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Climate change adaptation: integrating climate science into humanitarian work

  • Lisette M. Braman, Pablo Suarez and Maarten K. van Aalst

Abstract

A changing climate means more work for humanitarian organizations. Vulnerable people served by the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement are likely to experience new patterns of disasters. In the face of these rising dangers, science-based information about likely threats can be used to reduce risk and improve resource allocation. Examples such as the 2008 emergency appeal for flood preparedness in West Africa illustrate the benefits of turning early warnings into early actions at community, national, and regional levels, at timescales ranging from hours to decades ahead of a looming threat. By making better use of a wide range of new information, humanitarian organizations can enhance their work even in the face of the rising risks of climate change.

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1 North American Space Agency, NASA Research Finds Last Decade was Warmest on Record, 2009 One of Warmest Years, Press release: 10-017, 21 January 2010, available at: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2010/jan/HQ_10-017_Warmest_temps.html (last visited 28 September 2010).

2 Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre, Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Guide, The Hague, 2007, p. 10.

3 Ibid., p. 15.

5 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report: Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Core Writing Team, Rajendra K. Pachauri and Andy Reisinger (eds), IPCC, Geneva, 2008, p. 45.

6 Kleiner, Kurt, ‘Climate science in 2009’, in Nature, Vol. 4, January 2010, p. 4.

7 IPCC, above note 5, p. 46.

8 See van Aalst, Maarten, ‘The impacts of climate change on the risk of natural disasters’, in Disasters, Vol. 30, No. 1, 2006, pp. 518.

9 Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre, above note 2, pp. 14–15 and 17.

10 IPCC, ‘2007: Summary for policymakers’, in Martin L. Parry, Osvaldo F. Canziani, Jean P. Palutikof, Paul J. van der Linden, and Clair E. Hanson (eds), Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability: Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 11–12 and 18.

11 Lisette Braman, Maarten van Aalst, Simon Mason, Pablo Suarez, Youcef Ait-Chellouche and Arame Tall, ‘The Use of Climate Forecasts in Disaster Management: results from the International Federation's flood operations in West Africa, 2008’, draft submission to Disasters, submitted on 29 January 2010.

12 International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Early Warning >Early Action, 2008, p. 12, available at: www.ifrc.org/Docs/pubs/helpnow/early-warning-early-action.pdf (last visited 28 September 2010).

13 IFRC, What is a VCA? An Introduction to Vulnerability and Capacity Assessment, Geneva, 2006; and How to Do a VCA: A Practical Step-by-step Guide for Red Cross Red Crescent Staff and Volunteers, Geneva, 2007, both available at www.ifrc.org/what/disasters/dp/planning/vcaguidelines.asp (last visited 17 September 2010).

14 Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre, above note 2, p. 92.

15 Fernanda Baumhardt, Ralph Lasage, Pablo Suarez, and Charles Chadza, ‘Farmers become filmmakers: climate change adaptation in Malawi’, in Hannah Reid et al. (guest eds), Participatory Learning and Action 60: Community-based Adaptation to Climate Change, International Institute for Environment and Development, December 2009, pp. 129–138.

16 Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre, ‘Senegal workshop’, Newsletter Issue 15, 31 March 2010, available at: http://www.climatecentre.org/site/news/233/newsletter-issue-15#9 (last visited 28 September 2010).

17 A short video about one of the games is available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mpj_EbKdwEo (last visited 28 September 2010).

18 For further information, see Lisette Braman, Early Warning, Early Action: An Evaluation of IFRC West and Central Africa Zone Flood Preparedness and Response, 2008, IFRC, 2009, available at: http://www.climatecentre.org/downloads/File/ewea_an_evaluation_of_ifrc_west_and_central_africa.pdf (last visited 28 September 2010); Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre and IFRC, ‘Early Warning, Early Action’: The Experience of West African Floods 2007–2008, available at: http://www.climatecentre.org/downloads/IFRC_climate_risk_management_ewea_july_09.pdf (last visited 28 September 2010). See also, Lisette Braman et al., above note 11.

19 See IFRC, Emergency Appeal: West and Central Africa: Flood Preparedness, Emergency Appeal No. MDR61003, 11 July 2008, available at: http://www.ifrc.org/docs/appeals/08/MDR61003PrelEA.pdf (last visited 28 September 2010).

20 More information on the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) is available at: http://www.ifrc.org/what/disasters/responding/drs/tools/dref.asp (last visited 28 September 2010).

21 L. Braman, above note 18, p. 35.

22 Information about the PfCC Programme can be found at: http://www.climatecentre.org/site/preparedness-for-climate-change-programme (last visited 13 September 2010).

23 Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre, Summary of Step-2 Background Documents from the Preparedness for Climate Change Programme, January 2009, p. 3, available at: http://www.climatecentre.org/downloads/File/programs/PfCC%20Step%202%20Summary%20June%2011%202009%20with%20Executive%20Summary%20and%20Charts%20_final_.pdf (last visited 28 September 2010).

24 Ibid.

25 Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre, Climate Change in 2009: Local Actions and Global Politics, Annual Report 2009, p. 13, available at: http://www.climatecentre.org/downloads/File/reports/Annual%20Report%202009%20FINAL.pdf (last visited 21 July 2010).

26 Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre, ‘Preparedness for Climate Change Programme and its Innovations Fund’, Newsletter Issue 17, 10 September 2010, available at: http://www.climatecentre.org/site/news/240/newsletter-issue-17#11 (last visited 28 September 2010).

27 The global map room is also available at: http://iridl.ldeo.columbia.edu/maproom/.IFRC/.Forecasts/ (last visited 28 September 2010).

28 The result of this work is available at: http://iri.columbia.edu/haiti/ (last visited 28 September 2010).

29 Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre, IFRC, and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), The Access and Use of Climate and Weather Information in the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies: Initial Observations from the Field, 2009, available at: http://www.climatecentre.org/downloads/File/reports/ifrc_pathforward_aug.pdf (last visited 4 August 2010).

30 Ashley Curtis and Lisette Braman, ‘The IFRC Help Desk at IRI’, draft case-study submission to Climate and Society, No. 3, a publication by the IRI at Columbia University's Earth Institute, submitted on 8 September 2010.

31 Kemal Gürüz, Higher Education and International Student Mobility in the Global Knowledge Economy, State University of New York Press, Albany, New York, 2008, p. 238.

32 More information is available at: http://www.climatecentre.org/site/young-scholars (last visited 28 September 2010).

* The views and opinions expressed in this paper are those of the authors, and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre or any other component of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

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Climate change adaptation: integrating climate science into humanitarian work

  • Lisette M. Braman, Pablo Suarez and Maarten K. van Aalst

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