Adaptation and mitigation

When we are talk about climate change in our modern setting, we refer to changes brought about by industrialisation as seen in the increased use of energy sources that emit harmful gases into the atmosphere. These gases have a warming effect that effects climate patterns.

In Africa this has lead to shifts in rain patterns over the years. African communities are more vulnerable to changes in rainfall and other aspects of climate. Most activities and planning are tied to the seasons. The fact that climate change has resulted in unpredictable seasons has resulted in crop failures.

Africa’s development is mostly linked to rain-fed agriculture as opposed to irrigation. Rural communities have relied on predictable rainfall patterns for their crops, and whole economies are driven by this activity. Changes in rainfall patterns have implications for other aspects of life, including health. Unexpected flooding gives rise to parasites in the water that may in turn cause epidemics like cholera. When the highlands get warmer mosquitoes are able to survive, and they conquer these areas too. The consequence is the spread of malaria. Studies have also shown that the glaciers of Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya are greatly reduced. Yet it is well known that these glaciers are the source of streams and rivers, and are also very important for the rain.

These are examples of Africa’s sensibility to climate change, and the new situation can only be improved through adaptation. The continent itself contributes to the emissions of harmful gasses, but just about 10% of world’s total. It is quite obvious that there is little Africa can do in terms of mitigation. The continent is dependent on the will of emitting countries in the West in terms of reductions, but still reductions are not due to have any impact for the next 50 years.

Sensitivity, Adaptability, and Vulnerability

Sensitivity is the degree to which a system is affected, either adversely or beneficially, by climate-related stimuli. Climate-related stimuli encompass all the elements of climate change, including mean climate characteristics, climate variability, and the frequency and magnitude of extremes. The effect may be direct (e.g., a change in crop yield in response to a change in the mean, range or variability of temperature) or indirect (e.g., damages caused by an increase in the frequency of coastal flooding due to sea-level rise).

Adaptive capacity is the ability of a system to adjust to climate change, including climate variability and extremes, to moderate potential damages, to take advantage of opportunities, or to cope with the consequences.

Vulnerability is the degree to which a system is susceptible to, or unable to cope with, adverse effects of climate change, including climate variability and extremes. Vulnerability is a function of the character, magnitude and rate of climate change and variation to which a system is exposed, its sensitivity, and its adaptive capacity.

Therefore, the focus on controlling emissions through international agreements and new technology in energy production and industries must be combined with strong efforts in minimizing damage through adaptation schemes. The most vulnerable ecological and socio-economic systems are those with the greatest sensitivity to climate change and with the least ability to adapt to new situation. As vulnerability defines the extent to which climate change may damage or harm a system, it depends not only on the system’s sensibility, but also on its ability to adapt. Thus traditional knowledge should be complemented by new research and climate change considerations must be an integrated element of the nation’s development agenda.

How to finance adaptation?
The Global Environment Facility (thegef.org) is an independent financial entity and the financial mechanism for the international conventions on environment issues, like the the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The Convention defines the mechanism for the provision of financial resources to developing countries. It also specifi es that the financial mechanism, GEF, shall function under the guidance of, and be accountable to, the Conference of the Parties (COP), which shall decide on its policies, programme priorities, and eligibility criteria related to the Convention.

Financial resources for the implementation of the Convention are available through the GEF Trust Fund, the Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF), the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) and the Adaptation Fund (once the Kyoto Protocol enters into force). Funding is also available through bilateral, regional and multilateral channels.

GEF Trust Fund is the main funding channel for climate change projects in developing countries. Since 1991, it provided approximately US$1.8 billion in grants for climate change activities. In addition more than US$ 9 billion was provided through co-financing from bilateral agencies, recipient countries and the private sector.

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