Thought leaders explore how to meet both today's development challenges and tomorrow's climate risks.
The world is struggling to overcome pervasive development challenges including hunger, water scarcity and lack of basic human services. In Africa and Asia many countries are set to fall far short of meeting the 2015 anti-poverty Millennium Development Goals; worldwide 2.6 billion people still subsist on less than US$2 a day.
Yet overcoming these challenges will only become more difficult as climate change and its impacts intensify. Already, the world is experiencing the destructive effects of rising global temperatures, altered rainfall patterns and extreme weather, including more frequent droughts and heavy precipitation events. In the short term, such impacts are creating pressing needs for disaster relief and reactive climate adaptation measures.
But in the medium and long term, the effects of climate change will almost certainly be much more disruptive. Wide-ranging impacts, including on agriculture, ecosystems and human habitation, will continue for decades and many will grow in frequency and intensity. To date, global average temperatures have risen by 0.8˚C above pre-industrial levels. By the end of the century, the IPCC projects temperature increases between 1.6˚C and 6.9˚C above pre-industrial levels, with commensurately greater consequences for human society and for ecosystems.
Likely impacts include the inundation of deltas and low lying islands and droughts and floods triggered by altered rainfall patterns on a scale not seen today. Agriculture and water resources will be especially hard hit. Availability of freshwater in Asia is projected to decrease significantly as a result of climate change and other stressors, negatively impacting more than 1 billion people in the next four decades. By mid-century, cereal yields in South Asia could decrease by 30% with obvious implications for food security. In addition, as global temperatures rise, the impacts around the world will also include unforeseeable surprises difficult to plan for.
This stark reality raises tough questions for governments, multilateral institutions, civil society and communities, as they seek to build the resilience of both current and future generations to the inevitable yet unpredictable fallout of climate change.
Of these questions, perhaps the most critical is the following: given the limited resources at their disposal, how can governments strike a balance between responding to pressing needs today versus preparing for tomorrow’s likely even greater climate-related risks and challenges?
How should countries whose populations suffer from hunger and lack of basic services or from joblessness and poor education, weigh action on these priorities against the likelihood of dried-up water supplies and threatened coastal communities 20 years down the line?
How, on the one hand, can they cope with increasingly severe disasters, as witnessed by the recent devastating floods in Asia and heatwave in Russia—while, on the other, managing the uncertainty of future climate-related risks, including some which won’t materialize for decades and others which may not materialize at all?
To conduct the required balancing act effectively will require early planning and decision making that takes the long view. Yet historically human society has not been good at such approaches; our decision-making processes have often been slow to foresee and prepare for, change.
How can or should we adapt this entrenched, comfortable but increasingly risky way of planning for the future? What tools and approaches might be employed?
What historical examples of societies managing both short- and long-term risks might be applied to decision making for contending with climate change impacts? What would be the trade-offs involved?
The World Resources Report is seeking insight on these critical issues from some of the world’s leading thinkers and practitioners in the fields of development, environmental governance, and climate adaptation.
- Expert Perspectives on...
- Does climate change require new approaches to making decisions?
- How can we balance today’s pressing needs with long term risks?
- How can development agencies help vulnerable countries adapt effectively?
- Must we fundamentally change course to conserve ecosystems in a changing climate?
- How can information for adaptation decision making be collected and disseminated so as to advance integration of climate risks into plans and policies and be useful for those who need it most?
- What types of information are needed for adaptation decision making?
- Thought leaders explore how to meet both today’s development challenges and tomorrow’s climate risks.
- How can national-level governments learn from the private sector and encourage investment and decision making to promote the public good in a changing climate?
- How can civil society best support, and hold accountable, national-level governments in their efforts to integrate climate change risks into planning and policy-making processes?
- Case Studies
- Controlling Yangtze River Floods: A New Approach
- Building Resilience to Extreme Weather Events: Index-Based Livestock Insurance in Mongolia
- Namibia: Combating Land Degradation with Tools for Local-Level Decision-Making
- Nepal: Responding Proactively to Glacial Hazards
- Increasing Food Security: Mali's National Meteorological Service Helps Farmers Manage Climate Risk
- Indonesia: Managing Peatland Fire Risk in Central Kalimantan Province
- Mangrove Restoration and Rehabilitation for Climate Change Adaptation in Vietnam
- Bangladesh's Comprehensive Approach to Disaster Management
- Rwanda: Ecosystem Restoration and Sustainable Hydropower Production
- South Africa: Ecosystem-Based Planning for Climate Change
- China's Agricultural Development: Adaptation in Action
- Brazil: Fire and Flood Responses in the Amazon
- In-Country Simulations
- Decision-Making In Depth
These commentaries were commissioned by the World Resources Report to react to the Expert Perspectives series. Below each paper in the series you will find a comment box for your feedback. Please respond.