Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction: Issues and Challenges: Volume 4


Table of contents

(24 chapters)

Climate change is happening; it is within primary focus and attention. Over years, the importance of climate change adaptation (CCA) is increasing, and for many countries it is becoming one of the prime targets. Climate change impacts are visible in the form of disasters, which have added to its importance. In contrast, disaster risk reduction (DRR) field is more submissive and has received less attention so far. However, due to recent major disasters in different parts of the world, media and public attention is high. The news becomes more intense when we observe unpredictable rainfall, heat waves, drought, typhoons, or other climate-related disasters. Intensity and frequency of natural disasters are on an increasing trend.

Due to rapid industrialization and urbanization in different parts of the world over the past several decades, there have been serious effects on climate. Available observational evidences indicate that regional changes in climate, particularly fluctuations in temperature and rainfall, have already affected a diverse set of physical and biological systems in many parts of the world. International communities have tried to respond to these changing phenomena by establishing high-level Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Numerous global treaties and protocols have been formulated on climate change in different countries. However, climate change impacts are found to be most severe in the grassroots-level community, in the form of natural disasters such as droughts, floods, and typhoons/cyclones, which affect the lives and livelihoods of people. Indirect impacts of climate change are observed in the form of increasing poverty and health issues in different ecosystems. Although communities are equipped with traditional knowledge and wisdom, new practices and policies are required to enable them to cope with the changing climate, thereby providing them with means to sustain their livelihoods.

Ever since human society developed, environmental and social changes have led to major challenges that must be dealt with. Some of these major challenges are seen as “disasters,” for which a definition that is frequently used is similar to “A serious disruption of the functioning of a community or a society causing widespread human, material, economic or environmental losses which exceed the ability of the affected community or society to cope using its own resources” (UNISDR, 2004; see, e.g., Quarantelli, 1998, and Furedi, 2007, for discussions on the meaning(s) of “disaster”). From witnessing disasters and being forced to work through the aftermath, humanity has been shifting toward trying to reduce disasters’ impacts or to avert them entirely. This field has the modern-day interpretation of “disaster risk reduction,” defined as “The conceptual framework of elements considered with the possibilities to minimize vulnerabilities and disaster risks throughout a society, to avoid (prevention) or to limit (mitigation and preparedness) the adverse impacts of hazards, within the broad context of sustainable development” (UNISDR, 2004).

Climate change was identified as an urgent global problem that requires governments to unite their efforts to prepare for potential climate risks at the First World Climate Conference in 1979. This recognition led to the establishment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988 to assess the magnitude and timing of changes and estimate their impacts. The IPCC published its First Assessment Report in 1990, which became a basis for negotiations on a climate change convention under the United Nations General Assembly. Between February 1991 and May 1992, the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for a Framework Convention on Climate Change met five times under the auspices of the General Assembly, and the Convention text was adopted on May 9, 1992 at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where 154 states signed. The Convention entered into force on March 21, 1994. It has near universal membership with 194 Parties (member countries) having ratified (UNFCCC, 2006).

Climate change is projected to bring a range of changes in temperature, precipitation patterns, and sea level. As a result, widespread occurrence of floods, cyclones, droughts, cold and heat waves, etc. are projected with uneven distribution in time and spatial scales (Rosenzweig et al., 2007). These changes can manifest in the form of long-term slow changes in the mean state of the climate and sudden changes in the extremes of the climate (Carter et al., 2007). The sudden severe changes can have high impacts with widespread devastation, severely impacting years of developmental efforts in many vulnerable countries.

Communities around the world are already vulnerable to disasters, the “Global Assessment Report: Disaster Risk Reduction” presents compelling new evidence of concentration of risk in many developing countries. The “Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report” reports that climate change is expected to be accompanied by an increased frequency and intensity of extreme climate events in many parts of the world. Moreover, climate change will aggravate many of the socioeconomic factors that drive vulnerability.

How water is managed is emerging as one of the core challenges of sustainable development and earth system governance (Pahl-Wostl, Gupta, & Petry, 2008a; Biermann et al., 2009). Floods and droughts already have a huge impact on human development and well-being. Adaptation to existing climate variability to reduce water insecurities is already a pressing need (Pielke, Prins, Rayner, & Sarewitz, 2007). Securing access to safe drinking water, allocating sufficient water to grow food, protecting life and property from floods, as well as maintaining river and floodplain ecosystems as countries develop economically, however, is a complex set of interlocking and dynamic challenges.

Conceptually, reducing the risk of disasters is closely associated with adaptation processes. A fairly conventional approach to disaster risk reduction (DRR) characterizes preparation as part of a continuous cycle of activities that move from disaster events through recovery (damage limitation) and risk reduction (preparation) phases until the next event occurs (Moench, 2007). Moench argues that climate change is increasingly recognized as among the greatest challenges human society will face over the coming century. While it will affect everything from basic ecosystem processes to the spread of disease, some of the greatest impacts are anticipated to occur due to increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme climate events, such as storm, floods, and droughts. Therefore, many of the elements identified in the cycle – strengthening of resilience, land-use planning, insurance, and the development of early warning information – should reduce vulnerability to the next event and thus, assist regions in “adapting” to the types of events that can cause disaster. However, the frequent occurrence as well as the increase in the intensity of the hydrometeorological hazards does not imply on enhanced perception and awareness of the people for preparedness, as experience is not the prime factor to it (Shaw, Shiwaku, & Kobayashi, 2004). In this sense, climate change related disaster management and risk reduction plans should be prepared targeting the concerned target population. A combination of clear and accurate warning messages with high level of preparation with an effort of self-reliance during the crisis time needs to be looked into (SEEDS, 2008).

Global climate can be defined as the average of all the regional trends of weather over a long time period (National Science Foundation [NSF], 2009). The researchers all over the world have concluded that the Earth's climate is changing as a whole. There are basically two factors that have impacts on the climate, the natural (climatic and environmental variability) and the anthropogenic (infrastructure development and land use land cover change). The causes of past changes are believed to be related to changes in ocean currents, solar activity, volcanic eruptions, and other natural factors (ISDR, 2008). But in recent times, human activities have accelerated this rate of climate change (IPCC, 2007; Sperling & Szekely, 2005; ISDR, 2008). As the developmental activities increase, the amount of emission of greenhouse gasses and aerosols increases, which, in turn, leads to global warming and snow melting, thus increasing the sea level and the frequency and intensity of cyclones, floods, droughts, and many other disasters (IPCC, 2001).

In the scientific field of climate change adaptation (CCA), the focus on cities has grown steadily in recent years. Increasing population figures especially in developing countries, and overall in cities, demonstrate a key challenge for institutions, communities, economies, and the natural environment to find appropriate solutions to overcome this problem (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC], 2007). Rapid urbanization is just one of the key issues that cities have to deal with; another main challenge is how to manage the impacts from climate change like increasing numbers of natural hazards that are resulting in more frequent and intense disasters (EM-Dat, 2009; Munich Re Group, 2009).

History has taught us that every aspect of the world around us is changing. Right from its formation, the earth has been evolving climatically, edaphically, and biotically to its present state. The forcing for all these changes in the past was natural, and human activities had least influence till the industrial revolution. Since the beginning of the 18th century, human activities associated with the industrial revolution have changed the composition of the atmosphere and thereby having a greater influence on the earth's climate. The use of fossil fuels like coal and oil coupled with deforestation has increased the concentration of heat-trapping “greenhouse gases,” which prevent the heat from the earth escaping to space. Because of this, the very greenhouse gases, which helped sustain life on the earth under normal circumstances, have become detrimental due to its higher concentration. Several models have predicted that the rising concentrations of greenhouse gases produce an increase in the average surface temperature of the earth over time. Rising temperatures may, in turn, produce changes in precipitation patterns, storm severity, and sea level, commonly referred to as “climate change.” The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) defines climate change broadly as “any change in climate over time whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity.” The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) defines climate change as “a change of climate that is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity, that alters the composition of the global atmosphere, and that is in addition to natural climate variability over comparable time periods.”

Forests and the goods and services they provide are essential for human well-being (Seppälä, Buck, & Katila, 2009). Forests provide three types of ecosystem services that directly support human well-being: provisioning services such as food, fuelwood, medicine, etc.; regulating services such as water purification, climate regulation, erosion control, etc.; and cultural services, including recreation, spiritual, and religious values (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2003). About 1.6 billion people live in predominantly forest ecosystems or in their vicinity. Forest communities include indigenous peoples (IPs) who have been living since time immemorial in forest areas and other local groups including the more recent settlers or immigrants. In the tropics, over 800 million people are living in forests and woodlands, which makes these areas a very important resource for the rural poor (Chomitz, Buys, De Luca, Thomas, & Wertz-Kanounnikoff, 2007). Based on ADB's (2009a) estimates, half of the world's poorest of the poor are IPs, and more than half live in Asia. Sixty million of these IPs are forest dependent.

As a consequence of the huge loss and damage caused by natural disasters all over the world, an impressive amount of attention is currently being given to a holistic approach in disaster risk management (McEntire, Fuller, Johnston, & Weber, 2002). The world experiences more and more natural disaster impacts in spite of numerous efforts, advancing sciences, and more powerful technologies. Indeed, current disasters are more complex, and climate change poses a greater potential for adverse impacts (Aalst & Burton 2002). Hence, there is a need to reassess the existing disaster risk reduction approaches due to problems in the existing risk management approaches, and new risks brought by climate change and by environment degradation.

The increasing climate-induced disaster is one of the main obstacles for sustainable development. Many countries and their housing sectors are already highly vulnerable to weather and climate extremes, as illustrated by tropical cyclones in Myanmar, Viet Nam, and the Philippines, and flooding in India, Bangladesh, and China. Disaster impacts and losses continue to rise globally.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) IPCC (2007) projects that greater precipitation intensity and variability will increase the risks of flooding in many areas because of climate change. With climate change already happening, societies worldwide face the parallel challenge of having to adapt to its impacts as a certain degree of climate change is inevitable throughout this century and beyond, even if global mitigation efforts over the next decades prove successful (European Commission, 2007).

South Asia, home to one-fifth of humanity, perennially has been a disaster-prone region. In 2007, for instance, the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) reported that out of the top five countries in the world hit hardest by natural disasters, the first two were Bangladesh and India, while Pakistan occupied the fourth position (CRED Crunch, 2008). This was not an exceptional year but generally has been the trend, which highlights the comparative vulnerability of the region to disasters. Two-thirds of the disasters the region experiences are climate related and there have been phenomenal increases in their frequency, severity, and unpredictability in recent times. The severest impacts have been in terms of sea-level rise leading to submergence of low-lying coastal areas and depletion of Himalayan glaciers, threatening the perennial rivers that sustain the food, water, energy, and environmental security of the region. Climate change is surely creating grounds for newer and more severe risks of disasters in the region in the coming years.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) comprises 10 countries namely Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam (Fig. 1). The ASEAN region has a total land area of 4.5 million square kilometers (3.3% of the world total) and a coastline of 173,252 km (third longest in the world). It is a region that boasts of a wealth of biodiversity including 20 percent of all known plant, animal, and marine species and one-third or 284,000 km2 of all coral reefs. Four biodiversity hotspots identified by Conservation International cut across a wide area of the region that includes Indo-Burma, the Philippines, Sundaland, and Wallacea.

Climate change adaptations are today pursed globally to address the threats associated with climate change. The IPCC Third Assessment Report and the Fourth Assessment Report have outlined the most accurate changes to be expected by 2100 with the only uncertainty relating to the timing and magnitude of these changes, not their occurrence (IPCC, 2007). In Small Island Developing States (SIDS), the changes are already manifested through coastal flooding, erosion, salt water intrusion, damaged water sources, and increased storm damages. SIDS are also under threat from their rapidly increasing population that needs settlements, services, and facilities, their limited size that severely confines their options, and their poor resources both in terms of weak financial position and restricted human capacity. This is the reason why SIDS, which will be the first and worst victims, must devote more concerted effort to adapt to these eventualities.

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Community, Environment and Disaster Risk Management
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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