The second installment of a three-part series we’re running over at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society web site. IRI Director-General, Stephen Zebiak, gets into more detail on defining climate risk management.
Once we’ve identified the best technologies and practices, the fourth and final step is finding the “real world” arrangements that enable their implementation. Using the example of an early-warning system for food crises, we can ask: What are the actual mechanisms to have in place for hunger relief? Who are the key decision makers to identify? What specific types of climate information do they need in order to take action and who will supply it? How do we make this sustainable?
The fact that climate risk management can be effective doesn’t make it easy. Because the process is inherently interdisciplinary, it requires a detailed understanding of complex, context-specific interactions between physical, natural and social systems. It also involves collaboration among experts who must work together on cross-disciplinary problems. Although developing the proper strategies is a complicated task, climate risk management can be applied to agricultural, water, health or any other sector, on spatial scales that range from local to global, and on time scales from near- to long-term.
Read the entire piece on the IRI web site.
Photo: Indonesia food market. Francesco Fiondella/IRI.
In the first of a three-part series, IRI’s Director-General, Stephen Zebiak, makes the case for climate-risk management as an approach for dealing with droughts, floods, epidemics and other problems that plague society and hinder development. This approach, if applied correctly, would also be an effective adaptation strategy to climate change.
Climate shocks in the form of droughts, floods, cyclones, and related problems such as epidemics, food insecurity and infrastructure loss have been playing out throughout recorded history, but with increasing severity as populations become increasingly vulnerable. A growing body of evidence, much of it captured in the 2007-2008 Human Development Report by the United Nations, points to the direct effects of climate on economic and human development, particularly in low-income countries. Scan the headlines of recent weeks, and you’ll undoubtedly come across stories about the ongoing food crisis in Niger caused by irregular rainfall, which threatens the lives and well being of at least seven million people. You’ll see pictures from the extremely harsh winter in Mongolia, which wiped out nearly 20% of the country’s livestock, leading to food shortages and loss of livelihood for tens of thousands of families. You’ll read about how hundreds of thousands of earthquake survivors in Haiti are still living in relief camps and other temporary structures, under threat of a hurricane season forecasted to be unusually active. The ability to cope better with climate is thus a paramount issue of the present, and a potentially even greater issue in the foreseeable future. We need ‘win-win’ approaches to better manage current climate risks and to build capability to cope with the climate of the future.
The work needed to provide problem-specific information and to advance innovations in the use of such information is the science of climate risk management practice. Put simply, climate risk management is the process of climate-informed decision-making. It involves the use of strategies that reduce uncertainty through the systematic use of climate information. This work is especially challenging because it involves a complex interplay between physical, natural, and social systems and requires that practitioners engage with good science, good policy, and good practice. At present there are some organizations working to connect these disparate disciplines — but while their work has provided examples of practical ways to manage climate risk, the demand for useable knowledge and information far outstrips what can be provided.
Read the entire piece on the IRI web site.
Photo: Pétionville camp for displaced Haitians. Eric Holthaus/IRI.
Eric Holthaus, a colleague at the IRI, has written a nice piece on the latest, troubling hurricane forecasts for the Atlantic region. First few grafs below..
The Atlantic hurricane season has officially started, and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society has issued its updated seasonal hurricane forecast for the region. The results continue to indicate that an above-normal season is very likely. This could spell trouble for highly vulnerable Caribbean nations such as Haiti, still reeling from the effects of a 7.0 magnitude earthquake on January 12, 2010. On top of this, other forecasts point to increased thunderstorm activity for the region as well.
The IRI’s hurricane forecast probabilities are the strongest the institution has ever issued at this point in the season, eclipsed only by a late-season forecast during record-setting 2005. The latest numbers call for a 50% chance of above-normal activity, 35% chance of near-normal activity and a 15% chance for below-normal activity. Put in simpler terms, this means that the chance of having an above-normal year is more than three times the chance of having a below-normal one.
The hurricane forecast issued last week by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is even stronger, calling for an 85% chance of an above-normal season.
Full story: http://iri.columbia.edu/features/2010/an_active_hurricane_season_predicted.html
Caption: Above-normal temperatures in the North Atlantic are strongly influencing recent forecasts that call for a robust 2010 hurricane season. Map courtesy of NOAA.
For the third year in a row, public-health professionals and climate scientists from around the world are visiting Columbia University’s Lamont campus, where the International Research Institute for Climate and Society is based, to learn how to use climate information to make better decisions for health-care planning and disease prevention. They’re taking part in the third Summer Institute on Climate Information for Public Health, organized by IRI, in partnership with the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) and Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health.
World leaders have grown increasingly concerned with finding ways to adapt to climate change and climate variability, which threatens the stability of many facets of life, such as energy, food, and water. Climate also affects the fundamental requirements for good health. The public health community recognizes the need to better understand climate’s role as a driver of infectious diseases such as malaria and meningitis, as well as its potential to change the geographic distribution of disease.
“Droughts, floods, changing rainfall and temperature patterns-these all can have severe impacts on public health, especially in developing countries,” says senior research scientist Madeleine Thomson. “They also often disrupt food production and limit access to safe drinking water, which in turn can make people sick and undernourished,” she says.
By understanding climate, its associated impacts and its potential predictability, decision makers can start responding proactively. “The IRI has its roots in strong climate science, with a goal to enhance society’s ability to understand and manage climate-related risks. That’s why we’re excited to again host a summer institute, bringing together a talented group of participants and our expert staff to explore the most effective ways to use climate information in decision making,” Thomson says.
Read the full story at the IRI web site.Filed under IRI related | Comment (0)
Latest news from the IRI:
A new multimillion dollar research program by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research aims to alleviate climate-related threats to the food security, livelihoods and environment of people living in the developing world. One of the key intellectual forces behind this initiative has been the International Research Institute for Climate and Society’s Jim Hansen. He’ll be leading efforts within the program to look at how managing current climate risks will help farming communities adapt to longer term climate change.
The CGIAR– a network of agricultural research centers that supports thousands of scientists in more than 100 countries– considers climate change an “immediate and unprecedented threat” to the food security of hundreds of millions of people who depend on small-scale agriculture and natural resource management. To address this threat, it has created a ten-year Challenge Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) [pronounced SEE-cafs] to explore new ways of helping vulnerable communities adjust to global changes in climate as they relate to food security. The program’s annual budget is expected to ramp up to $25 million by its fifth year.
Hansen, an expert on climate risk management for agriculture, sees the new program as a way to foster collaboration between people concerned with climate change adaptation and those concerned with development.
“Climate-related risk is a major contributor to poverty and food insecurity, and an impediment to agricultural development efforts, particularly in rain-fed farming systems in the dryer tropics,” he says. “Well-designed, well-targeted research, in the context of an international development strategy, can have a huge impact.” And with CCAFS, he will have an opportunity to shape a program of high-impact research.
Read the rest of the story here.
Photo: Francesco FiondellaFiled under IRI related | Comment (0)
We just put out an informative Q+A over on the IRI site about the risks from climate that the people of Haiti may face in the coming year. Currently, about a 1.2 million Haitians are without proper shelter, and an additional 470,000 have been displaced from their homes, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. This situation leaves them vulnerable to storms and extreme weather events in the coming months.
Here are a few excerpts:
Q: We’re currently in an El Niño period. Is this expected to change the climate outlook for Haitians?
Tony Barnston: Haiti’s rainy season is long. As I mentioned above, it actually has two peaks, with a brief period in July that has relatively lower rainfall. We expect the current El Niño to persist through at least March, and possibly through May. During times of El Niño, the region around Port-au-Prince tends to get above-normal rainfall from late winter to around May. But we can’t be sure the El Niño will still exist in May. We’ll have a better idea in the coming months.
Alessandra Giannini: Let’s remember that we are talking about the impact of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in its weakening phase, which is different from that in its growing phase. Right now, El Niño’s impact on Haiti is mostly indirect, resulting from warming in the tropical North Atlantic over the past six months. That’s why we also need to consider North Atlantic atmospheric circulation, captured in something called the North Atlantic Oscillation. The NAO was in its negative phase in December 2009, meaning that trade winds were weakened. This situation contributed to ocean warming, because there was less evaporation happening on the surface waters. So if the NAO lasts in its negative state from December to March, it will favor the continuation of these warm conditions, which are the basis for the above-normal rainfall predictions that Tony mentioned above.
Q: And what about the second half of the rainy season– after July?
Tony Barnston: The rainfall expectation for the second half of Haiti’s rainy season will depend in part on the direction of the ENSO state this summer– will it be toward another El Niño, La Niña or neutral? At this time of year we currently have poor predictability for ENSO beyond about May or June. An unfavorable scenario for Haiti would be for the development of La Niña during the summer. It would not only imply a wet second half of its rainy season, but also the chances for a tropical hurricane in the vicinity, or even a hurricane hit. As these maps show, La Niña conditions tend to not only increase the total number of hurricanes in the Atlantic, but also increase the number that cut across the Caribbean. In 2008, Tropical Storm Fay, Hurricane Gustav, Hurricane Hanna and Hurricane Ike pounded Haiti, leaving widespread destruction and displacing hundreds of thousands of people.
Read the rest on the IRI’s web site.
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A colleague has written a nice story about a new project at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society that aims to improve forecasting of the Indian monsoon…
In May and June each year, speculation about the coming of the monsoon fills newspapers and conversations across India. Urban dwellers eagerly await respite from overbearing heat. Investors scrutinize forecasts, trying to anticipate possible impacts on food prices. But none have more at stake than India’s over 100 million farming households.
In India, where more than 60% of agricultural land is rainfed and the average farm size is only 3.5 acres, a failed monsoon often means complete loss of a crop. Recent increases in suicides among heavily indebted farmers have highlighted the extreme desperation in some areas. A lackluster monsoon can seriously impact food prices and India’s overall economic growth. For example, this year’s poor monsoon has led to increases in sugar, legume, and potato prices, and many estimate that India’s gross domestic product growth rate may drop by a full percentage point. The government also spends massive sums on drought relief. According to the agriculture ministry, relief expenses totaled about $5 billion during the last major drought in 2002.
The magnitude of these human and economic costs – particularly as concern grows over the potential for climate change to increase extreme weather patterns – has sparked interest in finding more ways to plan ahead. The International Research Institute for Climate and Society at Columbia University is partnering with Indian government agencies and universities in an innovative new research effort led by the government of India designed to improve monsoon forecasts and develop strategies that help farmers and policy makers prepare and act early, based on information tailored to their needs.
Read the rest here.
Photo: Sheshagiri Rao/IRI
This is our latest audio slideshow, which Jason and I produced in record time for the launch of the Climate and Society publication at the 2009 Global Humanitarian Forum. I’ve written it before, and I’ll write it again: audio slideshows are a fantastic, low budget way to add pop to your stories. And we’ve found they’re much more virulent than traditional web stories. At IRI, we use Vimeo to share our multimedia.Filed under IRI related | Comment (0)