Thursday, October 3, 2013

Loss and damage associated with climate change: Not all is gloom and doom

The international community has progressively reached at a consensus that there will be residual impacts associated with climate change despite implementing adaptation and greenhouse gas mitigation and that there is a need to address these impacts in our research and development efforts. Recognizing the importance of sharing understanding on loss and damage, IGES, APAN and stakeholders have organized an international conference on loss and damage on 30-31st August in Bangkok, Thailand where scientific, policy and practice community have discussed the scientific aspects and way forward.
One photo and two days conference!

It was clear that the concept of loss and damage is not new from the point that they have been dealt by disaster risk reduction community for decades. However, the current debate on loss and damage is also different from the point of view of long time scales (centuries and above) where GHG mitigation could start making perceivable differences in climate change impacts. In the short term, the efforts have to address the residual impacts due to inability to scale up adaptation to the extent needed and failure of adaptation actions due to social, scientific and institutional barriers. While doing so, necessity will arrive where in actors may have to reach an agreement on acceptable, tolerable and intolerable risks. Notwithstanding the ethical issues involved in making these decisions, as what is tolerable for some may not be tolerable to others, one has to make sure that the related interventions are made on rights ground and not on humanitarian grounds.
On the science front, the limited understanding on loss and damage originate from structural and parametric uncertainties we are facing with the scientific tools at our disposal. There has been very limited progress in projecting the extreme events with high certainty due to limitations with scale issues associated with global circulation models, limited understanding on physical processes and their interaction with social and biological systems and issues with the instrumental records. Experiences suggest that addressing loss and damage could be challenging even when ample data is available and it will be even more challenging in areas with little or no data to use. This entails that the interventions has the support of epistemic communities with required expertise and willingness to engage for designing and sharing relevant solutions.
The picture is not that depressing too. Several existing adaptation practices could help in minimizing the loss and damage if one takes the path of transformational adaptation as opposed to incremental adaptation. It requires identifying innovative practices and implementing them at a scale and place untouched by the current experiences. Recognizing synergies, there is a need for climate change adaption and disaster risk reduction community to work closely and implement solutions addressing mutual co-benefits. For this to happen, the conference has called upon the international community to strengthen networks leading to path-breaking research in the area of loss and damage.

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