Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Coping with climate change, through resilience

IRIN: In the past five years, “resilience” (the ability to absorb shocks and recover) has become quite a buzzword in the aid community. Discussions on adapting to a changing climate are increasingly peppered with the “need to build resilience” of people, infrastructure and governments in the face of shocks such as soaring temperatures, rising sea levels, severe storms and flooding.

...What does resilience mean in the aid world? Some call it just another addition to the growing aid jargon. But mostly people call it a new approach, a “lens”, which has given new meaning to “sustainable development”.

Maarten van Aalst, director of the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre and co-ordinating lead author of the summary of the special report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change (SREX) produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2011 explains it thus: Under the conventional sustainable development approach, if a road had to be constructed in a rural area, benefits - such as the impact on the lives of the communities living alongside, creation of job opportunities from the maintenance of the road and development of markets for the farming community - would have been taken into consideration.

This is what Peter Walker, a leading aid expert, calls the “linear” approach. The old development models “made projections into the future from recent trends and assumed that, all other things being equal, life would get better”.

But with a resilience lens on, the government or aid agency responsible for the road will consider the possibility of external shocks or unexpected developments that might affect the road and people’s lives. “What if the area becomes prone to floods or if there is an earthquake, what if food prices increase because the contractors are better off than the local population? [These] would be some of the factors that the project would now consider,” explains Van Aalst....

Two ducks, shot by Gilbert Liu, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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