By Carina Bachofen
Three Bengali women in Dhaka. By Ahron de Leeuw via Wikimedia Commons
Last year marked the three-year anniversary of Cyclone Sidr, which ravaged the southern coast of Bangladesh and claimed the lives of 3,500 people. Loss of life was exacerbated by loss of development potential as the fierce storm decimated the mud and thatch homes of countless families, destroyed key infrastructure, and damaged productive land, leaving millions of poor individuals more vulnerable to climate change than ever before. In the wake of Cyclone Sidr, questions were raised about how to build resilience to climate change without compromising national development goals. So now, more than three years later, is Bangladesh developing differently? What lessons can be learned from the Bangladeshi experience to reframe development and climate action as mutually supportive objectives?
One can consider these questions and measure development progress from several angles. As climate change affects men and women differently, understanding the gender dimensions of climate change can provide valuable clues for designing development interventions that build resilience to climate impacts, and are effective and equitable for all.
By Eilif Ursin Reed
Satellite image of the Maldives © NASA
Just like the swimming polar bears have become symbols for disappearing sea ice in the Arctic, the remote atolls of the Pacific and the Indian Ocean have become emblematic for the consequences of sea level rise.
It just makes plain sense that islands on which the highest elevation is sometimes less than two meters, the IPCC’s predicted sea level rise of up to 58 cm by 2100 will cause devastation.
Or does it? Things that seem obvious at first glance, usually turn out to be more complicated if you look closer. So too with climate change.
In spite of the attention devoted to tropical islands over the last few years, with stories about “climate refugees” and whole nations being forced to move off their islands because of sea level rise, research on the subject has been scarce.
There is little doubt that climate change is happening. It is highly probable that we will experience sea level rise this century and with it an increase in severe flooding events. However, how and to what extent this will affect the islanders of the world is a different story. Not necessarily a happier one, but it could at least be one about capabilities, adaptation, knowledge and resilience; rather than the one-sided doomsday narratives we have come to know too well.
By Eliot Levine, WWF-US
A recent UN policy brief discusses why water-related climate change adaptation is critical for achieving sustainable development around the world. As significant water shortages already exist, water is the medium through which climate impacts are going to be felt most immediately and most severely by many people. “Adaptation to climate change is urgent. Water plays a pivotal role in it, but the political world has yet to recognize this notion.” Among other things, this report recommends implementing “no regrets” strategies since they have positive development outcomes that are resilient to climate change.
UNWater.org: “Climate Change Adaptation: The Pivotal Role of Water”
Junquillal students monitor temperature differences among sand samples © WWF - LAC
By Eliot Levine, WWF-US
Junquillal Beach in the north Pacific of Costa Rica is a representative example of many places in Latin American and the Caribbean where wildlife and communities are already feeling the impacts of climate change. In 2005, with the support of the community, WWF started the project “Conservation of Pacific Leatherbacks” (in Spanish, Conservación – Baulas del Pacífico (CBP)). The CBP Program includes the monitoring and protection of sea turtle nesting sites, community education and training programs, and the development of flooding maps for the Junquillal area.
In this three part series, Gabriel Francia, Ana Fonseca, and Valerie Guthrie from WWF’s Latin American and Caribbean Program will discuss their efforts to work with communities and integrate the latest climate science and mapping technologies as part of a multi-faceted sea turtle and coastal adaptation project in Costa Rica. A previous entry on ClimatePrep featured a video from Junquillal.
In this entry, Gabriel Francia discusses the community’s efforts to adapt – both for the turtles and themselves.
By Eliot Levine, WWF-US
The Lunana area of Northern Bhutan is surrounded by a stunning array of pristine mountains and the glaciers that move slowly through them. Amidst this serene beauty, however, is a growing danger that has the potential to be cataclysmic. As the ancient glaciers melt, their runoff collects and eventually forms pools of water known as glacial lakes. These pristine pools normally pose no danger to the surrounding villages, agricultural fields, temples, and schools. Recently, however, climate change has caused some of these lakes to grow substantially in size, posing a massive risk to the surrounding community.
This story is part of a series on adaptation in the Brazilian Amazon.
Figure 1. Location of the community of Igarape do Costa © WWF-Brazil
Located in the lower Amazon floodplain of Brazil, the Santarém region harbors important fisheries that many people depend on for employment, food security, government tax revenues, and items to export to both domestic and foreign markets. Climate change is creating difficulties, but not without hope and new opportunities as well.
These fisheries and the services that they provide are known to be sensitive to shifts in the climate. Precipitation patterns are shifting in the Santarém region, with the amount of annual rainfall generally decreasing and floods and droughts becoming more common. Livelihoods for most people around these lakes combine farming and fishing, both of which will be negatively affected by a reduction in rainfall. Less rain will have an especially big impact on the local economy through the quantity of fish that are locally harvested. If regional climate forecasts are accurate, rural livelihoods in lakeshore regions will become increasingly precarious over time.
By Eliot Levine, WWF-US
In early November of 2009, WWF convened the 4th annual Kathryn Fuller Science for Nature Symposium. This year’s event, titled “Securing Water for Nature and People in a Changing Climate,” provided a state-of-the-science review of climate impacts on freshwater systems, challenges to freshwater ecosystem conservation, the role of adaptation in water management, and provided a platform for the development of an adaptation based “conservation agenda.”
Jim Jarvie of Mercy Corps spoke powerfully about how climate change is exacerbating humanitarian crises in poor, urban centers and how current trends are necessitating a new partnership between humanitarian and environmental organizations. Watch him deliver some of his key messages here:
by Jonathan Cook, WWF-US
Community members, Fiji © Joanna Ellison
For the past six months, I have managed a WWF project, supported by the Global Environment Facility and United Nations Environment Program, that tries to address the significant adaptation challenges facing a fascinating but often neglected ecosystem: mangrove forests. Mangroves – the guardians of tropical coastlines – are among the many ecosystems that will be lost or negatively affected by climate change unless adaptive management strategies are developed for them. Many human livelihoods will be affected as well.
Mangroves occur most extensively on low-energy, sedimentary shorelines of the tropics, in intertidal areas such as deltas and estuaries. Their unusual aerial roots are an adaptation to their salty environment. These trees act as nurseries for fish and invertebrate species that later live on coral reefs and in the pelagic zone, and they control aspects of water chemistry in coastal zones.