Category: Knowledge Library

New approach puts theory of Climate-Resilient Water Management into practice on the ground

New approach puts theory of Climate-Resilient Water Management into practice on the ground

South Asia has 23.7% of the global population but only 4.6% of the world’s renewable water sources. Countries in the region already face considerable water management challenges due to high population density, poverty, and a high dependence on agriculture as a source of livelihood. Water resources in South Asia are overexploited and depleting fast, and institutions are struggling to manage and allocate water effectively. Climate change will only exacerbate existing problems through irregular rainfall patterns and increased incidence of floods and droughts.

Since 2014 the Action on Climate Today (ACT) programme has been actively working in five South Asian countries – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan – to help national and sub-national governments plan for, and manage, the impacts of climate change in the water sector. The ACT programme has championed a Climate-Resilient Water Management (CRWM) approach as a way of increasing the resilience of water systems on which billions of people rely.  The programme’s activities in this domain range from preparing urban flood management plans and adapting agriculture to increasing incidences to drought, to mainstreaming climate adaptation in water policies and estimating the future demand for water under different climate scenarios.

This framework is informed by these activities and within this water management interventions are sorted into three categories:

  1. Water resource management (including assessment, supply augmentation and demand management);
  2. Management of extreme events (floods and droughts); and,
  3. Creating an enabling environment for CRWM (including mainstreaming climate impacts in sectoral and cross-sectoral policies, among other governance instruments).

The framework distinguishes CRWM activities as different from conventional water management because they have to adhere to three main criteria:

  1. The best available climate information and data have to be used to go beyond business as usual;
  2. The principles of resilience, such as using ‘buffers’ and having flexibility and adaptability are systematically integrated; and,
  3. A sharp focus on reducing the vulnerability of poor and marginalised communities.

Government officials are already aware of unseasonal, more intense and frequent, instances of drought, monsoon rains and floods, and urgently seek ways to address the impacts citizens face. This presents an opportunity and entry point to engage policy makers in the CRWM process.

The full ACT learning paper “Climate-Resilient Water Management: An operational framework from South Asia” and a learning brief can be accessed here:

Listen to a 60-second audio abstract of the paper:

ACT (Action on Climate Today) is an initiative funded with UK aid from the UK government and managed by Oxford Policy Management (OPM).

Key Contacts

Cover photo by (CC BY 2.0).
New methodology helps banking industry better manage and report low-carbon economy transition risks

New methodology helps banking industry better manage and report low-carbon economy transition risks

As part of a project exploring climate-related risks and opportunities for financial institutions, the United Nations Environment Programme – Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) has released a new methodology that will help banks improve the ways in which they manage the risk of transitioning into a low-carbon economy.

The methodology was developed with the support of Oliver Wyman and Mercer in close collaboration with a working group of sixteen leading banks. The group, which includes ANZ, BBVA, BNP Paribas, Barclays, Bradesco, Citi, DNB, Itaú Unibanco, National Australia Bank, Rabobank, Royal Bank of Canada, Santander, Standard Chartered, Société Générale, TD Bank Group, and UBS, is also piloting this methodology. It provides the first publicly available guidance specifically designed for banks to assess the risks and opportunities a low-carbon economy transition might pose to their lending portfolios.

This is the first of two methodologies to assist banks in responding to the final recommendations by the Financial Stability Board’s (FSB) Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). A further methodology, currently being developed by Acclimatise and the banks, will be released in June and provide guidance on physical climate risks and opportunities.

Download the methodology by clicking here.

Access the UN Environment press release by clicking here.

Access the publication on the UNEP FI website by clicking here.

Cover photo by Kai Gradert on Unsplash.
New study shows how NOAA data helps land the next catch

New study shows how NOAA data helps land the next catch

By Elisa Jiménez Alonso

A new study led by Acclimatise for NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information explores how fishing forecast services use NCEI data to fill a market niche in major U.S. fishing zones.

Commercial and tournament fishers invest a lot of money into labour and fuel. Planning fishing trips efficiently and knowing where fishing conditions are promising is crucial to their business. Fishing forecasters have recognised that need and use NCEI data to create products tailored to fishers’ needs.

Graphic depicting how NCEI data help the fishing industry in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean understand ocean conditions and make informed decisions.

One such service provider is Roffer’s Ocean Fishing Forecasting Service (ROFFS). Mitchell Roffer, owner of the business, estimates NCEI data add about $500,000 a year to ROFFS. The company creates maps, waypoints, and near-real-time fishing condition summaries which are accompanied by user instructions to interpret the information. Fishers can buy these products and use them to find temperature breaks and other favourable fishing conditions in the ocean.

William Bright, a New Jersey-based fishing boat captain of two vessels, uses services such as ROFFS. He explains “it’s tough to survive right now with the weather and competition, so you really need to know where to place your bet before going offshore,” because “ninety percent of the fish live in ten percent of the ocean.” Bright’s catches are consumed from Boston to Japan and his annual revenue exceeds $4 million. Fishing forecast services using NCEI data give businesses like his a competitive advantage.

NCEI and other NOAA data are the basis of fishing forecast services. Mitchell Roffer says, “If there were not a NOAA and we didn’t have access to these products, we would not have a business, and there would not be a robust fisheries forecasting industry.”

Cover photo by Mado El Khouly on Unsplash
Using ‘foresight’ to mobilise joint action in climate adaptation and disaster risk reduction

Using ‘foresight’ to mobilise joint action in climate adaptation and disaster risk reduction

By Elisa Jiménez Alonso

The European research project PLACARD (PLAtform for Climate Adaptation and Risk reDuction) has released a new report exploring how foresight can help integrate climate change adaptation (CCA) and disaster risk reduction (DRR).

The PLACARD project aims to establish a coordination and knowledge exchange platform to support the dialogue between the CCA and DRR communities. As part of that effort, this new report promotes the cooperative use of foresight methods to improve the integration of CCA and DRR in research, policy, and practice.

Figure 1: Schematic representation showing how CCA and DRR overlap. (Source: PLACARD)

Foresight is described as a “systematic, participatory, future intelligence gathering and medium- to long-term vision-building process to inform present-day decisions and mobilise joint actions.”

It helps decision-makers explore and anticipate future developments through a range of forward-looking approaches. It is a process to think about, debate and shape the future in a participatory, inclusive, and action-oriented manner exploring common long-term visions, and desired future conditions.

Figure 2: The multiple roles of foresight (Source: PLACARD based on JRC For-LEARN)

While they often might not be explicitly called that, foresight methods are already commonly used in CCA and DRR, for example the Adaptation Pathways approach, which presents “a sequence of possible actions after a tipping point,” and offers a series of ‘pathways’ in the form of adaptation or decision trees. Another very common practice is the SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats analysis), which helps categorise internal and external factors that might influence organisations. However, these methods are usually applied to either DRR or CCA rather than using them as a mechanism to integrate the two, which is what PLACARD’s new report proposes.

Given that both communities are used to the methods, the aim would be to encourage the use of foresight to look both at DRR and CCA together. As the authors explain, “for DRR this would imply the consideration of a longer time horizon and more attention to preventive responses, for CCA it would stimulate the consideration of the relevance of long-term changes for short-term changes and weather events which are more relevant for policy and practice.”

PLACARD identifies a number of ways in which foresight might improve future-thinking in a joint CCA-DRR policy context:

  • Enhance the effectiveness of participatory processes, cooperation and dialogue
  • Produce salient knowledge and capacity building that is relevant for future decision making and policy support
  • Facilitate the understanding of issues and concepts such as complexity, uncertainty, non-linearity, wildcards and surprises
  • Generate levers that build flexibility into policy measures and across policy areas
  • Address different time scales simultaneously, for example, connect long-term CCA prevention with short-term DRR preparedness
  • Be used in the context of trust building and the development of shared values
  • Allow for the use of a holistic perspective in connecting different policy areas.

This report summarises PLACARD’s initial work on foresight and will be followed up by a series of webinars and workshops in 2018 which will help develop and identify more specific foresight methods to integrate CCA and DRR.

Find out more about the report in PLACARD’s website and download the full document by clicking here.

PLACARD is funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 research & innovation programme. Grant agreement No. 653255

Cover photo by Peter Kasprzyk on Unsplash.


The impact of climate change on mental health is impossible to ignore

The impact of climate change on mental health is impossible to ignore

By Prof Helen Berry, inaugural professor of climate change and mental health at the University of Sydney.

It is now widely accepted that climate change is one of the world’s leading health risks. From driving up the number of people exposed to heatwaves to increasing the risk of infectious diseases, such as dengue fever, climate change is already causing significant harm.

Similarly, the body of evidence that climate change is increasing the frequency and ferocity of weather-related extremes is increasing year-on-year. More people are being exposed – or, worse still, the same people are exposed more frequently – to injury, loss of homes and businesses, environmental damage and even loss of lives.

All of these have profound, often long-term effects on mental health. Yet there remains relatively little research on this topic, and even less commitment to doing anything about it.

This is a mistake. Good mental health is essential to our capacity to cope with and make the best of what life throws at us, including climate change. But it is not something we can take for granted.

Neglected research

Each year, hundreds of millions of people around the world experience mental illness. For most people, this is frightening, distressing, confusing and painful – potentially affecting every aspect of life. Work, relationships, finances, community participation and physical health are all touched.

Yet mental illness remains poorly understood, stigmatised and feared, too often experienced in shame and isolation. And the funding needs for mental health services and research are not being adequately addressed the world over.

That same neglect is reflected in the research around mental health and climate change. For example, as I show in a paper published in Nature Climate Change last week, a search on the online research database Scopus for studies concerning climate change and mental health yields just 208 publications between 2007 and 2018. And of these, only 29 critically evaluate mental health.

So, what does the available research tell us about the impacts of climate change on mental health?

Aggravating risk

Overall, the consensus in the scientific literature is that climate change will increase the number of people exposed to extreme events and, therefore, to subsequent psychological problems, such as worry, anxiety, depression, distress, loss, grief, trauma and even suicide.

Heatwaves, for example, are of particular concern. Research across the Australian population shows their impact on mental health is similar to that of unemployment. Night-time heat is associated with reduced sleep – a cause and consequence of poor mental health – and some psychoactive medicines become ineffective during heatwaves.

Research has shown a rise in hospital admissions for mental health issues during heatwaves in the Australian city of Adelaide, and identified a link between extreme heat, reduced crop yields and suicides in Indian farmers.

The impacts of weather-related disasters can be more dramatic and this is where the biggest risks lie. They can create food shortages, destroy public infrastructure and disrupt transport, cut off power and connectivity, damage land used for agriculture and recreation, destroy sacred places and even force people to migrate. Vital medicines and medical aids can be lost fleeing extreme events, interrupting continuity of care.

Reconstruction and recovery from disasters is enormously costly. Pressures quickly escalate on frontline responders, such as emergency services, nurses and pharmacists, and other public health-related resources – including hospitals, care homes and the healthcare workforce.

These pressures create stress on society and the communities which have to absorb impacts and costs. Volunteers and paid service providers burn out, businesses and economic opportunities are damaged, incomes are reduced and productivity falls. Inequality – a key driver of poor health – can also begin to rise.

Pressures on time, money and stress can lead to people spending less time participating in their communities, being with and supporting each other. This can impair social cohesion and positive identities. For some, isolation can result or intensify. When this happens, we lose our most critical sources of mental wellbeing.

The scientific literature shows that severe mental health effects of disasters disproportionately hit vulnerable people – particularly women, young people, migrants, people living with a disability, and ethnic minorities.

Flooding distress

Flooding in the UK offers another example. Research conducted by Public Health England (PHE) shows the floods in 2000 in Lewes, southern England, quadrupled community levels of psychological distress – and that those psychological problems were still identifiable four years after a flood.

PHE researchers have begun a programme of investigations to find out more about this and are looking at physical as well as mental impacts and “secondary stressors” – such as flood-related money pressures, problems with insurance claims and relationship stress.

The first year of the research has found elevated depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder in flooded areas, even among those who were not personally flooded. Rates of problems were much higher in flooded households, especially when the flooding disrupted domestic utilities or healthcare, or forced residents out of their homes for a time.

In good news, being forewarned of flooding protected people against mental health impacts – an important lesson to take from the research so far.

Way forward

The research undertaken so far has provided a solid base for understanding how climate change affects mental health. But connections still need to be analysed, theories tested and further evidence gathered.

In its Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2020, the World Health Organisation drew attention to the huge unmet global need for more and better, research-informed, mental health support.

The complexity of both mental health and climate change means that tackling the two together requires a “systems thinking” approach. This describes the big picture as well as the detail, taking in complex set of interacting factors – geopolitical, socio-economic, ecological and environmental – to best identify policy solutions.

Like all systems, the climate change-mental health system has power, resilience and momentum. As a result, there will be some aspects of mental health impacts – within a certain range of tolerance – that are unavoidable.

Working within an understanding the system will usefully influence policy thinking and the research needed to inform it. It is time to talk about climate change and mental health in our local, national and international communities, about harmful and adaptive pathways identifiable in the system – and about what we can do together to inhibit the former and promote the latter.

Fortuitously, people seem to worry about climate change collectively rather than personally, and this form of worry might be harnessed to motivate action on climate change and drive improvements in mental health. Both are greatly needed.

This article originally appeared on Carbon Brief and can be accessed here. It is shared under a Creative Commons license.

Berry, H. L. et al. (2018) The case for systems thinking about climate change and mental health, Nature Climate Change, doi:10.1038/s41558-018-0102-4.

Cover photo by Lieut. Commander Mark Moran, NOAA Corps, NMAO/AOC (CC BY 2.0): Total devastation following Hurricane Katrina. Waveland, Mississippi. September 13, 2005.
New framework has successes integrating climate change into governance systems in South Asia

New framework has successes integrating climate change into governance systems in South Asia

Four South Asian countries (India, Pakistan, Nepal and Afghanistan) have successfully applied a new governance framework called “Mainstreaming Adaptation to Climate Change within Governance Systems in South Asia” that allows governments to integrate climate change adaptation into governance systems, policies and plans.

Developed, and launched by a group of national and international climate change experts between 2016-2018, the framework identifies barriers and opportunities for climate adaptation mainstreaming and has already helped 10 national and sub-national governments change their investment, planning and policy processes to account for climate change.

Diagram of the three dimensions that can help mainstream adaptation withing governance systems.

One of the authors of the framework explains:

“Adapting to climate change could cost up to US$ 500 billion per year by mid-century. A sizeable amount of money will necessarily come from government budgets, as investments are made in new infrastructure and other development. Governments, therefore have significant power to drive action on climate adaptation. To do this successfully they must integrate climate adaptation across their own programmes leveraging spending across departments to deliver climate resilience. The framework helps governments do just that.” With the help of this new framework, practitioners and policy makers will be able to understand how to mainstream adaptation within governance systems by focusing on three aspects:

  1. Entry points: Opportunities for integrating climate considerations into the planning and policy process.
  2. Enabling environment: The characteristics – people, institutions, resources etc – that help support the successful adoption of climate change adaptation policies and practices.
  3. Political economy drivers: The factors that influence and affect the enabling environment such as the interests and incentives facing different groups as well as formal and informal social, political and cultural norms.

Mainstreaming adaptation to climate change within development policy or planning involves governance at multiple levels, which is why ACT is working at the national and subnational levels across South Asia. The lessons from ACT’s work will be of interest for similar projects and programmes in the region and beyond.

The full ACT learning paper “Mainstreaming adaptation to climate change within governance systems in South Asia: An analytical framework and examples from practice” and a learning brief can be accessed here.

ACT (Action on Climate Today) is an initiative funded with UK aid from the UK government and managed by Oxford Policy Management (OPM).

For more information, please contact:

Elizabeth Gogoi, Consultant, Oxford Policy Management (OPM) +91 98 11 55 2951

Aditya Bahadur, Regional Programme Development Manager, Action on Climate Today (ACT)

How NCEI data supports billion dollar weather service industry in the US

How NCEI data supports billion dollar weather service industry in the US

A new study completed by Acclimatise for NOAA’S National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) reveals how the US weather service industry uses NCEI data. Weather services are used by many industries from retail to reinsurance. The necessity to understand how weather impacts businesses, and in turn the economy, has led to growing demand for weather and climate data analyses. The weather service industry meets these demands using NCEI’s archive.

Infographic depicting how weather service providers use NCEI data to create value-added products and services. Click to enlarge.

More and more companies are recognising the importance to take weather and climate into consideration in their business models and adapt accordingly. The US National Weather Service estimates that the country’s gross domestic product can fluctuate between 3 and 6 percent a year, or as much as $1.3 trillion, due to weather alone. In this new Acclimatise-led study, it is projected that the demand for value-added weather services could grow by up to 15 percent per year.

Providers, such as The Weather Company, WeatherBELL Analytics, Baron, and AccuWeather, use NCEI’s data to create these value-added services, which are used by a variety of sectors. For instance, by energy traders developing consumer-demand forecasts when weather is expected to impact a region; insurance companies applying forensic analysis to weather-related accidents and claims; transportation providers determining where to build facilities so that fog, snow, or other weather factors pose fewer challenges to logistics; or retailers analysing how seasonal patterns can affect merchandising and operations.

NCEI’s free data repository is helping the value-added weather service industry, currently valued at $7 billion, grow and thrive.

Download the full report by clicking here.

Cover photo by Chris Leipelt on Unsplash.
Extreme weather risk higher if Paris goals aren’t met – Adaptation and resilience more important than ever

Extreme weather risk higher if Paris goals aren’t met – Adaptation and resilience more important than ever

By Elisa Jiménez Alonso

A new study finds that individual country commitments are not enough to reach the Paris Agreement goal of keeping the climate change induced global temperature increase “well below 2 degrees Celsius.” Rather, 2 to 3 degrees of warming are expected, increasing the risk of extreme weather even more.

Researchers from Stanford University, Columbia University, and Dartmouth College estimated the probability of hot, wet, and dry extreme events happening under two scenarios: global temperature increase of 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius if countries achieve the Paris Agreement aspirations, and 2 to 3 degrees if they meet current commitments.

“The really big increases in record-setting event probability are reduced if the world achieves the aspirational targets rather than the actual commitments,” said Noah Diffenbaugh, Kara J Foundation Professor of Earth System Science at Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences. “At the same time, even if those aspirational targets are reached, we still will be living in a climate that has substantially greater probability of unprecedented events than the one we’re in now.”

The striking difference between the two scenarios came as a surprise for the researchers, even though temperature increases were very likely to increase the likelihood of extreme events. The commitment scenario shows a fivefold increase in probability of record-breaking warm nights over approximately 50 percent of Europe, and more than 25 percent of East Asia and a greater than threefold increase in record-breaking wet days over more than 35 percent of North America, Europe and East Asia. Meeting the Paris Agreement aspirations could substantially reduce the risk of increasing extreme events.

However, even the aspirational scenario shows an increase of record-setting events, and the same researchers have already linked several extreme weather events of the past years to climate change, including the 2012-2017 California drought and the catastrophic flooding in northern India in June 2013.

The study does not just highlight the importance of curbing emissions, it also provides additional evidence that historical probabilities often do not apply anymore. This has significant implications for the consideration of climate risks in infrastructure projects, but also financial disclosure, and development planning.

We can use this kind of research to make decisions that both build resilience now and help us be prepared for the climate that we will face in the future.

“Damages from extreme weather and climate events have been increasing, and 2017 was the costliest year on record,” Diffenbaugh said. “These rising costs are one of many signs that we are not prepared for today’s climate, let alone for another degree of global warming.”

“But the good news is that we don’t have to wait and play catch-up,” Diffenbaugh added. “Instead, we can use this kind of research to make decisions that both build resilience now and help us be prepared for the climate that we will face in the future.”

Access the full study by clicking here. Noah S. Diffenbaugh, Deepti Singh, and Justin S. Mankin. Unprecedented climate events: Historical changes, aspirational targets, and national commitments. Science Advances, 14 Feb 2018 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aao3354

Cover photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash.
Acclimatise leads new study on NCEI data and its applications to the transportation sector

Acclimatise leads new study on NCEI data and its applications to the transportation sector

By Elisa Jiménez Alonso         

Transportation and logistics businesses rely on weather and climate data to stay on schedule and reduce risks. A new study led by Acclimatise shows how the sector uses data from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information to reduce weather-related risks that might lead to costly disruptions in their service.

Express couriers

For express couriers like UPS and FedEx it is crucial to avoid delivery delays as they can cause cascading repercussions in their clients’ supply chains and also reduce consumer confidence. As UPS meteorologist, Randy Baker, puts it in the report “Someone awaiting a package in Bangkok doesn’t care if it snowed in Louisville, Kentucky. They want their stuff.”

The industry uses NCEI’s historical records to optimise their performance. One such dataset is the International Station Meteorological Climate Summary (ISMCS), or, commonly referred to as the “climate disk”. It contains detailed historical summaries of daily, hourly, and monthly reports of air temperature, precipitation, wind, clouds, pressure, and various other elements from 640 primary weather observation sites and more than 5,800 secondary sites worldwide.

Companies that make up a large portion of the $82 billion express courier industry depend on the ISMCS for many applications, such as landing visibility minimums, strategic planning of airport locations, transport of temperature-sensitive goods, de-icing decisions, and weather model verification.

Long-haul carriers: railways

Click on the image to see the infographic in full size.

The infrastructure of railroads is very exposed to weather, as such the $60 billion industry to inform risk management, legal claims, and to optimise networks. NCEI’s Local Climatological Data (LCD), Integrated Surface Daily Database (ISD), and Global Historical Climatology Network, Daily (GHCN-D) provide a foundation for freight management.

During high heat, railway heat tolerances can be analysed to pre-emptively make decisions to avoid breaches, for example, train speeds can be decreased, loads can be reduced during peak heat, and railway workers can be dispatched to search for visible signs of track damage.

Impact on the economy

Given the on-going rise in package deliveries and the importance of bulk goods transported by rail, disruptions to both industries can have severe knock on effects that can also be felt economically.

Managing risks posed by weather and climate is thus not only practical but ultimately a business necessity and NCEI’s data plays a crucial part.

Download the full report by clicking here.

Cover photo by Robson Hatsukami Morgan on Unsplash.

New framework ensures effective government financing for climate adaptation

New framework ensures effective government financing for climate adaptation

Some estimates suggest that US$ 500 billion will be needed for adaptation by 2050, and public finances will form a crucial part of that picture. To ensure this, a new framework that helps governments mainstream spending on climate adaptation into domestic budgets, has been successfully implemented in four South Asian countries. The Financing Framework for Resilient Growth (FFRG) can help countries around the world improve how they fund climate resilience building through public finance.

International climate finance mechanisms have so far fallen short of delivering the necessary resources to tackle climate change and are unlikely to deliver all that is needed in the near future as well. This is especially true of adaptation finance, which remains severely underfunded putting many people and critical infrastructure at risk. To successfully prepare for climate change, governments will have to mobilise their own fiscal resources and go beyond donor funding to reach their development goals.

The Action on Climate Today (ACT) programme has devised and tested this framework that enables governments to integrate climate change adaptation and resilience into their plans, policies, and budgets at the national and subnational level. The FFRG provides a way to estimate the economic cost of climate change damages, quantify current expenditure on adaptation, and track it through departmental budgets. For example, in Bihar, India, ACT reviewed 787 budget lines which are relevant for climate change and used the FFRG to estimate that $145 million worth of the total ‘benefits’ from this expenditure are tackling the impacts of climate change through enabling adaptation.  This provides an effective baseline against which to measure an increase in funding year on year or hold the government to account should expenditure dip.

The framework also allows governments to calculate the gap between current levels of funding and those required to prevent climate-related loss and damage. The framework is a useful tool for governments to identify priority areas of spending and plan effectiveness strategies to finance climate adaptation.

Listen to the 60-second abstract about the report:

The full ACT learning paper “Mainstreaming, accessing and institutionalising finance for climate change adaptation” and an insight note based on the Framework for Resilient Growth methodology can be can be accessed here.

ACT (Action on Climate Today) is an initiative funded with UK aid from the UK government and managed by Oxford Policy Management.

Cover photo by  Diganta Talukdar/Flickr (CC BY 2.0): Woman plucking tea leaves in Amluckee Tea Estate in Amoni in Nagaon district.