Development

Why Development should focus on Climate Adaptation

This Op Ed originally appeared on May 4, 2016 http://ensia.com/voices/why-development-should-focus-on-climate-adaptation/

Just as climate change disproportionately affects the poor,

so must efforts to reduce its toll.

One of the biggest threats to a thriving world today is that the world’s poorest people face disproportionate risk from climate change. The World Bank’s Turn Down the Heat report notes that climate change threatens to erode progress made on reducing poverty, while a Stanford studyreveals that global incomes for 2100 could be 23 percent lower than they would be in a world without climate change. While it is sobering that over the past 30 years one dollar out of every three spent on development has been lost as a result of climate risk, the long-term impact of lower incomes relates to shrinking global markets and thus has impact on economies around the world.

For leaders working on development issues in least-developed and lower-income countries, these trends call for more resources to support climate adaptation, such as improving water security through conservation and modernizing infrastructure to withstand extreme storms.

A trifecta of global influence has identified adaptation as a key climate action strategy for national and local governments, the private sector, and donors: the Paris Climate Agreement, which mentions adaptation more frequently than mitigation; the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, which prioritize adaptation; and Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, which calls out the imbalance between the global north and south in a climate-changed world.

In an average year, climate change affects more than one out of five people. Scientists from the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index, a climate adaptation think tank I lead at the University of Notre Dame, have calculated that people living in the least-developed countries have 10 times greater chance of being affected by a climate disaster than those in wealthy countries. They also have calculated that it will take more than 100 years for lower-income countries to reach upper-income countries’ current level of capacity to adapt to changes in climate.

Climate change disproportionately harms the poor in wealthy countries, too.

Not only that, theIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports that while climate change heavily burdens the poor, it also worsens preexisting poverty by exacerbating the effects of other poverty causes, such as loss or erosion of physical and financial assets, including land, housing and jobs. Take Africa as an example: In 2015 alone, the continent faced about 50 events that were influenced by climate change — such as droughts, wildfires, landslides, extreme temperatures and floods — as calculated by the International Disaster Database at the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters. These events affected more than 20 million people, killed 1,139 and created damages amounting to more than US$2.5 billion. Such events and changes to historical trends are likely to worsen the symptoms of poverty. One likely outcome is decreased production of staple foods in many of the poorest regions — by up to 50 percent by 2020 in some African countries — increasing malnutrition and undernutrition, which currently cause 3.1 million deaths in children under five every year around the world.

Climate change disproportionately harms the poor in wealthy countries, too. Superstorm Sandy was one of the most expensive extreme weather events in history, costing corporations and governments more than US$40 billion. According to a report by Rutgers University, although registration for Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance by ALICE households (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, which means they are above the poverty line but still not financially stable) exceeded registrations by non-ALICE households by 13,000, FEMA provided US$61 million more to non-ALICE households. Of the homeowners who applied for assistance, only 10 percent of ALICE applicants had received relief by February 2013 as opposed to 26 percent of all household owner applicants. Even after this relief, disparities remain. While ALICE households received some other help — through public assistance, private insurance and nonprofits — as a group they’re still left with $2.2 billion worth of residential damage and lost income that’s likely to stay unrelieved.

With hazards and vulnerabilities in mind, leaders can create strategies that increase adaptive capacities, especially for those most sensitive to climate hazards, including the world’s poorest citizens.

Climate adaptation requires several basic steps. First, leaders in government, the private sector and philanthropy should examine the relative hazards based on climate models for areas relevant to their work. Then they should identify adaptive capacities that are lacking and creating the greatest risk based on those exposures. ND-GAIN can help, identifying which countries are most prepared — including resource constraints — to handle and adapt to global challenges brought about by climate disruption. Other helpful resources include the World Economic Forum’sGlobal Competitiveness Report, an assessment of the economic drivers of countries’ productivity and wealth, which helps determine viable markets for corporate investment in projects in other countries, and the World Resources Institute’sAqueduct, which identifies water risks around the world.

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With hazards and vulnerabilities in mind, leaders can create strategies that increase adaptive capacities, especially for those most sensitive to climate hazards, including the world’s poorest citizens. Increasing access to electricity, water and sanitation and improving community health-care options are further examples of the dozens of adaptation actions available. Quickly, leaders will see that not only are there parts of their current efforts they can claim are adaptation — which will burnish their brand and inspire further effort — but there are numerous collateral benefits to adaptation: lifting more out of poverty, strengthening economies, preventing civil conflict, buttressing food security, protecting natural resources and ensuring a brighter future for generations to come.

Buffering Against Climate Risk: Lessons for the Refugee Crisis

This blog was initially published by our partner, the RANE network:  https://www.ranenetwork.com/rane-blog/buffering-against-climate-risk-lessons-for-the-refugee-crisis/ As the world watches countless economic migrants and war refugees journey perilously from their volatile homelands to relatively stable countries that respond with tactics as varied as their histories, two overarching questions arise: How did we arrive at this stage of human suffering? And what can we do to avoid it from occurring again?

I think it is worth examining why some countries withstand stress while others don’t. In my work with the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index, I focus on how countries adapt to the stresses and shocks of climate change. I think there are valuable lessons from this examination of climate risks to help explain why some countries are buffered from creating refuges when times get tough.

In ND-GAIN’s country index, we identify those countries that have significantly improved their economic, social or governance components (which we examine as a way to understand a country’s readiness to take on adaptation investment) and have decreased their climate vulnerability over the past two decades

There is a unique set of 10 countries who have decreased their vulnerability and increased their readiness more over the last 20 years.

While this set of countries seem more diverse than similar – different locations, government type, history and economic systems, these countries share common features, and one in particular stands out from the 46 indicators ND-GAIN examines: political stability. It turns out that the stability afforded by good governance in the form of political stability may buffering them from stress turning to crisis in the case of both climate risk and emigration.

It is interesting to examine the diversity in these countries’ approach to gaining political stability. The countries can be categorized into three groups: those who improved, those who worsened but then rebuilt and those who remained mostly unchanged.

In the first group are Rwanda, Angola, Georgia and Turkey. Each has improved its political stability since 1995. Rwanda and Angola, for instance, have made significant peacekeeping strides from their violent past of civil wars and genocides. Human rights have improved there, too.

The group of countries whose political stability worsened but then rebounded includes Saudi Arabia, Belarus and Oman. Saudi Arabia’s leader suffered a stroke, which led to an odd period of leadership. The war in Iraq and al-Qaeda’s presence in the region also affected it and led to decreased political stability. Since, however, the Saudi government has retained some of its lost political stability, which helps it prepare for climate change.

Oman also suffered from events in Iraq but made great progress since in its elections and freedoms. Belarus, which gained independence in 1991 from the Soviet Union but then endured abusive authoritarian rule, regained political stability after its people protested.

Those countries that remained mostly politically stable in the past 20 years include Uruguay, Mauritius and the United Arab Emirates. While they experienced quite a bit of change during this period, they dealt with it within their current political system, and this has led to their success in climate change preparedness.

As Rockefeller Foundation President Judith Rodin notes, “… it’s what doesn’t happen that proves success. When disruptions do not become disasters, we’ve won. When a community is resilient and stays strong in the face of a crisis, (we) mark a victory.”

These 10 countries, then, may well hold lessons to today’s heart-breaking emigration from Syria and elsewhere. In the 10, we see political stability as a buffer to the shocks and stresses of climate change — and perhaps as well to the tragedy of exodus from them.

 

Countries whose vulnerability to climate change, other global challenges decreased while readiness to improve resilience improved. (Top 10 out of 182)

Country ND-GAIN Country Index Score Improvement 1995-2013
United Arab Emirates 16.06
Saudi Arabia 13.98
Turkey 12.56
Rwanda 12.24
Oman 12.04
Georgia 11.23
Mauritius 11.11
Angola 10.85
Uruguay 10.65
Belarus 10.56

 

Joyce Coffee is managing director of the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index (ND-GAIN). 

The Insurance Industry: Adaptation Drivers

An edifying conversation with Tom Herbstein, programme manager for the ClimateWise[1] initiative of the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, led me to peruse a ClimateWise case study I had skimmed when published in 2010. It is Adapting to the extreme weather impacts of climate change – how can the insurance industry help? And I was delighted to grasp so much from a resource whose lessons remain very relevant today. Here are my takeaways.  

Overall, the case study reminded me that the insurance industry provides a great resource for adaptation thought leadership. For instance, Swiss Re’s Sigma annual publication on natural catastrophes and man-made disasters and the intriguing and helpful Global Risk Map published by the United Nations’ Principals for Sustainable Insurance are referenced frequently referenced by those of us working in adaptation. Key is that insurance serves as an integral element of the entire risk-management cycle – from identification to risk transfer and recovery. The insurance industry:

  • Contributes to a better understanding of risk through, for example, the development of forward-looking risk models.
  • Adds to risk awareness through risk-based terms and conditions and advice to its customers, and offers incentives to increase prevention and other risk-management measures.
  • Assists policymakers to guide society with such tools as land use planning and building codes.

 

The insurance industry and ND-GAIN possess a special relationship. ND-GAIN pursues its mission to increase global awareness of the need to adapt and thus inform investments that save lives and improve livelihoods. This helps the insurance industry enhance its customer understanding of risk and risk-reduction measures. As a third-party, university-lead entity, we serve as a tool used by the insurance industry to better promote adaptation with its clients.

 

It’s important to note that efforts to maintain or create insurability – a key adaptive capacity – provide business opportunities for the insurance and risk-management sector. A range of factors such as profit protection, strategic aims, public relations and corporate social responsibility drives insurers’ engagement in adaptation. But these factors do not necessarily drive insurers to operate in lower-income and least-developed countries, thus potentially contributing to a high percentage of uninsured. When considering adapting to climate change in developing countries, the insurance industry can support adaptation through:

  • Expertise in risk management
    • Placing a price tag on risk.
    • Influencing the design of risk-reduction and risk-transfer activities.
  • Expertise in adaptive capacity
    • Putting a price tag on resilience measures.
    • Influencing the design of adaptive capacity actions.

 

This expertise should help to incentivize loss reduction by informing stakeholders (governments and regulators, clients and business partners, business and industry, civil society and academia) about the risks they face, advising them on risk mitigation/adaptive capacity options and providing them with existing insurance options for loss reduction.

 

 

[1] The ClimateWise Principles were launched in September 2007 by the CEOs of 16 leading insurance industry players, thereby committing their organizations to a wide range of actions on climate change, to reporting in public on those actions on an annual basis and to subjecting themselves to independent review of their progress.

 

The World’s Poor: Pope Francis Clarifies Their Disproportionate Risk to Climate Disruption

The Papal Encyclical released today focuses on the moral obligation to safeguard the earth and mankind’s common good. In it, Pope Francis defines "the urgent challenge to protect our common home" and reminds us of our shared humanity, our shared risk, and our shared responsibility to save lives and improve livelihoods in the face of climate change.

His opus defines the issue about us as humans and notes that climate change is "one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day." Although many were expecting an encyclical on the environment, his emphasis on climate change helps us to see that specific issue as a humanitarian crisis, not just an environmental problem.

The biblical proportion of climate change's shocks and stress are causing disproportionate harm to those already suffering from poverty, illness and other inequities.  Increasingly, droughts, food insecurity, superstorms and civil conflicts impact poverty and injustice.   Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index quantifies the  disproportionate risk  the Pope describes when he repeatedly returns to his message about global inequities in a climate changed world. He specifically identifies Africa as continent impacted by climate change, defining a "debt" that exists between the global south and north,

The pope defines climate change as a “complex crisis” and urges an integration of the “ecological approach” and the “social approach.”   He clarifies: “Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the underprivileged, and at the same time protecting nature.” He notes that "for poor countries, the priorities must be eliminating extreme poverty and promoting the social development of their people.”

He mentions both climate vulnerabilities (specifically water and food insecurity; sanitation and water quality; ecosystem degradation (dependence on natural capital and urban concentrations); and social, economic and governance problems (such as justice, deterioration in social cohesion, corruption, governance, and institutional effectiveness). This helps leaders to bridge from issues that keep them up at night – transparency, rule of law, education and such – to issues of climate change.

Pope Francis notes that “the world's problems cannot be analyzed or explained in isolation." He acknowledges our human ability to transform reality and calls on us to use it with an understanding of the impact on earth and humanity.

While the Pope is critical of corporate motives, he notes that “it is right to rejoice over these advances and to be excited by the immense possibilities which they continue to open up before us, for “science and technology are wonderful products of a God-given human creativity.” He adds that “technology has remedied countless evils which used to harm and limit human beings, explaining:

“Technoscience, when well directed, can produce important means of improving the quality of human life”

For ND-GAIN, the encyclical shines a holy light on both injustices and the need to combine the “elimination of extreme poverty” with climate adaptation. It motivates us to help the world's poor and disenfranchised to adapt to the unprecedented and overwhelming impacts of climate change. We must do so in service to justice for human solidarity and concern for the common good.

Disproportionate Risk

Cities in Emerging Markets as Investment Meccas

I enjoyed great conversations last week with delegates and speakers from around the world at the first Chicago Forum on Global Cities, http://www.chicagoforum.org/ held in partnership with the Financial Times, and I hope it becomes an annual event. I drew three key takeaways from the three-day event:

 

  1. Savvy investors again are snapping up opportunities in emerging markets again – including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s Albright Capital Management LLC; the Abraaj Group (which just committed US $30 million to the Auvest MENASA Opportunities Fund I L.P.; and Athena Financial Services, a holding company that licenses promising technologies in emerging economies. (Session: The Foreign Policy of Cities.)

 

  1. Global Cities may be places of inequity.

American author Richard Longworth, whose new e-book “On Global Cities” was released as part of the forum, received the money question: Can you be a global city and possess junk bond status (such as Chicago). His response: an unequivocal yes. What happens, he explained, is that as taxes rise to take care of a city’s financial issues, prices rise as well. That makes such cities islands of the wealthy and the working class gets pushed to the hinterlands. The major question becomes: While equity is seen as the heart of the new urban agenda where sustainable development goals replace millennium development goals, will these investors help global cities share the fruits of globalization with all of its citizens through job growth? (Sessions: Defining the Global City, The Foreign Policy of Cities.)

 

  1. Big companies are bullish on cities and consider it their responsibility in part to create jobs there. In sessions “Global Cities Driving the Global Economy,” “Smart Cities: Data, Innovation, and Social Apps,” and “Emerging Economy Cities and Boom Towns,” such leaders as Siemens AG’s Pedro Miranda, the head of corporate development, noted that youth employment must be married with technology for global cities to thrive.

 

MasterCard President and CEO Ajay Banga provided the most tweeted statement: "A global city is a city where even the rich use public transit" (rather than "even the poor have a car.")

 

Mark Hoplamazian, president and CEO of Hyatt Hotels, noted that tourism represents roughly 10 percent of global GDP and 275 million jobs, including many entry-level posts that do not require significant skills. He noted the importance of entry-level jobs in cities as rungs up the ladder and out of poverty.

 

As ND-GAIN grows from an exclusive country focus to embrace the global city, a clinching statement from Benjamin Barber, senior research scholar at The Graduate Center, proved especially noteworthy to me. He said, “Countries are monocultural and global cities are multicultural.” That seemed to be the prevailing sentiment that explains why cities are the first places where investors are looking for their next diamond find.

 

Advancing Climate Resilient Development

USAID and its Climate Change Resilient Development project hosted a symposium in mid-March on Advancing Climate Resilient Development at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The project, led by Engility/IRQ, was tagged as a project to watch in ND-GAIN’s 2014 Corporate Adaptation Prize competition. USAID ResilientUSAID ResilientThe Wednesday morning panel, Urban Day: Applying Technical Research and Tools in Developing Cities, focused on lessons learned from putting urban adaptation projects in place. A top-notch panel included John Furlow, USAID; Glen Anderson, Engility Corp.; Charles Cadwell, The Urban Institute; and Heather McGray, World Resources Institute (and lead rapporteur).

 

Heather issued a compelling report and to that, I offer this set of actions for all of us who consider ourselves climate-adaptation catalysts.

 

  1. We need to look before we leap, especially when it relates to pilot projects, where a healthy skepticism exists. We deserve to be impatient with small-scale action. The failure to glean lessons from pilots stands as a definite problem. Pilots should be chosen with comparability and scale-out in mind. One potential solution: Select an external group of leaders hold you accountable. In Chicago, we tapped a Green Ribbon Committee for our Chicago Climate Action Plan. At ND-GAIN, Kresge-ND-GAIN Advisors serves as our Urban Adaptation Assessment.
  2. We must integrate climate resilience into our work. A segregation/distinction between adaptation and development no longer exists. This is beneficial in a variety of ways, especially helping constituents recognize they already have built momentum and achieved success on adaptation (by reviewing their development work from the adaptation perspective.) But we should not assume all development professionals ask the climate adaptation question of their work, and we should continue to provide assets to help them to do so.
  3. We must emphasize that a good climate tool is one that is customized to the user and crafted from the user perspective. This holds true particularly with the climate scenarios and modeling. While data becomes more and more available, we also need data that is easy to access and interpret. We should invite our IT colleagues to help keep climate leaders on the cutting edge of data access.
  4. We must step up our collaboration with urban planners*, who climate change practitioners only recently have discovered. This is especially important since adaptation is a local issue. (As I have written about before, urban planners serve on the front lines of response, prevention and opportunity.)  Many urban planners reading this might contend they have been pragmatic climate-change practitioners for a long time, dealing with droughts, excessive precipitation, extreme heat, scarce natural resources, and the like.  
  5. We need to grasp that while the Private sector is an important driver of adaptation, it is markets – not plans – that drive what the private sector does.  We should make sure plans and markets follow the same direction. To do this, we must understand that market growth pertains to sustaining lives and supporting livelihoods. Generally, the corporate stakeholder is a sustainability stakeholder when helping to build markets. From that perspective, we review the work of corporate stakeholders, provide them with knowledge and collaborate with them in a way that furthers all of our goals.

*and here is a shameless plug for MIT's Department of Urban Studies and Planning!

Emerging Global Risk: Failure to Adapt to Climate Change

While the world still smarts from years of global recession, experts now identify climate change risks as bigger threats to the stability of the world than economic ones.   The World Economic Forum’s Global Risk 2015 Report ranks failure to adapt to climate change 5th out of 28 risks in terms of potential negative impact on countries or industries, and 7th in terms of likelihood of occurrence within the next 10 years. The WEF defines failure to adapt to climate change as governments and businesses failing to enforce or enact effective measures to protect populations and to help businesses impacted by climate change to transition. Although warnings of potential environmental catastrophes have grown more persistent, few survey respondents see much progress in climate change adaptation and in mitigating other environmental risks. The ten WEF Global Risks Reports taken as a whole illustrate the rising likelihood of storms and cyclones, flooding, biodiversity loss, and climate change, and the escalating impacts of extreme weather events. This year, water crises, a risk predominantly dependent on climate dynamics, tops global risks impacts, putting it above spread of infectious diseases and weapons of mass destruction.

Drawing on the perspectives of 900 experts and global decision-makers, the annual report also provides a glimpse into other risks climate change could exacerbate if society fails to adequately adapt. These include water crises, food crises, and extreme weather events. Further, global trends of urbanization, environmental degradation, and weakening of international governance are linked to adaptation failure. These insights point to the need for greater leadership engagement to implement more robust measures for climate change adaptation.

Some crucial questions emerge for government, business, and civil society communities: How does climate change impact society, economics, geopolitics, and technology, and how should it be prioritized? How effective are current adaptation policies and practices? Which areas need special attention?

Building Global Health Resilience: Pursuits in Haiti and Bangladesh

ND-GAIN focuses on building resilience to climate change as a critical component to better prepare humans and their environment for the next 100 years.  Our mission lies in enhancing the world’s understanding of the importance of adaptation and of facilitating private and public investments in vulnerable communities. For the 2014 Annual Corporate Adaptation Prize, we received 20 applicants, either multinational corporations or local enterprises working on a project in a country ranked below 60 on the ND-GAIN index and collaborating with local partners. Applications are judged on their measurable adaptation impact, scalability and market impact. Here is a brief view of two projects our applicants are employing to improve human health in Haiti and Bangladesh:

Abbott, Partners in Health & the Abbott Fund

ABBOTT GIRLS USE

Source Abbott

Abbott has teamed with Partners in Health (PIH) and the Abbott Fund to alleviate malnutrition in Haiti’s Central Plateau—the country’s poorest region, which also is prone to severe and deadly natural disasters. Based on ND-GAIN data, Haiti is the 15th most vulnerable country and the 30th least ready country. The country’s score has trended upward over the past 10 years, from 41 in 2005 to its peak at 46 in 2010, but has dropped slightly to 45 after the 2010 earthquake.

Abbott infographic

Source Abbott 

The partnership has built and opened a new facility operated by Haitians to produce Nourimanba, PIH's free and life-giving treatment for severe malnutrition in children. The partnership's agricultural development program also is helping local farmers supply the facility with high-quality peanuts, while raising farmers’ incomes. Today, the facility concentrates on producing Nourimanba and is assessing options to produce fortified peanut butter that can be sold in Haiti. They seek to create a self-sustaining social enterprise that supports facility operations and helps drive local economic activity.

BASF Grameen Limited 

BASF tent

Source BASF

To date, the facility has produced more than 60,000 kgs of Nourimanba and has treated about 6,000 patients. It has more than 40 Haitians on staff, with additional staff hired as the plant expands. In 2014, the project hopes to increase farmers’ income by 300 percent. The partnership is working with non-profit TechnoServe to provide nearly 300 local farmers with tools such as financing for seeds, supplies, and services to increase quality, and yield by 33 percent. The Abbott Fund has provided more than $6.5 million in funding, and the facility is owned by PIH, which works together with its sister organization, Zanmi Lasante. Visit the Abbott Fund website to learn more, and view this 2012 New York Times article on the PIH website.

BASF Grameen Limited is improving human health by preventing the spread of mosquito-borne diseases in Bangladesh.  It has established a joint venture social business with Grameen Healthcare Trust, a nonprofit organization created by the Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus, to help manufacture and distribute sturdy mosquito nets to vulnerable communities. The goal is to help the country achieve its UN Millennium Development Goals. Bangladesh has a gain score of 47.3 and has been steadily improving since 2005. The project hopes to further improve Bangladesh’s mortality index and external health dependency index.

With an initial investment from BASF of €200,000, the joint venture social business employs local community members in Bangladesh and sources from local suppliers where available.

The Interceptor mosquito net was the first product of this venture, which aims to reduce mosquito-borne disease, thus contributing to achieve key U.N Millennium Development Goals related to health. In 2011, BASF Grameen provided Interceptor nets to students from Dhaka University, the largest public institute in Bangladesh. Since then, BASF Grameen has constructed a plant within Bangladesh to make and distribute these nets to communities in need. According to the WHO, the protection provided by these nets against the mainly night-active vector mosquitoes is the most effective means of preventing malaria infections. The decrease in cases of malaria in Bangladesh by 70 percent over the past five years can be attributed, in large part, to the long-lasting insecticidal mosquito nets, which retain their protective properties for up to 20 washes, depending on local conditions.

Despite Bangladesh’s upward trend on the ND index, it maintains a high vulnerability and low readiness and needs investment and innovations to continue to improve. BASF Grameen Limited’s vision for the future is to scale up its operations within Bangladesh and also address similar issues in other vulnerable countries. Visit the Grameen Creative Lab and Yunus Social Business websites for more details and to learn about their other projects. This information was compiled with the help of Sophia Chau, Intern, ND-Global Adaptation

Increasing Water Security: Enlivening Communities in Africa and Asia

More frequent and severe droughts triggered by climate change place significant stress on the regions of the globe already most arid. That’s why South Pole Carbon and HSBC India, in partnership with JBF, are working to empower and bring purified water to locals in Africa and Asia. These two unique projects were entered in our 2014 Corporate Adaptation Prize Contest. South Pole Carbon

South Pole Carbon’s International Water Purification Programme (IWPP) facilitates investments in clean drinking water to boost both climate-change mitigation and adaptation:

  1. South Pole Carbon provides poor families with a reliable source of clean drinking water, thus enabling individuals and communities to become more resilient against climate change.
  2. It reduces CO2 emissions by ensuring people don’t have to boil their drinking water.

South Pole offers companies the opportunity to invest in individual projects under the IWPP and to generate adaptation and mitigation benefits, measured in liters of clean drinking water provided and in tons of CO2 reduced, respectively. Under the IWPP, companies can achieve their Corporate Social Responsibility targets while gaining measurable benefits.

Here are the scores and trends of South Pole’s target countries, according to the 2012 ND-Global Adaptation Index:

  • Mexico: 59 (trend: stable)
  • Cambodia: 133 (trend: improving)
  • Uganda: 137 (trend: stable)
  • Malawi: 136 (trend: improving)
  • Tanzania: 140 (trend: improving)
  • Kenya: 153 (trend: stable)

South Pole Carbon Water

Source: South Pole Carbon 

HSBC India & the Jal Bhagirathi Foundation

In conjunction with Jal Bhagirathi Foundation (JBF) in India, Hongkong and Shanghai Bank Corporation (HSBC) builds community leadership and leverages innovations to contribute to climate-change adaptation success through potable water harvesting projects in India. As a global commercial bank, HSBC has executed three community-based adaptation projects in Rajasthan’s Marwar region—the world’s most densely populated arid zone. JBF is a nongovernment organization that has been working in the Marwar region of the Thar Desert in Western India since 2002.

Since 2009, the partnership has built on traditional local knowledge and contemporary social and technical innovations to develop, test and replicate adaptive strategies through management of natural resources, especially water.

HSBC India

Source: HSBC India

India ranked 120th on the 2012 ND-Global Adaptation Index with a score of 53.4. Its high vulnerability score and low readiness score makes it the 55th most vulnerable country and the 60th least-ready country. Its advancement by 10 points on the relative ranking since 1999 indicates the impact that corporate investment can make on resilience.

HSBC and JBF seek to improve the adaptive capacity and resilience of local communities:

  1. Available potable water year round through localized water harvesting and landscape management enlivens communities.
  2. Women who earlier fetched water from long distances in extreme desert conditions are saved from the physical stress, and they can use the saved time and energy for children’s education and development and economic activities that increase family income.
  3. Accessible toilets and safe sanitation facilities prevent fecal contamination of scarce water and improve public health, hygiene and environmental conditions.

Key variables are being tracked, including the increased availability of drinking water, the extent of sanitation and the impact on women’s time. On average, each village achieves a 30 percent improvement in water availability annually, translating into an additional 4-to-5 months of water availability per year. The extent of sanitation has increased to 50-to-70 percent from 6-to-25 percent since 2009. This adds 2-to-3 hours of productive activities for the average woman.

Consequently, HSBC and JBF generate an array of benefits to its communities in India:

  1. Health improvement through access to safe water and sanitation
  2. Women empowerment
  3. Education and child development
  4. Livelihood security
  5. Environmental sustainability

Because the integrated village-models are replicable and scalable in line with India’s national water policy framework, HSBC plans to expand its project in the Marwar region to other water-stressed regions in India, through collaboration among its NGO partners.

Visit the Jal Bhagirathi Foundation website for more of the partnership’s projects in India.

This information was compiled with the help of Sophia Chau, Intern, ND-Global Adaptation Index.

China's Role in Adaptation?

This infographic in Fast Company got me thinking:  Is China the answer to African resilience? final version use africa

Anyone worried about climate change would be agog at what this map says:  That Africa (including, it looks like, even the African Sahel, based on the arrow) will be China’s breadbasket!  But other maps of Africa, suggest this might be a fantasy ND-GAIN’s data (as well as that of e.g. Maplecroft) suggest that Africa is vulnerable, including and especially in its food sector.

map

But what if African economic development changed these risk maps?  Then, could we see the sort of hope illustrated in that fantastic Fast Company arrow?

GAIN identifies two types of countries vulnerable to climate change – those ready for investment (due to their economic, social and governance perspectives) and those that are not.  My audience often asks me, how will those countries unready for adaptation investments become less vulnerable?  China, seemingly, is providing that answer.

The Economist reported on the Centre for China & Globalization and National Bureau of Statistics numbers, which showed that China’s direct investment flows are edging toward a slight majority of outflows this year, with around $130B in outflows and about $120B in inflows projected, and Africa is one recipient of that outbound investment. The story we know well is that state-owned enterprises are searching for resources in Africa.  And mining is a part of this story.   But private Chinese firms also are pioneering in the African marketplace, as Peter Orzag explains in Bloomberg.

Earlier this year, Reuters reported that China will extend over $12B in aid to Africa in future years.

Earlier this month, as China’s leader wrapped up a premier tour of strong handshakes and lavish gift-giving around the Pacific following on APEC, I grew hopeful that China turns from a BRIC into a brick-builder that helps African countries and other emerging economies continue to build the foundation of their resiliency.

Cocoa Climate Crisis

IFC
IFC

The International Cocoa organization has reported a 75,000-ton cocoa shortfall for this growing season and that figure is expected to reach the million-ton mark by 2020 unless swift action is taken. While Eastern Europe and Brazil, the biggest cocoa consumers, have registered a surge in chocolate consumption in recent years, extreme weather events have hurt cocoa yields.

Image from IFC

The world’s top producers of cocoa—Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana (59% of the global cocoa supply chain) and Indonesia, Nigeria, and Cameroon (23% together) – are also those hardest hit by drought and flooding yet least prepared to respond to them.

According to ND-GAIN, an index indicating countries’ vulnerability to climate change and readiness to adapt to it, Cote d’Ivoire ranks 154 on a relative scale of 1 to 178 (with 1 being the most resilient); Ghana ranks 102; and Indonesia, Nigeria, and Cameroon rank 99, 140, and 130, respectively.

As a result of cocoa’s unfortunate turn, many cocoa companies, traders and chocolate manufacturers have begun joint projects aiming to boost cocoa yields through sustainability in the supply chain.  Projects have engaged multicorporation collaboration, civil society actors and standards bodies and have generated investments from stakeholder governments. Although some projects have proven fruitful, effective coordination and scalability are still lacking, which provides much opportunity for further collaboration between private and public sectors in the next decade.

Besides climate woes and low adaptive ability, cocoa’s poor performance reflects a supply chain plagued by economic and social issues. Compromised bargaining power of smallholders, income instability and dismal working conditions are prompting many young cocoa farmers to quit in search of livelihoods elsewhere. Other issues include poor or lack of infrastructure (roads, health facilities, schools, and electricity) and a paucity of farmer training capacity. Both would provide public and private sector partnerships with opportunities for positive intervention. Several reports emphasize that yield increase alone will neither alleviate smallholders’ sufferings nor secure supply chains. Thus, the 2012 Cocoa Barometer report called for a holistic approach to solving the cocoa crisis, one going “beyond productivity.”

In the last several years, consumer awareness of these issues surrounding cocoa production has expanded. Major chocolate manufacturers such as Cadbury, based in the United Kingdom, and Mars have committed to certified cocoa production standards that improve cocoa farmers’ security. These standards are specified by internationally recognized standard bodies such as Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO) and the Rainforest Alliance. Worldwide, companies and stakeholder nations are shifting toward more sustainable cocoa and have engaged a variety of sectors in multilateral programs.

With climate change accelerating, other key commodities popping up on the risk radar include vanilla, palm oil and coffee, among others.  Keurig Green Mountain, Coca Cola, Heinz, Chipotle and other major food companies have all warned that climate change threatens businesses. Clearly, much room remains for progress, but this also provides ample opportunity for multilateral cooperation in building a more sustainable future for people, planet and profit.

Cocoa data and facts from the 2012 Cocoa Barometer report.  Blog compiled by Sophia Chau, Intern, ND-GAIN

Adaptation Potential: Africa's Hope and Promise

Adaptation Potential: Africa’s Hope and Promise Hope for building communities resilient to climate change around the world emerges from the unlikeliest of places—Africa. Shortly after release of the ND-GAIN 2014 Index, the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Visiting Professor at the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT, Calestous Juma, maintained that rankings alone fail to account for novel technological opportunities that communities not yet locked into conventional frameworks may readily adopt.

Focusing only on the rankings, Juma added in a CNN opinion editorial, risks sowing “despair among the poor and complacency among the rich.” He believes that developing countries have much cause for hope and that we must not ignore a poor nation’s creativity in the fight against climate change.

As evidence of Africa’s potential for generating responses to issues unique in our time, Juma cited the successful Sahalian drought response borne out of local collaboration as well as the mobile money-transfer initiative in Kenya. Most striking is the work of women engineers in controlling traffic through the use of robot technology in the CRD, a country ranked 5th from rock bottom of 178 countries on the ND-GAIN Index.

This hope and promise are reflected in ND-GAIN’s Readiness Matrix. Nestled in Africa are many of the world’s most vulnerable and least-prepared countries, but they each have made substantial progress in readiness to accept adaptation investment. These countries include Guinea, Laos, Liberia, Sao Tome & Principe, Zimbabwe and, most remarkably, Rwanda, which --has progressed entirely out of the red zone. The message is clear: the time is ripe for adaptation investment. In the coming years, African countries likely will emerge as leaders in the climate adaptation scene as investment continues to grow.

Infographic

In particular, alternative energy holds much promise in Africa. Although many parts of the continent receive abundant insolation – the amount of solar radiation energy received on a given surface area during a given time – and constant winds, alternative energy investment and development still are in their infancy. Limited information access and poor local training further hinder technological leaps, contends Juma.

MozambiqueThe team in Mozambique.

Collaborations between foreign and local agencies can bridge this gap. For instance, ND-GAIN, the Notre Dame Initiative for Global Development (NDIGD) and the Universidade Católica de Moçambique (UCM) teamed up to assess the impacts of early-warning systems for climate-related disasters in Mozambique. They evaluated the impacts of Community-based Disaster Management Committees (CLGRCs) and early-warning systems to show what and how interventions lead to increased climate resilience.

Moving forward, it is crucial that we understand the extent of Africa’s adaptation potential and also facilitate its adaptation efforts.  Africa likely will hold solutions to the 21st century’s most pressing problems.

Blog compiled with help from Sophia Chau, Intern, ND-GAIN 

Reflecting Post Sandy

Two years have now passed since Superstorm Sandy crashed into the northeast of the United States, showing Americans the need for climate action. Sandy remains one of the most expensive extreme weather events in history, costing corporations and governments over  $40B. And this year, a drought bit deep across the largest drought-declared area ever in Queensland, Australia. But extreme weather events like bigger, more destructive hurricanes; hotter, longer droughts; record-breaking wildfires and “biblical floods” are not just the domain of two of the richest countries in the world.

Last year at this time, we were, mourning the loss of over 6000 lives from Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.  That tragedy cost $13 billion in economic fall-out.  In 2011, an unprecedented flood in Southern Thailand caused over $150 billion in damage.

In fact, ND-GAIN scientists have calculated that people living in least developed countries have 10 times more chance of being affected by a climate disaster than those in wealthy countries EACH YEAR; And the IPCC report released last week shows we are heading in the wrong direction.  That is a catalyst for all of us – hundreds or thousands of lives are at risk.  We must adapt.

Over the course of the last several years, the world’s awareness for the need to adapt has grown.

How do we respond, informing investments and policies that save lives and improve livelihoods in the face of global shifts?

Our meeting on November 5th served as an ideal platform for participants to deliberate development and business risks and opportunities as we explored successful adaptation efforts, predictions of future challenges and developments in adaptation measurement while learning first hand of trends evident from the ND-GAIN Country Index 2014.  Thirty speakers from all sectors shared their insights, and we released our Country Index to enhance the world’s understanding of the importance of adaptation and inform public and private investments in vulnerable communities.

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Have a look at the recap video, watch footage of the meeting panelists, check out the TV, podcast and written press on the meeting and release, and let us know what you think.

 

Climate change a growing concern for companies expanding their footprint

This article originally appeared in The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/hubs-water-climate-change-siting-drought-flood-business Traditionally, the most important factors in choosing a location for a new factory or operation have always been workforce supply and economic incentives. But a new consideration, climate change, is quickly moving up the ranks as a major factor for corporate decision-makers. Recently, as climate-related crises have hit cities across the globe, it's become increasingly clear that companies need to consider the financial impact of a paucity – or an excess – of water.

Operational, strategic and quality-of-life issues factor heavily in the decisions that giant enterprises make about where to locate their much sought after capital projects. As the devastating environmental conditions associated with climate change – including water shortages, severe storms, natural disasters, rising seas and hotter climates – become more pressing, it's clear that these, too, will become key considerations for companies hoping to press their competitive advantages.

As a result, these decisions will begin to dramatically affect both traditional and emerging business, transportation, manufacturing and travel hubs. And as with anything else involving corporations, real estate, jobs and money, there will definitely be winners and losers.

Supply chain links

In the wake of natural disasters, which appear to be getting increasingly severe, a "new normal" has emerged among corporate decision-makers. With some analysts citing the impact of the mutable climate, more companies are adding a climate-change dimension to their strategic supply-chain planning and site selection. Adaptive management of climate risks is playing a growing role in boardrooms and C-suites across the globe, particularly at multinationals.

A report from CDP, the global non-profit that measures vital environmental information, found that 72% of companies surveyed see physical risks from climate change disrupting their supply chain.

For New Orleans-based energy company Entergy, 2005's Hurricane Katrina was a lesson in the potential supply disruptions that could be caused by increasingly extreme weather events. Since then, Entergy has begun incorporating climate risks into its business planning and operating activities; consequently, it has strengthened its power-distribution network, including the sites that are most vulnerable.

Water, water nowhere

Companies often underestimate the importance of water to their business, and few have a comprehensive global process to assess water risk. But this is quickly changing, notably in the west and southwest regions of the US, as drought sinks critical water supplies. Companies in the food and beverage, mining and oil and gas companies sectors especially base their site assessments on high-level projections of water scarcity.

In 2013, the Aqueduct Project, a hydrological mapping initiative at the World Resources Institute, ranked 36 countries based on their water risk. Sixteen, including the UAE, Barbados, Cyprus, Jamaica and Singapore, received a 5.0, the worst possible rating.

But if drought is a consideration, so is flooding, and too much water can also affect site selection. After Thailand's extensive flooding in 2011, losses for badly damaged global parts suppliers alone totaled an estimated $15-20bn, and the flood hurt the bottom line of several multinationals, including Ford, Toyota, Dell, Cisco and Honda. HP, another company that was especially hard-hit, estimated that half of its 7% fourth-quarter 2011 revenue slide was due to the flooding. Not surprisingly, global companies are increasingly assessing the issue of monsoons and other water-related weather events when making decisions about where to locate or enlarge their facilities.

As for the US, it won't be long before severe water-supply problems in states like California and Arizona will begin to affect their popularity as site locations for plants. And look for other states as well as cities with plentiful supplies, such as those surrounding the Great Lakes, to woo businesses with water as their big asset. Already, Milwaukee is leveraging the business potential of its plentiful water supply. It's certainly not alone.

Site selection heats up

Water isn't the only climate issue that is increasingly affecting site selection. Too much heat is also becoming a factor as it becomes clear that fiery temperatures and air pollution can have a major, devastating effect on workplaces and workforces. Air-conditioning alone can't make up for such conditions.

A team of climate-change researchers recently studied 170m hospital admissions and eight million deaths in Germany. After tracking them season by season, day by day, for 10 years, they found that the temperature-and-pollution spikes associated with extreme heat events tended to increase hospital admissions and deaths by 2% to 5% the first day. Adverse health effects and mortality mounted with each day of a heat wave.

Interestingly, the analysis found that extreme cold events typically had a negligible to nonexistent impact on hospitalization and deaths. Distributed across the population of a country such as Germany or the US, the analysis estimates that the cost of a hot day is between 10 cents and 68 cents per resident in terms of health care and lost productivity.

Winners and losers

So, when it comes to site selection and climate, which countries top the list? The Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index (ND-GAIN), where I work, has ranked the climate adaptation performance of 177 countries over the last 17 years, has found that, while the top-ranked countries are often prone to sea level rise, drought and flooding, they are nonetheless able to maintain the security of their water, food, and health systems. They are able to preserve their fundamental ecosystems, and their coastal, energy and transportation infrastructures remain sound, enabling greater social, economic and governmental stability.

The ND-GAIN's highest-ranked country is Denmark, which has an index score of 83.4. Other European countries and Australia round out the top 10, while the US ranks 13th, with a score of 79.

North Korea is the lowest-ranked country, with an index of 34.3, and Afghanistan, Burundi, the Central African Republic and Eritrea fill out the bottom five on the list of countries that aren't likely to draw many foreign industrial and business operations any time soon.

The most surprising low-ranked countries are India, which is number 120, and China, which is number 98. But as two of the hottest spots for global business in the last decade, both demonstrate the impact that corporate investment can have on resiliency. India has moved up 10 points on the relative ranking since 1999, and China has moved between three and six spots during that period.

In real-estate parlance, the desirability of a property is based on location, location, location. And while climate change may still rank below such factors as workforce and incentives, more and more organizations are weighing climate conditions as they determine where they will locate new operations.

Consequently, cities, states and countries that lag on the climate-change index need to launch initiatives, such as public-private partnerships, to strengthen their attractiveness. The private sector, of course, can play an invaluable role in this effort.

This article originally appeared in The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/hubs-water-climate-change-siting-drought-flood-business.

The Wrong Direction: Countries at Risk from Climate Change Face Shrinking Resiliency

In its latest stark report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change describes significant and worsening environmental risks to the world’s poorer countries.  Indeed, the situation is so severe in 11 countries that any amount of corporate investment right now isn’t likely to improve their situations should global shocks strike, including climate change. The countries – Algeria, the Congo, Cuba, Ethiopia, Honduras, Libya, Madagascar, Nepal, Nicaragua, Syria and Venezuela – all rank below 100 on the  University of Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index, a measure of a country’s vulnerability to global challenges in combination with its readiness to improve resilience.

The critical issue for these countries remains their preparedness to accept investment in adaptation or resiliency. In countries such as Yemen, Syria, and Nepal, political instability and violence are trending downward, decreasing investment readiness.  In Venezuela, it’s the rule of law; in Nicaragua and Madagascar, it is a dearth of education opportunities. And in Libya, it’s the lack of a voice and accountability.

Many of these countries already have experienced weather extremes. Consider Syria’s drought that forced 800,000 farmers to migrate to the cities in recent years, or the unprecedented flooding in Nicaragua in 2013. Will they prove to be resilient to the next climate disruption?  It’s not likely.

They must focus on their governance, social systems and economic structures to turn their readiness trend around and increase the likelihood that they can attract private and public investments to help them endure their vulnerabilities to climate change.

 

Australia to Zimbabwe: Contrasts in Drought Resiliency

The world has grown more informed about how to handle drought after observing southern Australia weather 12 years of one.  We’ve learned lessons about water conservation and efficiency, about recycling water and finding previously untapped supplies.  Yet, when a relatively shorter drought of less than a year hit Zimbabwe last year, the country suffered a great deal. Curious about what distinguishes the relative resiliency of these two countries and seeking to go beyond my immediate judgement that it’s because Australia is a well-developed economy and Zimbabwe is far less so,  I turned to ND-GAIN for insights.  Here’s what I learned:

  • Australia, at No. 5 on the ND-GAIN index, has continued to move up the ranks – it’s now well ahead of the U.S. at 13.
  • Zimbabwe, at 171 on the ND-GAIN index, sits five places from the bottom of the Index. It has fallen 35 places. Its food important dependency of 28 percent contrasts to Australia’s 3 percent.
  • Though its rural population is also declining, 64 percent of its population lives in rural areas to Australia’s 11 percent.
  • Zimbabwe also gets a growing amount of energy from both hydropower – prone to drought-related variability - and imported sources, while Australia’s dependence on foreign oil is smaller and decreasing.
  • The most striking variance in vulnerability, perhaps, lies in the two countries’ dependence on natural capital: Zimbabwe scores 38 percent and Australia four percent (and decreasing). This may explain why their natural systems responded so differently even though water-related vulnerabilities including precipitation and temperature change don’t differ markedly between the two countries.

But the big reveal that, unfortunately, supports many a hunch is that Australia’s readiness to adapt to climate change – as measured by economic, governance and social indicators – is two-to-three times greater than Zimbabwe’s.  Political stability, an economic environment conducive to business and the quality of the rule of law, to cite some specific readiness measures, all help countries weather the stress of drought.

While we should all take lessons from Australia’s deft handling of its drought – learned over time through trial and error – we also should continue to support efforts to shore up the readiness of a lower-income country as a way to ensure that Zimbabwe and others keep pace with the adaptations needed in a climate-changed world.

Poor Countries Are Losing Ground in the Race to Adapt to a Changing Climate

The World Economic Forum released their 2014 Global Risk Report with a write up crafted by WEF’s Global Agenda Council on Climate Change based, where Juan Jose Daboub (the Global Adaptation Institute’s founding CEO) is co-chair.  I drafted the original write up which resulted in this piece: The year 2014 is likely to be crucial for addressing climate risks, a point made by United Nations (UN) climate chief Christiana Figueres at the Warsaw Climate Change Conference. Countries made only limited progress on issues such as emissions reduction, loss and damage compensation, and adaptation. Greater progress is urgently needed to create incentives and mechanisms to finance action against climate change while efforts are made to keep temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius.

Even as governments and corporations are called upon to speed up greenhouse gas reduction, it is clear that the race is on not only to mitigate climate change but also to adapt. Droughts, super-storms and other natural disasters are increasingly causing systemic risks around the world.

Failure to adapt most strongly affects the most vulnerable, especially those in the least developed countries. They tend to lack the infrastructure and capacity to deal with extreme droughts and floods, reduced crop yields and increased stresses on energy and water supplies.

According to the latest Notre Dame-Global Adaptation Index, it will take more than 100 years for the world’s poorest countries to reach the current adaptive capacity of higher-income OECD countries. The World Bank estimates the cost of climate change adaptation for developing countries at US$ 70-100 billion per year through to 2050.

Gradually, however, promising models are emerging of collaboration between the public and private sectors and civil society to strengthen resilience to climate change. An example is the US$ 3 billion Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT), intended to create the infrastructure to nurture new value chains. Through techniques such as rainwater harvesting, efficient irrigation and crops that can produce more nutrients for the same input of water, SAGCOT aims to increase food production in a way that is both environmentally sustainable and benefits small-scale farmers and the rural poor.

Such innovative and ambitious projects, unlocking investment funds through public-private partnership, showcase the kind of multistakeholder collaboration that will be needed across all sectors to meet the twin priorities of climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Sources

ND-Global Adaptation Index http://news.gain.org/post/69787249752/2013-nd-gain-data-show-worlds-poorest-countries-lag

Scherr, S. J., J. C. Milder, L. E. Buck, A. K. Hart, and S. A. Shames. 2013. A vision for Agriculture Green Growth in the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT): Overview. Dar es Salaam: SAGCOT Centre. Available at http://www.ecoagriculture.org/documents/files/doc_483.pdf

World Bank. 2010. Economics of Adaptation to Climate Change: Synthesis Report, Washington DC: World Bank. Available at http://climatechange.worldbank.org/sites/default/files/documents/EACCSynthesisReport.pdf

 

Business on the Front Lines

A benefit – and deep pleasure – of working at the University of Notre Dame is rubbing shoulders with eminent thinkers.  I had the joy last year of meeting Viva Bartkus, Ph.D., Associate Professor at the university’s Mendoza College of Business. She not only is a , University of Notre Dame who is not only a great sage, but also a fine director. In her course, Business on the Front Lines, Notre Dame graduate students serve in post-conflict societies to inspire  business initiatives through the humanitarian lens.  In two-week installments, they play a role in building long-term community capacity for local resiliency and stability by partnering with local institutions to give people a stake in peace. Earlier this week, I noted in a blog about food security that in employing its Pilot Program for Climate Resilience, the World Bank found flagging demand from the private sector in climate-resiliency issues.  Fully 90 percent of their PPCR resources were tapped by government, and only 7 percent by the private sector. The Bank cited as a possible cause the lack of development of markets in these communities.  Looking at the ND-GAIN scores for the countries Dr. Viva’s class has impacted, her course is embracing these markets.

Her goal: to explore the role of business in rebuilding war-torn communities.

Students have worked with Uganda farmers to consider cultivation measures to enhance the quality of the food they bring to

Viva notes that BOTFL is a “Journey of discovery where students ask ‘what should be the role of business in society.’”market; in Kenya to inform supply-chain variables with new business models and in Lebanon to determine new approaches to the public/private/political interface in government-run utilities.  After students depart, Catholic Relief Services staff members continue working with local experts to put them into effect.

Business on the Frontlines is demonstrating to students—and to the world—the powerful impact business can have in pulling populations out of poverty and stabilizing society following a conflict or disaster.  It’s a great example of building resiliency through private sector efforts.

Expert View: Five Issues that Promise to Heighten National Security Risks in a Changing Climate

At last month’s ND-GAIN annual meeting, Brigadier General (USMC RET) Stephen Cheney, the American Security Project’s CEO, laid it on the line.  For the military and for the world, climate change risk is real and grows every day.  And the military knows from experience that waiting for certainty on future predictions can prove disastrous. Reflecting on climate impacts with national security significance, a panel spelled out five repercussions of a changing climate.  Cheney himself laid out four risks:

  1. Sea level rise in Asia will displace millions of people.  In Bangladesh alone, more than one million of its 160 million people will need to relocate. Relocations cause tensions that historically have erupted into civil conflict in which the U.S. military has responded..

  2. Forest fires, such as the one in Russia that elevated wheat prices and perhaps sowed the seeds of the Arab Spring in the Middle East, will put more natural resources at risk, causing scarcity-driven conflicts. (In an earlier post, I noted that the U.S. Defense Department estimates that 6,000 square kilometers of African land for agriculture – roughly the size of the West Bank and Gaza[1]will disappear by 2060 so the bargain over food resources will worsen.)
  3. Extreme weather events, such as Super Typhoon Haiyan that ravaged the Philippines will require military response for humanitarian aid.
  4. Arctic ice melt will trigger a tussle over territory, leading to conflict between the nations that claim ownership.

The fifth effect of a changing climate with national security implications was offered by Marcus King, associate professor of George Washington University’s The Elliott School of International Affairs. His was a promising trend – that water scarcity has fostered more incidents of cooperation than conflict.  For instance, he mentioned the agreement by Jordan, Israel and the Palestine Authority to rejuvenate the Dead Sea.

He noted that the Pentagon refers to climate change as an instability accelerant, and cited projections from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and others that by 2030, global demand for water will exceed the water supply by 40 percent.  Already, in the tinder box of the Middle East, water trends are alarming.  In Syria, 800,000 farmers were forced to move to cities because of a two-year drought and, in Yemeni, aquifers could be depleted by 2020.  For Egypt, which relies on neighboring countries for all of its fresh water, conflicts driven by water could erupt as Egypt’s neighbors consider building dams for their energy security.

As Roger-Mark De Souza, director of the Wilson Center of Population, Environment, Security and Social Change foretold, with 1.5 billion, or more than one-in-five, people worldwide living in conflict or post-conflict areas, climate vulnerability will worsen crises.


[1] Approximately 6,020 square kilometers, The World Bank

 

Feeding a climate-altered world

How will we feed the world amid drought, fire, floods and population shifts?  While I don’t yet envision a Malthusian catastrophe, per se, I think it critical to begin a conversation about this question as it relates to our work.  At last month’s ND-GAIN Annual Meeting at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., I derived several key takeaways from our panelists*:

  1. Climate change could undermine development advances of the 20th Century, such as the interrelated issues of food security, global health and poverty reduction, the World Bank contends.
  2. The largest demand for funds in the Pilot Program for Climate Resilience is for agricultural and landscape-management projects and, among fund recipients, water is the second largest.  Project examples include $5M to Mozambique (ND-GAIN Rank 137 http://index.gain.org/country/mozambique ) for drip irrigation and other agriculture enhancements, $15M to Zambia (ND-GAIN Index http://index.gain.org/country/zambia ) to insure farmers against extreme weather and $22M to Bangladesh, (ND-GAIN Rank 145 http://index.gain.org/country/bangladesh) for a seed selection and storage and cropping cycles project.
  1. As climate portfolios grow to include resiliency and adaptation, in addition to greenhouse gas mitigation, the World Bank notes a decreased participation from the private sector, says Patricia Bliss-Guest Program Manager of Climate Investment Funds there. Through its pilot program for climate resilience, the Bank works to incent additional private participation in addition to government assistance.
  1. Microinsurance is a major priority for the insurance sector in emerging markets and insurance can send important price-based signals to the market, notes Lindene Patton Chief Climate Product Officer at Zurich Insurance Group Ltd. She cautions against subsidizing insurance too much, adding that the question of climate risk is generally understood by the reinsurance industry to be a people, not a physical science, problem.
  2. The key to resiliency in the food supply (taking cocoa as a case) involves examining all the vectors impacting farmers, including demographic shifts, community engagements, diversity of crops and agrarian livelihoods, maintains Perry Yeatman Principal, Mission Measurement, based on her work at Kraft Foods. She says it matters to our ample supply of chocolate bars that cocoa farmers are aging, their children are migrating to cities, the farmers need to raise chickens to diversify their nutrition and their community structures are crucial to their farms’ viability.
  3. While climate change might favor the Eastern Europe and the Americas, a tremendous amount of investment for water infrastructure is necessary elsewhere in the world, believes David Gustafson Senior Fellow and Environmental and Ag Policy Modeling Lead at Monsanto. He favors partnerships with local and global institutions to address this concern, especially as the global agricultural community looks to intensify its production efforts sustainably to feed our  ever-growing world population.

In a future post, I plan to address the approaches for increasing this agricultural intensity. As I write this, my alumni magazine arrived with the cover story, “GMO vs. Fresh Food….”   I’ve had a study diet of this issue and look forward to continuing the dialogue.

*A video of the panel can be found here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V09U8W00Mk4&feature=c4-overview-vl&list=PLF545132229EF6E68