This post is based on the foreword to World Resources: Decision Making in a Changing Climate, co-signed by Helen Clark (UNDP), Achim Steiner (UNEP), Robert B. Zoellick (World Bank Group), and Jonathan Lash (WRI).
Conditions are changing in our world. Some are feeling the impact now, from the heat wave and wildfires in Russia of the last two years, the devastating floods in Pakistan and Australia, tornadoes in the United States, mudslides in Brazil, drought in China. Others are worrying about the impacts to come: the tea growers in Kenya’s highlands who are seeing cases of malaria they didn’t see only five years ago; the cocoa farmers in Ghana who think about how changes in rainfall will affect their sensitive crops; the rice farmers in Vietnam who are increasingly concerned about rising water levels. Around the world, there is a growing recognition that, no matter what steps may be taken to control greenhouse gas emissions, we need action to prepare for the likely impacts of greater climate variability and climate change. Governments increasingly realize that they need to make hard policy choices today about a world they may face in 20, 30, or 40 years from now — choices that take into account the scale, pace, and complexity of the risks presented by a changing climate.
This edition of World Resources is designed for governments making these difficult choices. The report is based on a broad research program and consultations with experts from more than 30 countries, and that research is publicly available on the World Resources Report web site. The report identifies five critical elements that will significantly strengthen the ability of national governments to make effective adaptation decisions:
Early and ongoing public engagement on climate change issues, to ensure that people appreciate the risks, understand policy decisions, and have a voice in how they are implemented and monitored.
Information, such as geographically relevant weather data, that is easily accessible, can be shared with those affected, and used effectively to make informed decisions for varying time-scales.
Institutional design that allows governments to coordinate among agencies and stakeholders at local, sub-national, regional, and international levels, and to prioritize climate risks in planning and policymaking processes.
Resources — financial, human, ecological, and social—at every level and over time.
Tools to help governments assess climate risks and vulnerabilities, and decide among policy options. Some tools, such as hazard mapping, may be in place already, but need to be customized to support adaptation planning and policymaking; others will need to be created to meet the challenges and uncertainties that lie ahead.
Some countries are already making an impressive start in addressing these elements and accounting for climate risks. Others, however, are just beginning to grasp the enormity of the challenge — even as they are dealing with the pressing demands for energy, jobs, education, and health care.
We hope this report can offer guidance for policymakers in countries around the world as they begin to address climate change risks — but particularly in developing countries. Although no country is unaffected by climate change, we know that countries will not be impacted evenly or to the same extent: some are vulnerable simply because of geography, while others will have to deal with climate change on top of existing economic and social vulnerability. Developing countries will bear the brunt of climate change and its costs, and the poor will suffer the earliest and the most from its effects. The economies of these countries, in large measure, are dependent on sectors such as agriculture and forestry, which are most susceptible to weather changes.
Climate change will test the ability of governments to lead, as never before. Trade-offs will be necessary in the choices policymakers must make — between the urgency of today’s problems and the need to prepare for future risks. But how governments and societies make these choices will define how they adapt to a changing climate, and shape the world in which our children and grandchildren live and thrive.