by Judith Curry
how building new capacity, tools and partnerships between disaster risk managers and climate information providers can lead to improved disaster risk management, including prevention, preparedness and response.
The International Research Institute for Climate and Society has published a new document:
Hellmuth M.E., Mason S.J., Vaughan C., van Aalst M.K. and Choularton R. (eds) 2011. A Better Climate for Disaster Risk Management. International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), Columbia University, New York, USA. [Link]
From the Executive Summary:
Exploring the use of climate information for disaster risk management, it identifies both the achievements and the obstacles associated with this endeavour. From them are distilled the lessons learned, and a series of recommendations. Of these, effective partnership is highlighted as the single most critical ingredient for success. Climate information that can be acted upon is best created in dialogue between the users and providers, and partnerships between climate scientists and disaster risk managers should promote knowledge sharing, trust, and the development of innovative solutions.
Efforts to better apply climate information in disaster risk management should first focus on immediate opportunities and potential ‘quick wins’. Practical engagements can be fostered by initially concentrating on countries and regions with relatively good seasonal forecast skills, and where humanitarian decisions can be influenced to provide large and immediate returns on investment. Disaster risk managers must, however, improve their understanding of the potential as well as the limitations of climate information, as the development of realistic expectations is vital to maintaining trust in the information and those who provide it.
Cases demonstrate that when climate information can be integrated into existing decision-making support tools or systems, it becomes an important piece of the information that is considered and taken up in the routine activities of disaster risk managers. The relative contribution that seasonal, decadal, and long-term trends make to current and future climate also needs to be better understood. To achieve the goal of providing relevant climate services to support disaster risk management, climate information provid- ers such as national meteorological services must tailor their information to the problem at hand, either by refining products through iterative interaction with partners or by simplifying the presentation.
Although there have been many achievements and advances, much potential remains to be realized. Herein lies the opportunity: to build trust and improve the sharing of knowledge between the providers of climate services, and those who can use those services to enhance disaster risk management, jointly reducing human suffering and achieving more sustainable development.
The IRI is funded by NOAA to focus on the climate time scale (which is defined to include seasonal and the longer timescales. Much of what they seem to be talking about are really weather disasters (with the exception of drought, which is more of a climate issue), rather than longer term climate change issues.
Weather forecasts provide information on immediately approaching events. As the lead-time is much shorter than with seasonal forecasts, the accuracy is greater. Also, although they do not provide disaster risk managers with a great deal of advanced warning, weather forecasts still enable measures including the early coordination and mobilization of human resources and supplies, the activation of contingency plans, informing populations at risk, providing instructions on precautionary measures, and setting up shelters or evacuating communities (Braman et al., 2010).
By monitoring climate information across timescales, disaster risk managers can get a sense of the overall likelihood of various climate-related risks. For instance, a seasonal forecast can predict the likelihood that a coming rainy season will be wetter or drier than normal, and thus be a helpful guide to anticipating impacts. When an alert for a particularly wet season is issued however, disaster risk managers must continue to monitor forecasts on shorter timescales (such as monthly, ten-day, weekly, and daily weather forecasts) in order to determine where and when extreme weather events might occur (IFRC, 2009; Braman et al., 2010).
The document gives some examples of regional studies and partnerships with decision makers. From the recommendations section:
The book has employed a three-step problem-solving framework as a practical means of demonstrating the challenges and opportunities facing disaster risk managers in using climate science in their work.
1. Identifying problems and possible solu- tions. This includes identifying risks and vulnerabilities, relying on humanitarian expertise, and understanding the relation- ship between the climate and socioeco- nomic context.
2. Developing the tools. This includes inte- grating climate information into existing decision-making frameworks, developing tailored climate information and user oriented tools in partnership, developing boundary knowledge, and ensuring new knowledge products have technical back- stopping to avoid costly misinterpretation and to build capacity over time.
3. Taking action. The final stage requires understanding the real opportunities and limitations of climate information. This requires translating often uncertain infor- mation into potential impacts and actions, and overcoming the lack of resourcing for preparedness and prevention. Ultimately it means taking action based on climate information to reduce climate risk, and mitigate, prepare for and respond to climate-related disasters.
I like the emphasis on extreme events and seasonal and shorter time scales, where I think we have some reasonable hope for providing useful information. The issue of predictability on seasonal timescales will be addressed in a future post (the Georgia Tech has submitted two papers on this topic that I will discuss once they are in press).
So while I like the increasing emphasis on adaptation (including the deliberations at Durban), especially incorporating improved weather/climate information into decision making, there may be downside to this. This method of adaptation (making better use of weather and climate information for disaster management and planning) is relatively inexpensive.
Far less expensive than the big civil infrastructure projects that are presumably the focus of the international (UN) climate adaptation fund.
Is weather event attribution necessary for adaptation funding?
M. Hulme, S. O’Neill, S. Dessai
Abstract. International funds created largely for funding climate adaptation programs and projects in developing countries were first legally established through the seventh session of the Conference of the Parties (COP-7) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) held in 2001 at Marrakesh. In 2009, at COP-15 in Copenhagen, delegates “took note” of a pledge from developed countries to commit U.S. $30 billion for the period 2010–2012, ramping up to $100 billion per annum by 2020, to support a mixture of climate adaptation and mitigation activities in developing countries. International adaptation finance has therefore been, and continues to be, a significant political issue for the FCCC and for international institutions, such as the World Bank, the Global Environment Facility, and regional development banks (1). Yet governance arrangements and allocation principles for these climate adaptation funds remain both underdeveloped and politically contested (2, 3). A Green Climate Fund for disbursing such funds was established at COP-16 in Cancún, and a Transitional Committee is currently developing operational documents for the fund to be adopted at COP-17 in Durban, South Africa, later this year.
Citation: Science 11 November 2011: Vol. 334 no. 6057 pp. 764-765 DOI: 10.1126/science.1211740 [Link] (note: full article is behind paywall).
My thoughts on the attribution of extreme events have been discussed on numerous previous threads (most recently here).
My main question is why adaptation should be attempted and funded only for AGW, and not to address risks associated with the current climate and natural climate variability? This seems to be the implication of the UNFCCC climate adaptation fund.