Are extreme weather events still “extreme” if they happen all the time? If record-busting heatwaves, snowfall, storms, droughts and so on are growing more common, is extreme weather just the new normal (as depressing as that thought is)? Is it time to start worrying more about adaptation and resilience, alongside trying to reduce carbon emissions?
Climate change is coming. There is still time to avoid the most catastrophic scenarios if we drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and if there is sufficient political will (including going above and beyond the agreement on climate change reached at Paris). However, the pace of change has been slow, and it is inevitable we are going to feel the impact of historical emissions (as well as the greenhouse gases being released today).
On 24 April 2018, our partner think tank Friends of Europe held an event in Brussels on Building Climate Resilience. This event was the second of a series of debates that Friends of Europe held on resilience, aimed at developing, fostering and promoting resilience building into systems, policies and approaches that enable states and societies to withstand, adapt, recover and respond to shocks and crises.
What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from Yannick who is worried about the failure of climate change mitigation. This, of course, raises a related question: is climate change “resilience” seen as an alternative to climate change “mitigation”? Is the growing use of the term a recognition that attempts at mitigation have failed?
To get a response, we put Yannick’s comment to James Close, Director for Climate Change at the World Bank. How would he respond?
[…] I think climate resilience for us means being able to respond to the inevitable changes in climate in a way that builds in long-term planning. Particularly for infrastructure, it enables resilience to be built in from the beginning, particularly in response to changing weather patterns – be that increased storms, or different water flows in rivers. That kind of planning in infrastructure is very important for climate resilience
I don’t think it means we’ve given up on mitigation at all. I think mitigation is extremely important, the Paris agreement is very clear what we need to do. But never mind the pace at which we mitigate, we are going to see climate changes, and building resilience is therefore extremely important as well.
For another perspective, we also put the same comment to Joyce Coffee, founder and President of Climate Resilience Consulting. What would she say?
The quest for resilience is really an attempt to close the very big gap between climate mitigation and climate adaptation. So, in between those two is resilience, and what we need to do in order to close the gap is to both increase mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as increasing adaptation to climate change.
Just in case you’re wondering, adaptation to climate change is allowing for lives to be saved and livelihoods improved even as we have increasing temperatures causing sea-level rise, coastal flooding, inland flooding, vector-born disease changes, and so on.
We also had a comment from PG, who believes that political leaders need to start a discussion on the sustainability of their countries, particularly as the effects of climate change start to be felt more and more. Is that happening in Europe? What’s the current state of play? Is Europe ready for climate change?
How would James Close, Director for Climate Change at the World Bank, respond? How “resilient” to climate change is Europe today?
So, is Europe ready for climate change? It’s a very broad question, of course. What we see is that certain countries have been very swift to respond to changing weather patterns. So, Serbia, for example, has built in significant resilience to many of its roads and bridges as it responded to floods in the last few years. So, some countries are taking the lead here, and others are taking a little more time to respond. But we think it’s really important to build those plans into the expectations around financing, the expectations around long-term economic growth, and the expectations around population movement as well, as has been indicated by the work that we’ve done recently on groundswell and how people will be moving as a result of climate change within borders.
Finally, what would Joyce Coffee from Climate Resilience Consulting say? How would she respond to the same question?
Well, Europe is a giant place and many countries within the geography are more prepared than others. There are, in fact, indices that show which countries are better-prepared to deal with climate change.I recommend to you the gain.org index – the global adaptation index – as a place to go and see how prepared your country is in comparison to other countries.
But, in fact, upper-income countries are much more prepared for climate change, simply because they’ve done a better job of handling crises in the past, and so they have history with how to be more resilient to any sort of crisis, be it as shock like an extreme weather event, or a stress like a drought.
On the other hand, within countries, we know we have disproportionate risk. Not only do we have rich and poor countries being better-prepared for climate risks, we also have within countries communities that are lower-resourced that will have a much harder time to prepare for and withstand these changes in climate. So many policymakers need to be focused on the least-resourced communities in their countries in order to say that they are honestly preparing for changes in climate.
Is Europe ready for climate change? And does focusing on “climate resilience” mean we’ve given up on stopping climate change from happening? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!