Friday, May 22

Alarming Risk Management to reduce Climate Change Vulnerability

Dramatically in recent years, disaster occurrence and losses associated with extreme and less extreme climate events have increased. Whilst numerous of the rising examples of disaster risk are allied with natural hazards that illustrate no tendency to increases in magnitude and recurrence, human interventions in the natural environment are creating new socio-natural hazards, primarily associated with climate events. In various incidences of new flooding, landslide, drought, forest fire and coastal erosion, environmental degradation has altered natural resources into new hazards. At the same time, the social, economic, regional, physical and political vulnerability of populations continues to deteriorating their capacity to absorb the impact of, and recover from extreme climatic events.

Rapidly increasing levels of disaster losses are beginning to overshadow development growth in countries like Nepal. Nowadays, it is clear that flawed development and environmental practices are at the root of much of the new disaster risk. The areas such as poverty reduction, health and education of the UN Millennium Development Goals will be impossible to achieve unless rigorous efforts are made to manage and lessen the disaster risks related with possible climatic events.

Different scientific records have proved that climate change due to enhanced greenhouse gas emissions is incontrovertible and is evenly well accepted that climate change will alter the severity, frequency and spatial distribution of climate related hazards. Now, there is clear scientific consensus that human–induced climate change is underway and will worsen. The extent of change will be determined by how much more greenhouse pollution we put in the atmosphere. The most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)2007) report of the world’s most authoritative body of climate scientists confirmed that temperatures have already risen 0.76 degrees centigrade over the past century and is “very likely” (more than a 90% probability) that most of this global warming was due to increased greenhouse gases from human activity. We have experienced eleven of the last twelve years (1995 -2006) rank among the 12 warmest years on record. Similarly, mountain glaciers and snow cover have declined on average in both hemispheres and there is a widespread decrease in glaciers and ice caps have contributed to sea level rise. At continental, regional, and ocean basin scales, numerous long-term changes in climate have been observed including changes in Arctic temperatures and ice, widespread changes in precipitation amounts, ocean salinity, wind patterns and aspects of extreme weather including droughts, heavy precipitation, heat waves and the intensity of tropical cyclones. The temperature is projected to increase further during the 21st Century. The extent of change will be determined by how much more greenhouse pollution we put in the atmosphere. Under a low emissions pathway, temperature will rise a further 1.1 to 2.9°C. Under a high emissions pathway, temperature will rise a further 2.4 to 6.4°C by 2090.In case of Nepal, the mean annual temperature is projected to increase by 1.3 to 3.8°C by the 2060s, and 1.8 to 5.8°C by the 2090s, and projections of mean annual rainfall averaged the country from different models in the ensemble are broadly consistent in indicating increases in rainfall.

Due to global climate change rapid and turbulent changes in risk patterns in a given region are rarely autonomously generated and may, in numerous cases, be caused by economic decisions taken on the other side of the globe. This territorial complexity of causal factors extends down to include the impacts of national, sectoral and territorial development policies on regions and localities. Gradually and impulsively, human beings have been adapting to the variations in climate but the rapid growth of climatic risk in recent decades resulting effective losses and even interrupting in spontaneous adaptation although the processes of global change are adding new and even more intractable dimensions to the problems of risk accumulation and disaster occurrence and loss, associated with climatic events. As the range of hazards and vulnerabilities faced by any specified community increases, it often becomes probable only to play one kind of risk scenario off against another in search of a less awful scenario. The processes of global change have stacked the odds even higher against successful adaptation. As the fundamental processes of risk become increasingly global, the alternatives available to local communities and other local stakeholders to influence risk generation processes becomes restricted, if not absent.

Atypical practices to manage and lessen climate related risks have been endeavored by the humanitarian, development, environmental and climate change communities. From early 70s the discourse within the broader disaster risk management community has undergone a gradual paradigm transfer from response to improved response preparedness to hazard mitigation to vulnerability reduction to integrated disaster risk management. The risk conscious community has attempted to promote more integrated schemes wherever risk considerations are featured into development programs and the environmental society has increasingly seen the significance of environmental management and good resource use for hazard control and attenuation.

On the other hand, regardless of the awareness raised by the UN International Decade of Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR) in the 1990’s, disaster risks have continued to mount up. Fundamentally, nearly all national and international efforts continue to focus on preparedness and response. Most of the successful experiences of different risk management approaches were piloted have built up a substantial body of knowledge on the theory and practice of risk management in Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa. If these stories were to be mainstreamed and applied as part of an integrated program then they provide a sight into the future of risk management. In the same way, the scientists and organizations investigating the difficulty of global climate change have progressively expanded their approach from an initial anxiety with the causes of climate change, through a concern with modeling its potential effects. For instance, in terms of sea level rise and desertification, towards a concern with how societies and economies can adapt to changing climatic circumstances. In program terms, this has led, on the one hand, to international efforts, through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to mitigate climate change through reduction of green house gas emissions and on the other hand to the assessment of countries’ vulnerabilities to climate change and the plan of adaptation strategies. In recent years, there has been an increasing pledge to and stress on adaptation rather than just mitigation. Similarly, as the disaster risk management community has failed in practice to significantly move beyond response and preparedness, the climate change community has not yet been able to move beyond fairly theoretical formulations of vulnerability and adaptation, towards concrete plans and program of action.

In Nepal adaptation to climate change and disaster risk management are promoting by totally separate institutional systems. The efforts to plan strategies to adapt societies to the effects of climate change and national and international efforts to manage the disaster risks linked with extreme climate events remain fundamentally detached. At the global level, a search for interaction between objectives and institutional frameworks has been sought with regard to the United Nations’ Environmental Conventions on wetlands, biodiversity, climate change and desertification.

Until and unless, the nation lack capacity to manage and adapt to climate related risks and is already a crucial development concern of the country. And the lack of capacity to manage the risks associated with current climate variability (on a seasonal and annual basis) is the same that will hold back countries from tackling the future increment in the complication and vagueness of risk due to global climate change. In a way, the entire potential of the future already exists like a seed in the present moment. Strengthening national and local capacities to handle climate-related risks is the best strategy to be able to manage additional complexity of climate risk in the future. It is also more feasible to manage an existing risk scenario by mobilizing national and international political and financial resources rather than addressing a hypothetical future scenario. Mid-term and long-term adaptation must initiate now with efforts to improve current risk management and adaptation. Lessons learnt from current practices along with the conception that learning comes from doing are of critical importance.

In above circumstances, integrated climate risk management would facilitates to address both the hazards and vulnerabilities which arrange particular risk scenarios and would sort in scale from actions to manage the local signs of global climate risk, through to global measures to reduce hazard by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, for example and to reduce vulnerability, for example, like in case of small island developing states (SIDS) by increasing the social and economic resilience. Integrated climate risk management would need to include elements of defensive risk management (ensuring that future development reduces rather than increases risk), compensatory risk management (actions to mitigate the losses associated with existing risk) and reactive risk management (ensuring that risk is not reconstructed after disaster events). Moreover, it will have to take into account both potential impacts on socio-economic and environmental systems. Integrated climate risk management could provide a framework to let the disaster community to move ahead of the still dominant focus on preparedness and response and for the adaptation to climate change community to move beyond the aim of hypothetical future adaptation strategies. In some countries synergy such as this is already being achieved.

In Nepal, it were accepted that most disaster risk is climate related and that adaptation must refer to the management of existing climate related risks which incorporates elements of and builds on existing frameworks for addressing climate change, disaster reduction, desertification and others. Such a framework needs to start from a clear concept that climate related risk is one of the central development issues of our time and the achievement of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG) will not be possible unless climate related risks are significantly managed and reduced. The current proliferation of parallel international frameworks and programming mechanisms for addressing what is a holistic development issue is counterproductive if the objective is to strengthen national capacities to manage and reduce climate related risks.

At the local level, integrated climate risk management strategies, plans and program need to be built on the dispersed institutional and administrative mechanisms, projects, human and financial resources currently applied to disaster risk management as well as adaptation to climate change and other related areas such as desertification. The country should develop new programming mechanisms and tools to promote integrated national climate risk management program as well as resource mobilization strategies to ensure that such program can be adequately funded.

Eventually, integrated climate risk management needs to take root at the local level. Most climate related disaster events are small to medium scale and have spatially delimited local impacts. Ultimately, risk is manifested and losses occur at the local level and it is at this level that national and international support to integrated climate risk management has to be realized and capacities strengthened. Concurrently, scaling up needs to occur given the diverse regional base of risk causation.
Climate related risk, provoked by process of global economic and climatic change poses a fundamental uncertain development issue for Nepal. Unless such risks can be managed and reduced the achievement of the UN Millennium Development Goals will be a vision only.

Existing approaches towards managing disaster risk and adaptation to climate change fail to address the issue for different reasons. The first is still predominantly focused on response to disaster events and fails to address the configuration of hazards, vulnerabilities and risks. Furthermore, mono-hazard approaches exist in contexts more and more exemplified by concatenation, synergy and complexity and there is a great deal to do in order to bring risk management and sustainable development concerns and practices together. The second focuses on the impact of future climate change on risk but fails to make the relation with currently existing climate related risk events and patterns. Simultaneously, both approaches are separated both in concept and in terms of the institutional arrangements and programming mechanisms at the local and national levels.

If development is to be guarded and advanced in areas affected by climate risks, an integrated approach to climate risk management needs to be promoted, building on successful approaches piloted by the disaster risk management community but mainstreamed in to national strategies and programs. Addressing and managing climate risk as it is manifested in extreme events and impacts in the here and now is the most appropriate way of strengthening capacities to deal with changing climate in the future.