Climate Change - Impacts and Humanitarian Implications


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Climate change: impacts and humanitarian implications. Presentation at the Dubai International Humanitarian Aid & Development Conference (DIHAD), April 2009.

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Climate Change - Impacts and Humanitarian Implications

  1. 1. climate change Impacts and Humanitarian Implications Dr. Charles Ehrhart Climate Change Coordinator CARE International 1
  2. 2. the heat is rising 8 • 1995 projection: 1.0-3.5ºC • 2001 projection: 1.4-5.8ºC 6 • 2007 projection: 1.8-6.4ºC • Note: 2007 emissions were at the ‘very high end’ of the 4 IPCC’s scenarios • The rate of emissions is rising faster than projected 2 • Most recent projections suggest a temperature increase of 3.4-7.2ºC this century unless drastic changes are quickly 0 implemented IPCC 1995 IPCC 2001 IPCC 2007 CSIRO 2008 Lowest projection Highest projection 2 When projecting how hot our world will become, scientists address layers of uncertainty in a number of ways. For instance, they compensate for weaknesses in individual climate models by blending those with complementary strengths together. In order to deal with unpredictable socio-economic and other factors (e.g. the persistence of carbon sinks and magnitude of biosphere feedback) affecting the concentration of GHGs accumulating in our atmosphere, they have developed a range of scenarios. The single most authoritative source for climate change projections (and all climate change information, generally) is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC. As indicated in this chart, the IPCC’s projections are getting worse as: • Our ability to make accurate projections increases and • We continue steaming down a “business as usual” pathway. Indeed, climate change is happening with greater speed and intensity than initially predicted. Safe levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases may be far lower than previously thought, and we may be closer to an irreversible tipping point than had been anticipated. Meanwhile, global CO2 emissions are rising at steeper and steeper rates: last year alone, levels of atmospheric CO2 increased by 0.6 percent, or 19 billion tons. Put another way, last year’s carbon dioxide increase means 2.4 molecules of CO2 were added to every million molecules of air. Since 2000, annual increases of two parts per million (ppm) or more have been common, compared with 1.5 ppm per year in the 1980s and less than one ppm per year during the 1960s. The situation is clearly headed in the wrong direction… and going there quickly.
  3. 3. key impacts • Increasing temperatures • Shifting seasons • Changes in the amount of rainfall • Increasing intensity & frequency of extreme weather • Melting glaciers & rising sea level 3 When we hear references to “global warming,” people are only talking about the way in which human behavior is increasing our planet’s temperature. However, this is triggering a wide range of climatic changes - e.g. shifting seasons (winters/rains arrive later in the year), changing rainfall levels, increasing intensity and/or frequency of floods, droughts, hurricanes, etc. One way of understanding this connection is to draw from our own experience: Have you ever looked into a pot of water that you are heating on the stove? At first, the water is still. As you add more heat/energy to the water, you begin to see swirling convection currents. The same thing is happening in our atmosphere - as we add more heat/energy to the system, it becomes more dynamic, more turbulent... and more chaotic. “Climate” typically refers to weather conditions averaged across 30 years (a period recommended by the World Meteorological Organization). An easy way to understand the difference between “climate” and “weather” is to think: “climate” is what you expect to happen (this time of year is hot), “weather” is what you actually get (today was mild).
  4. 4. major consequences Greater food insecurity Greater water stress & scarcity Greater health risks Stresses on natural resource- based livelihoods Greater risk of violent conflict over access to productive ecosystems More “humanitarian disasters” More people on the move in search of safe havens 4 The impacts of climate change have profound consequences for all of us. However, this is especially true for poor people around the world. Reflecting on the human disaster that followed Hurricane Katrina helps us understand why. In New Orleans, poorer communities often occupied the most flood- prone areas (they were most exposed), had the least robust housing (making them more sensitive to hurricane damage), and lacked access to resources and supporting institutions that might have helped them avoid the worst impacts of the hurricane (e.g. access to early warning systems, capacity to evacuate their properties quickly and resources to find alternative accommodation). Indeed, many people who couldn’t’ afford insurance stayed home to protect their property from looters despite the risk this posed to their lives. Loss of assets subsequently reduced their ability to recover and adapt after the event, putting them at greater risk of future disasters. In short: • Its less likely for better-off people to be directly exposed to the worst impacts of climate change • Its easier for better-off people to deal with the impacts of climate change (by paying for more expensive food, buying medicine, etc.) Let’s look at a few of these consequences in greater depth.
  5. 5. food & water in Africa Climatic changes will contribute to water stress, land degradation, lower crop yields and increased risk of wild fire. 50% decline in productivity for rainfed, lowland agricultural by 2020. As a result of climate change, between 75 to 250 million people in Africa will not have enough water to meet their basic needs by 2020. 5
  6. 6. projected changes in weather-related hazards During the next 20-30 year period, there will be an upsurge in weather-related hazards. 6 In 2007, CARE and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA) released a joint report on the humanitarian implications of climate change. The results have been presented to the UN’s General Assembly, to the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, USAID, and the Danish Parliament, amongst others. The study showed which parts of the world will be at greatest risk of humanitarian disasters in the next 20-30 year period and where investment in disaster risk reduction, preparedness and management should be concentrated now to avoid higher costs later.
  7. 7. changing intensity of hazards Scientists have documented an increase in the frequency of temperature extremes, an increase in areas affected by drought, increasingly frequent heavy precipitation events, shifting wind patterns and changing cyclone tracks. 7
  8. 8. This map shows where increasing risk of extreme precipitation overlaps with different levels of human vulnerability in Latin America and the Caribbean. 8
  9. 9. This map shows where increasing risk of drought overlaps with different levels of human vulnerability in Sub-Saharan Africa. 9
  10. 10. summary of flood and drought projections During the next 20-30 year period, it is unlikely that we will see significant changes in where floods and droughts occur. However, we are likely to see: Widespread changes in annual and seasonal levels of rainfall Shifts in the timing of rainfall Longer dry periods in many parts of the world An increase in the number, intensity and duration of floods and droughts An expansion of areas currently affected by floods and drought 10
  11. 11. conflict hotspots The risk that weather-related conditions will trigger human- induced disasters is especially acute in drought prone parts of the world. Climate change raises the risk of conflict - especially in parts of south Asia and central and east Africa. 11
  12. 12. differential vulnerability “Vulnerability” refers to the likelihood that individuals, communities or societies will be harmed by a hazard. People in some social groups are more vulnerable to hazards than others. Women and girl children are especially vulnerable. 12 Vulnerability is determined by a combination of physical, social, economic, political and environmental factors or processes - including the character, magnitude and rate of climate change, as well as the variation people are exposed to, their sensitivity and coping capacity. Gender-based roles and restrictions frequently result in women being more exposed to hazards while, at the same time, undermining women’s coping capacity.
  13. 13. Four key message: _____________ The day-to-day impacts of climate change are increasing many people’s vulnerability to hazards. Climate change is increasing hazard risks. We need to pay special attention to those places where climate change and high human vulnerability overlap - and recognize that communities are not homogenous. Its a safe bet that things are going to get worse... and this should shape our decisions at both strategic and operational levels. 13
  14. 14. Te Text Te Text To learn more about the humanitarian implications of climate change and CARE’s work, visit our website at Text Text 14