‘Climate, resilience and adaptation’
By ucftaww, on 4 March 2014
Blog by Victor Galaz; Associate Professor, Stockholm Resilience Centre (Stockholm University)
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The previous Lancet Commission of 2009 made the point completely clear, still the message tends to get lost in the climate debate. Climate change is fundamentally a challenge for human health. The message is worth reiterating. Policy-makers, non-governmental actors, business and civil society are in desperate need of trustworthy assessments of innovative policies, institutions and proposals which could help us stay ahead of human health challenges posed by climate change.
Working group 2 of the Lancet Commission is entitled “Resilience and Adaptation Responses”, and consists of an international interdisciplinary group of prominent scholars working at the interface of health, global change, and resilience (see membership). Our ambition is to bring together and feature promising adaptation approaches; discuss their costs and scalability; and identify possible win-win trajectories. This is far from a simple task for several reasons.
First, climate adaptation often entails a combination of several types of interventions. That is, they often include changes in economic incentives, the placement of new technologies, modifications in natural systems such as ecosystems, institutional reforms, and new forms of decision-making and funding arrangements. In addition, these interventions differ considerably across sectors (e.g. agriculture vs. energy production), and the scale of interest (e.g. local, national and regional).
Second, while some of the human health impacts of climate change can be partly predictable, gradual and even reversible, other might emerge as surprises. That is, events that fundamentally differ from expectations and with the potential to trigger health crises – events that require prompt interventions despite large uncertainties and limited time to act. Hence adaptation policies and institutions not only need to match known threats, but also need to be robust to surprising changes created by human, environmental and technological uncertainty.
Third, there are likely to be limits to adaptation. Bluntly put: how far we push Earth’s climate and ecosystems before the human health repercussions are of such scale, speed and intensity that human societies will systematically fail to adapt? And if that is the case, when are policies, which support transformation, rather than adaptation, needed?
These are three major issues that this working group will try to address. There are no easy answers, nor magic “silver bullet” solutions. But as we intend to elaborate, innovative policies, institutions and proposals on possible means to adapt to future human health challenges do exist. And some of these are possibly scalable, effective and entail a potential to create multiple “win-wins” afar from improving human health. Our hope is that our work will contribute to a much-needed focus on health solutions, and not just health problems created by climate change.
Commissioners of WG2 of the Lancet Commission
- Prof. Yin Yongyuan, Tsinghua University (China), co-lead
- Ass. Prof. Victor Galaz, Stockholm Resilience Centre (Sweden), co-lead
- Prof Geogina Mace, UCL and Royal Society (UK)
- Professor Bing Xu, School of Environmental Science and Engineering, Tsinghua University
- Dr. Li Moxuan, Center for Earth System Science, Tsinghua University
- Dr. Koko Warner, United Nations University
- Prof. Thomas Elmqvist, Stockholm Resilience Centre (Sweden)
- Prof. Delia Grace, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Kenya
- Dr. Sukaina Bharwani, Stockholm Environment Institute-Oxford and weAdapt