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ND-GAIN connects on climate adaptation at regional conferences

NAF-logo ECCA Picture

 

 

 

 

 

 

Members of the ND-GAIN team recently attended the European Climate Change Adaptation (ECCA) Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark as well as the North American National Adaptation Forum (NAF) in St. Louis, Missouri. The team members took an active role with both speaking roles as well as advising for each conference.

The European Climate Change Adaptation Conference discussed a broad range of issues related to climate change and international adaptation. This conference featured ND-GAIN’s Data Scientist Dr. Martin Murillo as he presented a paper discussing adaptation in cities, specifically a quantitative evaluation of climate change vulnerability of urban and other smaller political/administrative entities. This paper allowed ND-GAIN to connect with others working in this same area, and created a variety of connections to assist in this area of work.

The team also took a substantial role in the North American National Adaptation Forum as Joyce Coffee, Dr. Jessica Hellmann, and Dr. Chen Chen spoke on a variety of topics at the conference. ND-GAIN also hosted the Kresge-ND-GAIN Urban Adaptation Advisors session.  The urban adaptation assessment hopes to advance consensus around standards for adaptation measurement for cities across the U.S. The project also helped to elevate critical needs on climate actions and thereby inform decisions about infrastructure, land use, water resources management, transportation and other policy and funding issues. The ultimate goal is to inform communities so that government, corporations and people are motivated to build social, physical, and natural systems that are resilient to the impacts of climate change.

At the North American National Adaptation Forum ND-GAIN’s Joyce Coffee presented on the panel “The Adaptation Blind Spot: Distant Climate Change Risks that Matter Locally” about societal teleconnections. Joyce also facilitated a session on “International Development and Climate Adaptation,” which highlighted the difference between domestic and international adaptation, and focused on ecosystem and human system vulnerability. Dr. Hellmann talked on “Public Private Partnership” to address the issues involving the partnership of the public and private sectors in the light of climate change adaptation. She also discussed “Urban Resilience Indicators in Action,” which showed the particular measurements ND-GAIN utilizes as well as how they differ from others in this field. Dr. Chen, a data analyst with ND-GAIN, discussed “Data-Driven Assessment Tool of Vulnerability and Preparedness to Climate Change Adaptation” in the Tools Café session. This showcased ND-GAIN’s Country Index as a valuable asset in this kind of research,

Two key themes emerged from the conference: the first a heartening emphasis on very local community adaptation. Almost a dozen St. Louis-based community groups were at the forum to learn and celebrate their adaptation progress. The second a sobering reminder that the magnitude and time scale of climate change suggests stakeholders may not be radical enough in our actions.

Burundi Analysis: Vulnerability, Readiness, and Recommendations

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Highlights:

Burundi's low ND-GAIN score reflects the nation's standing as one of the fifth poorest nations in the world. Because over 30% of Burundi's GDP depends on agriculture, and most of the population lives in rural areas, climate change could have an extremely negative impact on its economy and human living condition, thus exacerbating its already extreme child malnutrition and increasing its dependence on humanitarian aid. This brief study illustrates the utilization of ND-GAIN as an assessment tool that highlights areas in dire need of improvement so a nation can adapt and cope with the current and future effects of climate change and other challenges.

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ND-GAIN

 Increases in climate-related disasters and other climate change-related stresses will lead to increased costs for governments and businesses, complicate political decisions, and threaten the quality of life, especially for vulnerable populations. Making adjustments to human systems intended to reduce vulnerability and to minimize negative impacts from climate change is referred to as climate change adaptation.

The ND-GAIN index aims to help businesses and the public sector better prioritize adaptation investments to decrease vulnerabilities in the face of global shifts such as natural resource constraints, overcrowding, and climate change.

The Index summarizes a country's vulnerability[i] to climate change and other global challenges in combination with its readiness to accept adaptation investments. A country's ND-GAIN score is composed of a vulnerability score and a readiness score. Thirty-six indicators contribute to the measure of vulnerability. Nine indicators contribute to the measure of readiness. The Index measures vulnerability using a range of indicators that reflect medium or long-term climate change impacts in six life-supporting vulnerability sectors, as well as the “readiness” of governance, economic stability and social structures. Readiness indicators suggest a country’s ability to mobilize and absorb adaptation investment. The calculation of the ND-GAIN score of a nation can be illustrated by:

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Each indicator comes from a reliable public data source such as the World Bank, Food and Agriculture Organization, and the United Nations. The selection of the indicators is based on literature survey and consultation with scholars, adaptation practitioners, and global development experts. The chosen indicators must be i) actionable through adaptation, ii) consistent with current knowledge and best practices, iii) potentially downscalable from national to regional or urban, iv) directly representative of the phenomena they measure, and v) must not include broad socio-economic measures such as GDP per capita or Human Development Index. Moreover, the indicators need to be quantified at the country-level with data that: i) provide global coverage, ii) provide time-series coverage, iii) are transparent and conceptually clear, iv) are freely accessible, and v) are provided by reliable sources that carry out quality checks on such data.

 

BURUNDI ANALYSIS

As shown in Figure 2a, Burundi’s 2013 ND-GAIN score was 33.8, putting the nation among the ten lowest scoring nations worldwide. This standing reflects its status as one of the five poorest nations in the world. While the nation's ND-GAIN score has consistently increased over the last 18 years (from 27.5 in 1995 to 33.8 in 2013), this raise was due almost entirely to improvement in the country’s readiness score; its vulnerability score, on the other hand, has remained nearly constant (unimproved) for the last 18 years. The ND-GAIN Matrix (Figure 1) depicts Burundi’s trajectory over time on a vulnerability and readiness plane.

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Vulnerability

 As shown in Figure 3, Burundi’s vulnerability to climate change is affected the most by its health and food sectors, corresponding to scores of 0.789 and 0.683 respectively. The high score of its habitat and ecosystems’ sectors also play a pivotal role on the nation’s high vulnerability standing. The water sector score (0.332) is the least vulnerable of all the sectors and stands below the African average of 0.571. All other areas score above Africa’s average, meaning they are more vulnerable.

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According to FAO, rice, wheat and maize make up two thirds of human food consumption. Projected change in yield of these three crops in a country is an indicator of how climate change may affect that country’s agriculture sector. According to a Representative Country Pathway 4.5 emission scenario (a measure of greenhouse gas concentration trajectories) and the application of the ND-GAIN scoring framework, by 2050, Burundi will become more vulnerable in the food sector due to decreased cereal yields (see Figure 4). Increases in cereal yields (corresponding to lower scores) are generally favorable for lessening a nation's vulnerability. Please refer to the methodology document at http://index.nd-gain.org for detailed rationale on vulnerability indicator direction and overall index computation.

Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 1.17.11 PM The effects of the change of cereal yields in worsening the nation’s vulnerability could be attributed to a combination of several factors, including:

  • more than 87% of Burundi's population live in rural areas, which are mostly agricultural or pastoral (see Figure 5)
  • this population is expected to grow from 6.2 million today to 27 million by 2050 (see Figure 8), and
  • Burundi's agricultural capacity has not progressed significantly over the last 18 years and this trend might continue (see Figure 6)
  • Agriculture is the nation's largest industry, accounting for over 30% of the GDP

Although Burundi's percentage of rural population is expected to lessen (as shown in Figure 5), the rate of this decrease is not enough to lessen its high rural density, which is the cause of deforestation, soil erosion and habitat loss. These, in turn, are contributing to the chronic malnutrition of 56.8% of children under age 5. See Figure 7.Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 1.19.56 PM

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Readiness

 As illustrated in Figures 1 and 9, Burundi’s ND-GAIN readiness component has improved consistently from 1995 to 2013. However, Burundi's readiness score is the 17th lowest score worldwide, at the same level of Afghanistan and Nigeria. This makes Burundi unprepared to leverage finances (from foreign investment, development funds or other sources) to build up adaptive capacity.

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As illustrated in Figure 10, Burundi's 2013 Readiness score is impacted the most by its economic component, followed by its social and governance readiness components.

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It is important to note that Burundi is landlocked and is one of the smallest countries in Africa. The country has historically suffered from warfare, corruption, poor access to education, and lack of innovation, all of which are problems that still plague the nation, as illustrated in Figures 11 and 12.

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Figure 12 highlights the nation's lack of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) infrastructure, which plays an important role in the nation’s low social score. The lack of ICT infrastructure, the basis for the provision of other ICT services, could be considered alarming at a period when technology is a tool that drives economic growth and innovation. Perhaps one of the underlying reasons for the nation’s poor ICT score is its under-dependence on electricity, as less than 2% of the nation enjoys household electricity. Similarly, its poor education indicator might play an important role in the lack of use and demand of ICT services. Burundi has an excellent social inequality score, far above Africa’s average, which might reflect its relatively homogeneous population as a result of its separation from Rwanda.

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RECOMMENDATIONS

In the context of agriculture and livelihoods, we have identified Burundi's ND-GAIN sectors and indicators that contribute to the nation’s poor standing worldwide.  Only two countries (Eritrea and Chad) rank worse than Burundi on the ND-GAIN Index in terms of the countries' vulnerability to climate change and readiness to adapt.

For the nation to considerably improve its capability to cope with these challenges, there will need to be adequate and prompt improvements on the indicators that are actionable in the short and medium-term, and the establishment of adequate platforms for a gradual improvement of the indicators that are actionable in the long term.

In this context, ND-GAIN’s adaptive capacity component describes the availability of social resources to put adaptation into place. Figure 13 illustrates how Burundi compares to Africa’s average and Rwanda, highlighting the adaptive capacity indicators that can be prioritized. A comparison of Burundi and Rwanda illustrates that there are four indicators that can be improved: child malnutrition, access to improved sanitation facilities, disaster preparedness, and protected biome.

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Because Burundi's GDP is overly dependent on agriculture, climate change could exacerbate and complicate its already very bad economy, human conditions, child malnutrition, and over dependence on humanitarian aid. While urgent humanitarian aid will focus on the most pressing issues such as child malnutrition and health, medium and long-term international development interventions will need to focus on the provision of a stable basis for development of areas such as control of corruption and political stability and non-violence. Aid is more effective when the policy and institutional environment is "good", because aid is then more likely to be used rationally, and not wasted.

In spite of the steady improvement of the nation’s ND-GAIN readiness component and its positive effect on the improvement of the ND-GAIN score, the nation’s rate of improvement is not enough for coping with urgent issues that are complicated by climate change. Improvement in readiness components is necessary but not sufficient.

Nevertheless, given Burundi’s overdependence on agriculture, the introduction of electricity and ICTs could be a tool that helps in the betterment of education, empowerment of the citizen, and economic diversification. Indeed, given Burundi's high rural population density and small territory, the introduction of reliable electricity and ICTs is feasible under a framework that empowers the citizens, heightens education, and fosters growth of small and medium size enterprises.

Bordering nations such as Rwanda (with similar social and geo-political contexts) are able to demonstrate that better rates of improvement and considerable betterment of vulnerability sectors and indicators are also possible.

 

About ND-GAIN

ND-Global Adaptation Index is the world’s first private nonprofit organization created to save lives and improve livelihoods in developing countries by promoting the understanding and importance of adapting to global changes brought about by climate, population shifts, urbanization and economic development. It is the leading index showing which countries are best prepared to deal with security risks, droughts, superstorms and other disasters and is the only free and open-source index to measure a country’s vulnerability to climate change and other global forces, as well as its readiness to accept private and public sector investment in adaptation.

Decision-makers use ND-GAIN’s country-level rankings to determine how vulnerable countries are to global changes and how ready they are to adapt, thus informing strategic operational and reputational decisions regarding supply chains, policy choices, capital projects and community engagements.   The Index helps leaders avoid costs, manage liabilities and build resilience. ND-GAIN also informs market expansion by identifying which countries are ready for products and services that increase adaptation. Key elements of the metrics behind ND-GAIN include water, energy and transportation availability, along with economic, governance and human health factors. The Index was created in consultation with world-class scientists, civil society representatives and business leaders. The Global Adaptation Institute was founded in 2010, and moved to the University of Notre Dame from Washington, D.C. in April 2013, becoming the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

All information encountered (including illustrations) in this document is obtained from ND-GAIN data found at http://index.gain.org. Please refer to the Methodology document found at that address for further insights on the methodology and computation of the ND-GAIN index.

Preparing for New Realities: Planners Weigh in on Adapting to Climate Change

This post originally appeared on Triple Pundit: http://www.triplepundit.com/2015/05/preparing-new-realities-planners-weigh-adapting-climate-change/

With climate uncertainty a new normal, planners from around the world are tussling with how to work with thrift so they don’t create and employ plans that may not work in an uncertain future. At last weekend’s annual American Planning Association conference in SeStreets of Bangkok Flooded in Thailandattle, for instance, planners mulled how to approach climate change and natural hazards at both the local level and worldwide. The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy sponsored the planning and climate change symposia.

In some ways, adaptation and planning are interchangeable. Yet very few sessions at the conference dealt with climate adaptation and, oddly, while the event coincided on Earth Day weekend, none of the sessions or side conversations I participated in even mentioned it.

Of course, planners focus generally on people and the built form. And though the environmental movement and Earth Day may be moving for humans, APA has not come to meet Earth Day.

With decades of expertise on how to create change at the local level, I took careful notes about the recommendations from these experts on how best to be an adapter/planner. Here are my Top 10 takeaways:

  1. Since the future is random and chaotic, and climate change will create a new normal, plan with thrift and create double-duty solutions (which Judith Rodin outlines in her “The Resilience Dividend” about bouncing back from a crisis and achieving revitalization.). In addition, build in elasticity and steward resources toward prevention and recovery for when the real need arises. Be ready for surprise. (Julie Wormser, Boston Harbor Association.)
  2. Institutionalize a national legislative directive to reduce climate risk and build resilience in the face of climate change. At the same time, develop a capacity-building program to enable local government to translate directive into practical reality (Bruce Glavovic, Massy University (New Zealand)
  3. Just as planning isn’t only about bricks and mortar, adaptation must reflect mixing incomes and neighborhoods and focusing on social cohesion as both a prerequisite for adaptation and an outcome of it. (Lexi Bambas Nolan Episcopal Diocese of Texas)
  4. Planners are experts at bringing innovation to elected officials, recognizing that the only way to gain innovation (adaptation, planning or otherwise) is to make it politically attractive so elected officials are protected from the risk of losing constituents. (Gary Lawrence, AECOM)
  5. Resilience favors diversity and more choices. Use all of the amazing scenario analysis tools planners have introduced (even to the gaming world, remember SimCity?) to offer lots of choices (Jason Oliveira, Autodesk)
  6. Employ the influence of the money already spent on infrastructure (which will be around in that uncertain new normal) rather than demand a new pot of resilience-only money (Harriet Tregoning, HUD)
  7. For many planning constituents, a new plan can solve an unexplained problem, which makes it unattractive. Make certain the problem is clear, spelling out the opportunity cost of not pursuing the new plan. (George McCarthy, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy)
  8. Focus on solutions, not problems. The public needs to hear: “We are going to protect this neighborhood from flooding.” Not, “This is what a 100-year storm will look like in a climate changed world.” (Laura Tam, SPUR)
  9. Adaptation can be grouped into three categories: anticipatory; reactive; retreat. Our challenge is to move from static responses that, historically, have left us with ruins after disasters, to adaptive pathways. (Peter Byrne, Georgetown Climate Center)
  10. My personal favorite: Deal with planning conflicts (e.g., over water use, right-of-way interpretations, etc.) the same way you would deal with family conflict. Set religion and politics aside and, in their place, arrange a table with a large dish to pass, providing sustenance to the vigorous debate of each member of the family about the issue. (Lawrence)

Several of the planners I spoke with were bewildered, quite frankly, by my emphasis on climate adaptation. They reminded me that adaptation isn’t just about preparing for some future unexpected event. It’s about investing in your community in a way that delivers benefits every single day. Planners take into account wider social trends that may have no apparent association with natural hazard risk. They are expert at the avoidance imperative inherent in planning safer streets, stable housing markets and reliable infrastructure that we must use in all cases for adaptation.

All key elements of adaptation action lie at the heart of planners’ work. Perhaps that is why, several weeks ago at a Climate Change Resilient Development conferenceorganized by USAID in the District of Columbia, Heather McCray, director of vulnerability and adaptation and a part of WRI’s new Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, summed up a panel of planners from Vietnam to Uzbekistan by noting that climate adaptation experts have just discovered urban planners as their embedded allies.

Joyce Coffee is managing director of the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index, a program of the Environmental Change Initiative. She has a degree in city planning.

Momentum for Change -Apply to Receive UN Award!

Organizations, cities, industries, governments and other key players thatare taking the lead on addressing climate change adaptation in developing countries are encouraged to nominate their projects for a prestigious United Nations award. http://momentum.unfccc.int/ The United Nations Climate Change secretariat is currently accepting applications for the 2015 Momentum for Change Awards as part of wider efforts to mobilize action and ambition as national governments work toward adopting a new universal climate agreement this year. Winning initiatives, called ‘Lighthouse Activities,’ highlight some of the most innovative, scalable and replicable examples of what people are doing to address climate change, in the hope of inspiring others to do the same.  Adaptation project applications are encouraged.

The 2015 Momentum for Change Lighthouse Activities will recognize climate action that is already achieving real results in four key areas:

action by and for the urban poor,

action that fosters women’s leadership,

action that unlocks climate finance and

action that uses ICT-enabled solutions.

The winning activities will be announced in November 2015 and officially recognized and celebrated during a series of special events in December at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, France.

Winning activities will receive a wide range of benefits, including fully covered attendance to the conference in Paris, France; access to policy makers and potential funders during the conference; public recognition by the UN Climate Change secretariat; public relations support and media training; high-quality promotional videos and podcasts; a dedicated page about the project on the UNFCCC website; and graphic assets such as infographics and professional photography.

Applications for the 2015 Momentum for Change Awards are being accepted until 24 April 2015 at http://momentum.unfccc.int/

Brazil drought – the Readiness Prophylactic

   

The bottom of the ND-GAIN Index when ranked by the water sector

Last month, Sao Paolo’s epic drought made headlines around the world, not simply because that’s strange for a place known colloquially as Terra da Garoa(Land of Drizzle). Ranked by the water sector, Brazil sits at a comfortable 20 in the ND-GAIN index. But officials in that country’s most populous city have worried about water supplies for several years and even wonder if it might cause a riot.

 

In other parts of the world, of course, drought has been oncoming for decades. These are the kind of places that already have progressed beyond riot stage into all-out-war. Simply consider the bottom of the ND-GAIN Index when sorted for water. That Syria lies at the bottom shouldn’t be surprising.

 

Other countries – Sudan and Pakistan, for instance – aren’t too surprising either because water shortages have sparked popular discontent. In their cases, droughts in agricultural lands have spurred rural migrations to their cities. Some suggest this contributes to fomenting volatile civil discontent.

I am particularly interested in why those countries that share a low berth on the ND-GAIN rankings seem relatively conflict-free. For instance, comparing the trajectory of Jordan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to that of Syria, Sudan and Pakistan, the suggestion arises that improving governance, social structure and economic opportunity in countries could prove to be a prophylactic to water-scarcity driven civil conflict.

 

That possibility makes me hopeful for countries such as Brazil, whose readiness also has increased over time.   On the graph below, Brazil’s curve resembles a giraffe, just like that of Jordan. So while its readiness rank is 111 in the ND-GAIN Country Index vs. Jordan’s 82, Brazil may be able to increase its resilience to drought and, thus, quell any potential water-scarcity driven unrest.   It appears that it might start is in the social sector.

chart (20)chart (21)

Sustainability a Shared Theme for Brazil’s Presidential Candidates

In the coming months, Brazil will face a new electoral period. Incumbent president and former Minister of Mines and Energy Dilma Rousseff will run against several other candidates, including the former Minister of Environment, Marina Silva. The candidates share a vision for advancing sustainable development in their country, and highlight the need to not only focus on the growth of investments, but also on living in harmony with the environment.

With this vision in mind, Brazil’s leaders should seek answers to questions that will guide Brazil’s policies in economic and sustainable investment, such as:

1.      How can Brazil continue being one of the largest producers and exporters of food while minimizing deforestation, particularly in the Amazon?

2.      How can the country produce hydropower without enlarging its reservoirs?

3.      In what ways can it improve alternative and renewable resources in the energy matrix? What measures are needed to overcome the water crisis in urban centers?

The country needs current, dependable tools indicating readiness and vulnerability across sectors and regions.  One of these tools being leveraged is the ND Global Adaptation Index, ND-GAIN, which includes measures of over 40 indicators that can be examined over almost 20 years of data and compares Brazil to other nations around the world.

Guest Blog by Claudio Szlafsztein

General Director, Center of Environment, Federal University of Pará

Brazil

 

2014 Climate Adaptation, Resiliency, Preparedness Conferences

Dear Readers, I thought I'd share some recent work from ND-GAIN's Sarah Senseman to identify upcoming climate adaptation, climate resiliency and/or climate preparedness conferences (take your pick of the term-du-jour).  There's a bias towards city or urban-related events in this list, based on my current interest. Let me know if I am missing something!  

 

Nexus 2014: Water, Food, Climate and Energy Conference

3-7 March 2014, North Carolina, USA

https://nexusconference.web.unc.edu/

 

World City Forum 2014

12 March 2014, Netherlands

http://www.worldsmartcapital.net/worldcityforum

 

Building Resilience Workshop V

13-14 March 2014, USA

http://www.resilienceworkshop.org/

 

Green Cities 2014

18 March, Australia

http://greencities.org.au/

 

Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana State of the Coast 2014

18-20 March 2014, USA

http://www.stateofthecoast.org/

 

Urban Affairs Association - 44th Annual Conference

19 March, USA

http://www.urbanaffairsassociation.org/

 

Water and Sanitation Health 2014

24 March, Australia

http://www.watercentre.org/events/wash2014

 

Trees, People and the Built Environment II

2 April, UK

http://www.charteredforesters.org

 

Livable Cities Forum 2014

2-4 Apr 2014, Vancouver, Canada

http://www.livablecitiesforum.com/about/

 

Great Plains LID Research and Innovation Symposium

2-4 April 2014, Oklahoma, USA

http://lidcompetition.okstate.edu/great-plains-lid-conference/2014-great-plains-lid-research-and-symposium

 

Planning for Disaster Resilience Symposium

5 April 2014, Texas A&M, USA

http://hrrc.arch.tamu.edu/outreach/events/

 

World Urban Forum 2014

5-11 April, Medellin, Colombia

http://www.unhabitat.org/categories.asp?catid=767

 

Metropolitan Solutions

7 April 2014, Germany

http://www.metropolitansolutions.de/home

 

ICLEI Global Town Hall

7-11 April 2014, Germany

http://globaltownhall.iclei.org/

 

Transforming Local Government

23 April 2014, USA

http://www.tlgconference.org/

 

American Planning Association Conference

26 April 2014, USA

http://www.planning.org/conference/

 

Regional Studies Association International Conference 2014

27 April 2014, USA

http://www.regionalstudies.org/conferences/conference/regional-studies-associationinternational-conference-2014

 

Carolinas Climate Resilience Conference

28-29 April 2014, Charlotte, NC, USA

http://www.cisa.sc.edu/ccrc/

 

CERES Conference

30 April – 1 May 2014, Boston, MA, USA

http://www.ceres.org/conferences

 

Resilience 2014

4 May 2014, France

http://www.resilience2014.org/

 

Climate Strategies Forum

12-14 May 2014, Washington, DC, USA

http://www.climatestrategiesforum.org/

 

Adaptation Futures

12-16 May 2014, Fortaleza Ceara, Brazil

http://adaptationfutures2014.ccst.inpe.br/

 

 

International Conference on Water Resources and Environmental Management

13-15 May 2014, Antalya, Turkey

http://www.icwre.com/

 

Local Solutions: Northeast Climate Preparedness Conference

19-20 May 2014, Manchester, NH, USA

http://www.antiochne.edu/innovation/climate-change-preparedness/

 

Conference on Climate Change Preparedness: Local Solutions

19-21 May 2014, New Hampshire, USA

http://www.antiochne.edu/innovation/climate-change-preparedness/

 

Velo-City Global 2014

27 May 2014, Australia

http://www.velo-city2014.com/

 

Urbantec China

29 May 2014, China

http://www.urbantecchina.com/

 

Resilient Cities 2014: 5th Global Forum on Urban Resilience and Adaptation

29 - 31 May 2014, Germany

http://resilient-cities.iclei.org/bonn2014/resilient-cities-2014-home/

 

Federation of Canadian Municipalities Annual Conference

30 May 2014, Canada

http://www.fcm.ca/home/events/annual-conference-and-trade-show.htm

 

World Cities Summit 2014

1 June 2014, Singapore

http://www.worldcitiessummit.com.sg/index1.php

 

Singapore International Water Week

June 1-5 2014, Singapore

http://www.siww.com.sg/

 

European Forum on Urban Forestry

3 June 2014, Switzerland

http://www.efuf2014.org/

 

Integrated Research on Disaster Risk Conference 2014

7-9 June 2014, Beijing, China

http://www.irdrinternational.org/2013/07/29/news-irdr-conference-2014-call-for-abstracts/

 

 

 

Community is the Answer 2014

9 June 2014, UK

http://www.communityistheanswer.org/

 

4th ATINER Annual International Conference on Urban Studies & Planning 2014

9 June 2014, Greece

http://www.atiner.gr/planning.htm

 

 

New Cities Summit 2014

17 June 2014, USA

http://www.newcitiesfoundation.org/index.php/events/new-cities-summit/new-cities-summit-2014-dallas/

 

City Futures 3

18 June 2014, France

http://www.eura.org/

 

The 8th International Association for China Planning (IACP) Conference

21-22 June 2014, China

http://www.chinaplanning.org/conf/index.php/iacp_8th/8thIACP_guangzhou

 

Congress for the New Urbanism 22

22 June, USA

http://www.cnu.org/cnu22

 

39th Annual Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop

22-25 June 2014, Colorado, USA

http://www.colorado.edu/hazards/workshop/

 

Adaptation in the Great Lakes

24-26 June 2014, Ann Arbor, MI, USA

http://graham.umich.edu/glaac

 

European Network for Housing Research 2014

1 July, UK

http://www.enhr.net/enhrconferences.php

 

Peri-Urban 2014

8 July, Australia

http://periurban14.org/

 

14th National Conference on Transportation Planning for Small and Medium–Sized Communities: Tools of the Trade

21 July, USA

http://www.trbtoolsofthetrade.org/default.htm

 

International Symposium on Landscape and Urban Horticulture

17 August, Australia

http://www.ihc2014.org/symposium_28.html

 

California Adaptation Forum

19-20 August 2014, Sacramento, CA, USA

http://www.californiaadaptationforum.org/

 

5th International Disaster and Risk Conference IDRC Davos 2014

24 August, Switzerland

http://www.idrc.info/

 

World Water Week

31 August – 5 September 2014, Stockholm, Sweden

http://www.worldwaterweek.org/

 

Mediterranean City Climate Change Consortium Biannual Meeting

September 2014, Athens, Greece

http://www.mc-4.org/

 

CEBDS International Conference on Sustainable Development

September 2014 (exact dates TBA), Brazil

http://www.wbcsd.org/regional-network/members-list/latin-america/cebds.aspx

 

Cities of Europe, Cities of the World

3 September, Portugal

http://www.eauh2014.fcsh.unl.pt

 

World Leisure 2014

6 September, USA

http://www.worldleisure2014.org

 

International Conference on Urban Drainage 2014

7 September, Malaysia

http://www.13icud2014.com/

 

Pacific Northwest Climate Science Conference

9-10 September 2014, Seattle, WA, USA

http://pnwclimateconference.org/

 

International Water Association World Water Congress

21 September Portugal

http://www.iwa2014lisbon.org/

 

 

Deltas in Times of Climate Change II

24-26 September 2014, Netherlands

http://www.climatedeltaconference2014.org/

 

11th World Metropolis Conference

6 October, India

http://www.metropolis.org/news/hyderabad-welcomes-metropolis-deleg

 

CABERNET 2014: 4th International Conference on Managing Urban Land

14 October, Germany

http://www.cabernet.org.uk/?c=1124&n=56

 

Sustainability Leaders Forum

November 2014 (exact dates TBA), London, UK

http://www.edie.net/whatson/view_event.asp?id=4352&title=Sustainability+Leaders+Forum

 

2nd International Conference on Urbanization and Global Environmental Change ‘Urban

Transitions and Transformations: Science, Synthesis and Policy’

6 November, Taiwan

http://ugec.org/2nd-international-ugec-conference/

 

FLASH 2014: Resilience Revolution

19-21 November 2014, Tallahassee, FL, USA

http://www.flash.org/2014meeting/

 

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Convention of the Parties

1-12 December 2014, Lima, Peru

http://unfccc.int/meetings/rio_conventions_calendar/items/2659.php?year=2014

 

Linking Science, Practice and Decision Making

8-11 December 2014, Washington, DC, USA

http://www.wri.org/events/aces-community-ecosystem-services-linking-science-practice-and-decision-making

 

International Water Summit

Jan. 20-22, 2015 Abu Dhabi, UAE

http://iwsabudhabi.com/

 

10th International Conference on Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability

21-23 January 2015, Denmark

http://onsustainability.com/the-conference

 

Sustainable Communities Conference

TBD February 2015, Canada

http://www.fcm.ca/home/events/sustainable-communities-conference-and-trade-show.htm

 

New Partners for Smart Growth

TBD February 2015, USA

http://www.newpartners.org/

 

Alaska Forum on the Environment

February 2015 Anchorage, USA

http://akforum.com/

 

Delhi Sustainable Development Summit

5-7 February 2015, New Delhi, India

http://dsds.teriin.org/2014/

 

National Adaptation Forum 2015

12-14 May 2015, St. Louis, MO, USA

http://www.nationaladaptationforum.org/

 

Istanbul Intl. Water Forum

May 27-29, 2015 Istanbul, Turkey

http://www.worldwaterforum5.org/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

Benchmarking: Improving our Work by Learning from Others

Thanks to the World Bank’s Steve Hammer, the lead urban specialist - cities and climate change within the Urban Development and Resilience Unit, I participated last week in a lively discussion with dozens of the Bank staff about measuring a country’s readiness to face climate change. While I have written about the benefits of indices, it’s delightful to observe my judgments turned into curiosity by bright global thinkers and doers. Their questions and assertions called to mind a corporate and adaptation tool benchmark we initiated several months ago. This World Bank discussion represents part of our overall effort to improve the GAIN Index over time. This process includes benchmark investigations as a way to examine various decision-making tools in the context of what GAIN should be delivering.

Working with my colleague Sarah Senseman, we have investigated dozens of tools – some adaptation-specific, many not, and we’ve derived a Top Three list worth examining:

  • The Corruption Perception Index, http://cpi.transparency.org/cpi2012/interactive/, earns raves for it elegant accessibility, simple organization and usefulness to a broad stakeholder group, amateur to professional, as well as its easily located supplemental information.

 

  • Yale’s Environmental Performance Index (http://epi.yale.edu/) comprises well-developed resources; it still keeps to a specific purpose and vision and keeps a clear design, making the most of a transparent collaboration with a university, which increases its credibility.

 

  • Aqueduct, http://www.wri.org/our-work/project/aqueduct, illuminates the problems of one of our most at-risk resources, potable water, and maintains its mission to help its user – the corporate sector – make more informed, resource-based decisions.  It’s also simple and refrains from including too much information.

 

Other country indexes worth mentioning from our benchmark include the  Consumer Confidence Index, Human Development Index, Ease-of-Doing-Business Index and the Index of Economic Freedom.

We’re also suckers for tools that leverage the power of infographics and maps to help the index tell a story, even to the uninitiated.

Those that didn’t make our list tried to do too much – complicating the simplicity, failing to consider their users and calling into question their credibility.

An interesting tool wiki to watch as it comes out of beta is The Climate Development Knowledge Network’s Tools for Climate Compatible Development. (Regrettably, they are not taking new submissions just yet, so you won’t find ND-GAIN there). It assembles several key tools to assist in informing the climate/development challenge.

ND-GAIN will keep in mind lessons learned from these benchmarks to inform how we can continue to help decision makers.

This blog is co-authored by Sarah Senseman, an ND-GAIN intern

 

 

 

 

Ranking Country Sustainability for Investor Decisions

As we know, decision–makers rarely if ever look at climate risk in isolation, which is why I’m glad that Marc Klugmann brought another great article from Fast Company’s Ben Shiller to my attention.  Mark is a founding strategic advisor to GAIN, and thus he is on the lookout for other indices that rank country vulnerability. RobecoSAM offers us a good one and a reminder of the importance of looking at a chromatic list of indicators when making sustainability decisions.

The article,The 59 Countries That Are Most Prepared To Handle An Uncertain Future is particularly interesting to us at ND-Global Adaptation Index, where we are currently pouring over 2012 data in preparation for launching the 2013 index in December. Comparing their index to ND-GAIN’s 2011 data we see that there is a great deal of consistency.  For instance eight out of ND-GAIN’s top-ten are in their top ten (The difference ND-GAIN includes New Zealand and Ireland in our top ten, not Canada and US).

ND-GAIN – which includes measures of governance, economics and society along with health, infrastructure,water, etc. and RobecoSAM’s sustainability data are complimentary and help corporations, governments, and charitable organizations prioritize investments in:

  • New Markets, Products & Services
  • Targeted Development
  • Risk Mitigation
  • Corporate Social Responsibility

Ultimately, indices like these help address crucial investor questions, such as:

  1. Are you solving a big problem, preferably one that is worth a lot of money and is recognized today?
  2. Is your solution differentiated, compelling and sustainable?
  3. Does your venture have an understandable and relevant business model given your solution and the problem it addresses?

Stay tuned for a blog post next week that digs into some of these questions from the perspective of adaptation risk.

 

 

 

The Auto Industry's Real Climate Risk

An article caught my attention last week from the Auto Industry Action Group, entitled “How Climate Action May Impact the Auto Industry.”   Initially, I thought it might tell the story of an industry that has seen significant disaster-related setbacks taking charge to prevent future problems. Actually, it proved to be a polemic about how to protect the industry from climate-related regulations.

 

Like the finance industry, which gained important business-continuity planning lessons from 9/11 and more recent disasters for example, Goldman Sachs’ stellar disaster-recovery preparations that enabled it to keep its lights and power on in lower Manhattan after Hurricane Sandy). I presumed that automakers were also familiar with risk mitigation, drawing lessons from disruptions to their supply chain after Japan’s devastating 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.

 

I bet there are a few leaders in the auto industry who are assessing the realities of the climate-change issue  and are mulling risk evaluations that, for instance, include a look at the relative vulnerability by country of origin of their major suppliers – China Japan, Korea and Mexico.  As of 2011, Japan and Korea possessed a similar level of readiness, and Mexico and Japan’s vulnerability matched, but China was the least prepared and most vulnerable of all of them. (Check out the vulnerability/readiness matrix here to compare countries.)

Others closer to home may be thinking about these risks. The environmental choir, namely The American Sustainable Business Council, published an interesting article about small business risks from climate adaptation.

I can only assume that many car dealerships, which stand at the tail end of the industry’s value chain, consider themselves small businesses. Without climate-adaptation leadership, they could find themselves in trouble.  Among several compelling statistics noted in the article, an estimated 25 percent of small- to-mid-sized businesses don’t reopen after a major disaster, and 57 percent of small businesses have no disaster-recovery plans.

These small businesses represent our American jobs and the backbones of our communities. As climate-related risks grow at home and abroad, we should make it a priority to find the right tools to help all business owners manage for a dramatically changed future.

 

Three Steps to Better Decision-Making

Three Steps to Better Decision-Making Many tools are available for corporate and development decision-makers to help them plan and devise their business strategies.   Corporate leaders I speak with say they use the Consumer Confidence Index, Corruption Perceptions Index, and Human Development Index among other well-regarded tools, to help relay complex information quickly to their boards of directors and C-Suite peers.  The ND-Global Adaptation Index joins these business barometers to provide quick insights into a country’s climate vulnerability and readiness to adapt.  And since risk experts view climate change as ranking among our principal threats to business, the tool proves to be a timely resource for strategic planning.

As you seek to protect your investments and supply chains while identifying fresh market opportunities, it will pay to absorb how the ND-Global Adaptation Index can assist you.  A quick tour offers three steps (each requiring just a minute) that can generate actionable information about country-level vulnerabilities from climate change and the readiness of countries to absorb and use new investments. By taking the tour, you’ll be able to apply climate savvy to the decisions you make this year.

The Index, free and open source, employs a layered structure, starting with the so-called GAIN ranking

3. The GAIN ranking orders every country by aggregating all measured factors into a single score. It allows a quick look at combined vulnerability and readiness. View the full rankings to find your countries within the index and compare their GAIN ranking with one another.

 

2. The GAIN Matrix shows the evolution of vulnerability and readiness over the past 15 years. It allows deeper insights into country risk and opportunity.  Add your countries to watch their evolution.

3. The GAIN Country Profiles provide you with all of the data and their sources, organized by specific vulnerability and readiness measures such as water availability, food security and education level.

So if you want to use the Index to size up your supply chain, you can examine a cross-section of the data most germane to your supply chain with just a few clicks on the rankings page. Here’s a snapshot for water, http://index.gain.org/ranking/vulnerability/water for example. Simple, fast, insightful.

Check it out, then tell me what you learn about your business through using this tool.

 

Climate Adaption: Not Either Or

When I saw MIT Management Professor John Sterman's recent post "Adaptation or Mitigation, lessons from Abolition in the Battle over Climate Policy" I scrambled to almost-20-year-old files to recover notes from a Sloan Systems Dynamics class I audited.  Check out these fascinating MIT System's Dynamics Simulations, created by Sterman for a fun dive into this great analysis tool. Sterman is the expert on system dynamics. However, I think his piece misses a crucial point.  Climate adaptation is about human rights.  Without adapting to climate change, we imperil the lives and livelihoods of billions of people around the globe.  We must multiply our efforts to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.  While doing that, we must ensure that every decision we make about our futures is a climate-adaptive one. If we don’t, we will be ill-informed and ill-equipped about a real risk.  Failing to plan for risks proves to be one of the most dangerous positions we can be in (and borne out by systems dynamics, where a negative feedback loop amplifies itself over and over again).

We are learning lessons every day from the realities of our era:  population growth, migration, urbanization and food insecurity for starters. Climate change has joined these megatrends – and it compounds all of them. Fortunately, more and more tools help us be responsible climate champions. They help to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and to build the resiliency and adaptive capacity of the communities where we live and work as well as the supply chain from climate change-related impacts.  That’s the positive feedback loop of systems dynamics we should be employing.  Those who don’t are oblivious to the issues of our time.

Raise a hand if you favor Sloan’s best minds about systems dynamics applying their systems theories to the dynamic behavior of your supply chain and keeping climate change in mind.  I will bank on climate adaptation proving to be both a risk and an opportunity that deserves your closest attention.

 

Is Geoengineering Climate Adaptation?

On the first anniversary of my blog, I find it remarkable that I have yet to mention Geoengineering.  It’s been satisfying to focus on corporate climate adaptation as it relates to investors, the insurance industry, CEO communications in a crisis and the how tos of a corporate climate adaptation plan, among other topics. But today, I’m thinking beyond the limits of corporate America to a global adaptation: geoengineering – the deliberate modification of a planet's environment by the addition or subtraction of a resource or energy input on a massive scale.  

Thanks to Marc Gunther, who created the most interesting elements of this April’s Fortune Brainstorm Green, a geoengineering discussion with Harvard physicist and entrepreneur David Keith, I was reminded of the timeliness of this important topic.   Among other things, Dr. Keith is a proponent of developing industrial scale technologies for capturing carbon dioxide from the air.  May’s New Yorker article The Climate Fixers by Michael Specter offered a layperson’s perspective.  Then in June EDF’S Newsletter, EDF initiates global conversation on geoengineering, and USA Today Dan Vergano’s, Can geoengineering put the freeze on global warming? , focused my attention on the issue again. While I may think geoengineering should stop at cloud seeding to protect the Olympics, it seems only a matter of time before we apply geoengineering at a bigger scale.  So I ask:

  1. Who gets to test this big idea?
  2. What is the size of the pilot? Local, regional, national or global scale?
  3. When do we start the experiment? Is now the right time, before the oceans acidify and the glaciers melt irreversibly (in this millennium)?
  4. Can we control these experiments? Who is to say a storm or drought that occurs after them is not due to some other force? How will we know that consequences are due to geoengineering?
  5. Who pays?  Some claim the costs are declining, but can international bodies prioritize the funds, and should they be the bank?
  6. How shall we feel when a country or sector at extreme risk from climate change takes matters into its own hands?
  7. Who should be the winners and the losers? Is it better or worst that we cannot necessarily predict the outcome?    Do emerging economies get a break, or do the poor remain at greatest risk?

I wish I could devote more time to studying the science, technologies, engineering – as well as politics and international government of this issue. For now, I content myself with these questions.

Rio+20 and Corporate Climate-Adaptation Optimism

There’s pessimism aplenty leading up to Rio+20 with headlines such as these: “Rio +20 Earth Summit Could Collapse” and U.N. starts pre-conference talks in a hole. But I’m going Pollyannaish positive on climate adaptation. So much differs from that first Rio Earth Summit. Some would contend this year’s conference profoundly lacks momentum about environmental protection.  I believe the most acute change reflects engagement of the private sector in both dialogue and solutions.

In 1992, Rio launched truly new and innovative global policy processes.  The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFPCC) ranked among the best. Rio then also began an unprecedented experiment in global environmental cooperation.

Brief 8 – Reducing Disaster Risk and Building Resilience

What’s unfortunate about Rio 2012 is that droughts and food security; flash floods and household destruction; and strong hurricanes and economic loss are on the agenda. Why? Because it indicates that big climate-driven natural hazards already are having a striking impact on all of us, including the corporate world.  Corporate, government and community climate action to prevent climate risks are still primary priorities for us all.  And today’s climate-related risks means that while international commitments in the area of disaster risk-reduction and resilience building may emerge from Rio+20, the understanding will certainly grow by corporations of the need to reduce their risk and increase their resilience.

Many maintain that the United Nations has little to show for all of its efforts over the last 20 years.  But I’m glad it opened the door to other solution providers.  With IPCC and UNFPCC intelligence and corporate moxie, perhaps we will mitigate the risk and build the resilience that our future depends upon.

As Mark Way, director of sustainability and political risk management at Swiss Re America Holding Corporation, sees it: “Rio+20 will act as a further reminder, if one is really necessary, of the urgent need for a comprehensive global response to climate change, one which reduces emissions and increases resilience to severe weather.”  I’m bullish that his prediction will spark the momentum we need in the corporate sector.  How about you?

What Happens in Vegas Can’t Stay in Vegas: Strategies for Climate Adaption by Water Utilities

As climate change becomes more extreme, the way we collect water for our utilities from the natural water supply will change.  Already, with less snow pack in mountains, utilities that capture their water supply from gradual snow melt are impacted by changing patterns of precipitation. I spoke recently with Mary Ann Dickinson, president of the Chicago-based global non-profit Alliance for Water Efficiency that commits to the efficient and sustainable use of water. (Disclosure: I am a member and served as a director.)   It advocates for water-efficient products and programs and provides information and assistance on water-conservation efforts.  Mary Ann and I discussed climate change and the North American water supply.

These utilities and companies can take their cue from Las Vegas, which Mary Ann praises as an excellent example of adapting to climate change when it comes to water.  Substantial population growth there moved Las Vegas’ water source long ago to snow pack melt water contained by Lake Mead, the nation’s largest reservoir in maximum water capacity. It’s located on the Colorado River about 30 miles southeast of the city.

Consider:

  • Las Vegas recycles 94 percent of the water that goes down drains. It's treated and returned to Lake Mead, Nev., via the Las Vegas Wash, an “urban” river. This flow of water exists because of the urban population in Southern Nevada. It comprises urban runoff, shallow groundwater, reclaimed water and stormwater.
  • Recycling water is important to the city because it earns so-called “Return Flow Credits” for water pumped back to Lake Mead. For every gallon the city returns to the lake, it can withdraw one gallon.
  • Recycled water comprises 40 percent of Las Vegas’ water resources.
  • Water features on The Strip recycle all their water, so the amount consumed essentially is water lost to evaporation.
  • Most Las Vegas golf courses irrigate with recycled water that’s been treated but not returned to Lake Mead.

Understandably, Las Vegas is parsimonious about water since one of its major water intakes could be above the water level of Lake Mead within a few years.  The water level has been dropping rapidly, and a 50-50 chance exists that Lake Mead will go dry by 2021.

Las Vegas exemplifies those cities where utilities’ major adaptation will be locating water supplies when their primary water sources aren’t available any longer.  Utilities that have faced this predicament have turned to groundwater, water recycling, reducing usage and ensuring that less used water ends up in a salt source, where it is unrecoverable (except by evapotranspiration).

It’s rare, however, for a utility to think long term and consider these options as part of a climate-adapted scenario. Traditionally, utilities have built and managed fixed infrastructure based on fixed resources.

Mary Ann offers these tips for climate adaption in water utilities:

  1. Consider your options: Increase the balance of the ways you get water in your portfolio by adopting a set of options that includes recycling and water conservation
  2. Raise prices to shake up complacency: Rates haven’t kept pace with the price of maintaining aging and expanding infrastructure.  You need to engage in serious conversations with your water purchasers about how, over time, these infrastructure issues must be resolved. This means counseling that water prices must reflect the future and not just current reality.
  3. Acknowledge the repercussions of water conservation: Utilities blame water conservation efforts by consumers for their headaches. That’s because under current pricing, less water used by consumers translates into less revenue. Regulators need to allow utilities to move to service modality from unit block pricing.  Even with growth, though, utilities aren’t seeing demand increase. So they’re not increasing revenue because water usage per capita has decreased with codes, standards and conservation.
  4. Partner with large consumers. Reach out to large water users. Help those industrial users to become positive examples in their community in terms of water conservation. Business loves recognition for its good work.

As Mary Ann noted, more and more communities and utilities are going to have to grapple with these issues so they might begin now.  That way, they have better odds of succeeding – like Las Vegas!

 

 

Climate and Society - A Look Back at 2011

Happy Lunar New Year!  It’s 4710 on the lunar calendar and, having reflected on the myriad end-of-year/start-of-year lists in my inbox since December began, Jan. 23 seems a good day to reflect on the most thought-provoking events and items concerning corporate climate adaptation in 2011.  Here are my top three – plus a wish for 2012:

  1. Studies show that one-in-five major civil conflicts since 1950 may be linked to climate extremes associated with El Nino. Those big climate disturbances rooted in the tropical Pacific Ocean remind us to prepare for the collateral dis-benefits possible from shifting conditions.
  2. Japan’s multi-layered tragedy – the worst earthquake there on record followed by a meter-high tsunami and concluding with the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown – prompts us to consider the domino effects of extreme events. It also changes the parameters of corporate extreme-event scenario planning.
  3. Reflecting rising temperatures between 1980 and 2008, farms around the planet produced 3.8 percent less corn and 5.5 percent less wheat than they could have, suggesting that climate change is having an impact faster than we are adapting.

Between 1980 and 2008, climbing global temperatures took millions of tons of wheat off the dinner table, scientists say. Some countries experienced big losses due to weather (red), while in others, wheat production held steady (blue). (Science/AAAS)

My wish for 2012:  That companies boldly embrace the opportunity that climate adaptation sparks – leveraging intellectual property to sell climate-proofed and climate-resistant products.  I’ve mentioned some winners in previous blogs.  Here’s another set:

  • Construction equipment – for clearing debris and rebuilding weather-stricken communities
  • Mold removal – for helping communities cope with basements swamped by overbank flooding or basement backups
  • Power tools – for chopping up felled trees that fall victim to arbor pests that weaken them or intense storms
  • Auxiliary-powered equipment- such as generators and transistor radios for use in power outages during extreme weather

And what are your wishes?

 

Ten Point Checklist for Making Corporations Resilient

The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction has published an interesting guide:  Making Cities Resilient:  My City is Getting Ready. Its ten-point checklist for making cities resilient begs for a companion list.  I’ve added my two cents by developing a “Ten Point Checklist for Making Corporations Resilient.” http://www.unisdr.org/english/campaigns/campaign2010-2015/documents/campaign-kit.pdf

Ten-Point Checklist
For Making Cities Resilient (UNISDR) For Making Corporations Resilient
1 Put in place organization and coordination to understand and reduce disaster risk, based on participation of citizen groups and civil society. Build local alliances. Ensure that all departments understand their role regarding disaster risk reduction and preparedness. Include climate adaptation in a member of the C-suite’s job description. Establish a cross-function climate adaptation working group and connections with local and regional governments in key geographies in your enterprise – especially operations and supply chain.  Consider collaborating with key members of your supply chain, industry peers and neighboring businesses on climate adaptation planning and execution. Ensure that all departments understand their role regarding disaster risk reduction and preparedness.
2 Assign a budget for disaster risk reduction and provide incentives for homeowners, low-income families, communities, businesses and the public sector to invest inreducing the risks they face. Include budget lines for both proactive adaptation measures and recoup from extreme event.  Include climate adaptation in performance reviews for the C-suite, lieutenants and managers.
3 Maintain up-to-date data on hazards and vulnerabilities; prepare risk assessments; and use these as the basis for urban development plans and decisions. Ensure that this information and the plans for your city’s resilience are readily available to the public and fully discussed with them. Include climate adaptation in your emergency preparedness and continuity plans initially, with annual updates.  Ensure that this information and the plans for your corporation’s resilience are readily available to your leadership team and fully discussed with them.
4 Invest in and maintain critical infrastructure that reduces risk, such as flooddrainage, adjusted where needed to cope with climate change. Invest in and maintain critical infrastructure that reduces risk, such as flood drainage, snow removal, vector-borne disease prevention, and heat mitigation for workers and machinery, adjusted where needed to cope with climate change. Consider supply chain and building decisions with these risks in mind.
5 Assess the safety of all schools and health facilities and upgrade these asnecessary. Assess the safety of all facilities, especially those in locations vulnerable to extreme weather events (coastal, arid) and upgrade or move.
6 Apply and enforce realistic, risk-compliant building regulations and land-use planning principles. Identify safe land for low-income citizens and develop upgrading of informal settlements, wherever feasible. Engage with local governments to ensure that climate adaptation regulations protect residents and economic growth. Identify your most vulnerable employees (age, income, tasks, geography) and plan especially for their safety.
7 Ensure education programs and training on disaster risk reduction are in place in schools and local communities. Ensure education programs and training on disaster risk reduction are in place throughout your enterprise, not just for disaster preparedness, but also for heat exhaustion, vector-borne disease, and the like.
8 Protect ecosystems and natural buffers to mitigate floods, storm surges and other hazards to which your city may be vulnerable. Adapt to climate change by building on effective risk-reduction practices. Protect and enhance ecosystems and natural buffers in and near your holdings to mitigate floods, storm surges, extreme heat and other hazards.
9 Install early warning systems and emergency management capacities in your city and hold regular public preparedness drills. Install early-warning systems and emergency-management capacities in your enterprise and hold regular preparedness drills.
10 After any disaster, ensure that the needs of survivors are placed at the center of reconstruction with support from them and their community organizations to design and help implement responses, including rebuilding homes and livelihoods. After any disaster, ensure the needs of survivors are placed at the center of reconstruction.  See http://climateadaptationexchange.com/crisis-communications-are-you-ready-for-a-climate-related-crisis-in-your-business/ for communications guidelines.

 

A UN Resource for the Private Sector:

If you haven’t yet checked it out, spend some time online with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Adaptation Private Sector Initiative. Most of the material deals with agriculture in emerging economies, and at least a dozen situations posted there deserve a look. The website comprises a treasure trove of case studies from a wide range of regions and sectors. Of course, many relate to agriculture, a UN focus. But you will find other items of interest as well.  I particularly enjoyed:

Tomorrow’s railway and climate adaptation

Hurricane Katrina: A climate wake-up call

Adaptation and the legal sector

 

If any of them inspire you to write a guest blog, let me know!