to. Don’t wait for that. You have to adapt to uncertainty,” says Müller. I talked to Müller to find out more about what adaptation planners in sub-Saharan Africa are up against and how they might tackle changes they can't forsee. What climate models agree on is that the continent will warm a bit more than the global average - roughly 2.0 to 4.5 degrees centigrade, according to three emissions scenarios of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

…And if you’re not sure what kind of change you’ll be facing, says Müller, the best adaptation options are the “classical approaches” of development aid, such as trying to diversify income sources and reducing dependence on a single factor like crop yields. “What climate change adds is extra uncertainty, and an extra challenge for politics to respond to,” he says....

Magic 8 ball shot by ChristianHeldt

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