Category: Knowledge Library

Replace grazing with trees to reduce climate risk says UK Committee on Climate Change

Replace grazing with trees to reduce climate risk says UK Committee on Climate Change

By Will Bugler

The UK government needs to “fundamentally reform” its approach to land management in order to address climate change, according to a new report from the UK Committee on Climate Change. The report suggests that policies that govern how land is used in the UK have been fragmented and not enough has been done to encourage farmers and land managers to use land in a way that is beneficial to the environment and reduce the risks posed by climate change. 

The report, “Land use: Reducing emissions and preparing for climate change” emphasises that climate change itself poses a threat to the land’s “ability to provide critical services including clear water, healthy soils and timber”. With a growing population, the report says, environmentally sensitive land use will be vital if the UK is to sustain sufficient levels of food production. 

Agriculture is a primary focus for the Committee, which suggests that farmers could be paid to reforest land that is currently used for grazing livestock. Grazing, especially in upland areas, has a significant impact on the land’s ability to reduce flood risk – the UK’s number one direct climate hazard. To this end the report recommends a reduction in grassland and rough grazing of between 26 and 36 percent by 2050. 

Forest cover in the UK, according to the Forestry Commission, stands at just 12%, one third of the EU average, making the UK one of the least densely forested nations in Europe. Tree cover on hill slopes is one effective measure that can help reduce flooding. Trees intercept water before it reaches the ground and also allow it to seep into the soil much more efficiently, reducing surface runoff. A study in the journal Hydrological Processes points out water has been found to sinks into the soil under the trees at 67 times the rate at which it sinks into the soil under the grass.

The Committee also recommend that the UK government promote a massive re-forestry effort planting 1.5 million hectares of new woodland and turn more land over to growing crops for bio-energy. The report stresses that these alternative uses of land could be economically viable for land managers and farmers, however the UK government would need to provide financial assistance to help them transition.

Access the full report by clicking here

Click on the infographic to enlarge.

Nature-based solutions for building resilient cities

Nature-based solutions for building resilient cities

By Sonia Chand Sandhu, ADB & Jeremy Carew-Reid, ICEM

Rehabilitating natural systems with green infrastructure is key to building sustainability and resilience to climate change in urban areas.

The sustainability and resilience of urban areas to climate change can be greatly increased by rehabilitating natural systems and integrating nature-based approaches with conventional infrastructure and urban development. That principle is particularly true in small and medium-sized towns in Asia that are already struggling to adapt to threats from climate change and natural disasters.

The use of green infrastructure and nature-based solutions is an essential alternative or complementary approach to conventional town infrastructure and development planning. This technical study provides practical examples and guidance on green infrastructure and illustrates related participatory urban planning processes through case studies from three Mekong towns in Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Viet Nam.

These examples from the Greater Mekong Subregion demonstrate approaches of immediate relevance for other towns and regions throughout Asia with extensive coastlines, riverine and low-lying wetland areas, short and steep watersheds, and high urbanization pressure. Storms, floods, landslides, and severe droughts underscore the increasing and intensifying extreme climatic conditions that call for strengthened resilience of local communities and critical infrastructure, while ensuring sustainable urban development pathways in balance with nature.

Key Findings

Green infrastructure should be a foundation for planning, developing, and maintaining towns and cities with climate change. Local landscapes and natural systems, their networks and functions should be sustained or revitalized to take advantage of their multiple benefits including building urban resilience and sustainability. The design, construction, management, maintenance, and use of green urban infrastructure are best done with local communities. Cross-sectoral collaboration of different government departments together with the private sector and communities can ensure solutions which best meet local needs.

The technical study proposes a process which starts with a scoping exercise, followed by an assessment of the baseline, climate change impacts, adaptive capacity, and related vulnerability in a city. This is followed by the identification and prioritization of adaptation measures to effectively address the projected climate change impacts. The measures are then planned, designed, and implemented in close consultation with the community. The operations stage includes regular maintenance and repair, as well as necessary adjustments of green infrastructure to changing climate conditions. Eventually, the adaptation measures are evaluated to decide on their replication in other areas.

Guiding resilience principles are suggested as an integral part of urban adaptation planning and development in cities. These include the protection, rehabilitation, and mimicry of natural systems, the conservation and wise management of water and energy resources, the sustainable (re-) design of buildings and sites, and transit-oriented development.

The technical study presents possible green infrastructure solutions in four key areas:

  • Water and Flood Management, e.g. constructed wetlands, drainage corridors, or rainwater harvesting;
  • Slope Stabilization, e.g. live cribwalls, vegetated gabions, or vetiver grass;
  • Pollution Management: e.g. bioswales, graywater recycling, or raingardens; and
  • Energy, Heat, and Greenhouse Gas Management: e.g. green roofs and walls, recycling, or urban tree canopy.

Conclusion / Recommendations

Green infrastructure and nature-based solutions for resilient towns and cities are broadly guided by the following strategies:

  • Collaborating across sectors and encouraging initiatives within local communities;
  • Availing of technologies to inform and improve adaptation planning;
  • Greening and rehabilitating natural elements such as ponds and parks;
  • Creating a network of interconnected green spaces and corridors;
  • Greening core urban areas, residential neighborhoods, as well as industrial and business zones;
  • Monitoring the impact of measures along green indicators;
  • Continuing capacity development and retraining of planners, engineers, and developers; and
  • Reforming planning systems toward area-wide approaches of development control, integration of nature, and adaptation of key infrastructure assets.

The technical study is a practical guide for applying those strategies showing how nature-based solutions can support green infrastructure development and cross-regional knowledge sharing for more resilient and sustainable cities throughout Asia.


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About the authors

Sonia Chand Sandhu, Senior Advisor to the Vice-President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development, Asian Development Bank: Sonia Chand Sandhu, an environmental engineer and climate resilience and sustainability specialist, has 23 years of international development experience in environmental sustainability, resilience, and integrated institutional solutions for management of multisector infrastructure operations at ADB, the World Bank (South Asia and Africa), and in the private sector. At ADB, she led the GrEEEn Cities Initiative for secondary cities in Southeast Asia for balanced urban transformation and developed innovative knowledge solutions for climate resilience in the Greater Mekong Subregion. Follow Sonia Chand Sandhu on Twitter & LinkedIn.

Jeremy Carew-Reid, Director General, International Centre for Environmental Management, ICEM: Jeremy Carew-Reid has more than 35 years experience working in over 30 countries, including extensive experience in the Mekong region. He has a BSc Honours in freshwater ecology and a PhD in Environmental Impact Assessment. He specializes in integrated environmental assessments and climate change vulnerability assessment and adaptation. He has led many foundational biodiversity and climate change studies and assessments in the Mekong region. Since 2000, he has been Team Leader in more than 35 ICEM projects in Asia.

This article originally appeared on ADB’s Development Asia blog and is shared with kind permission.

Cover photo by Richard Webb (CC BY 2.0): Vegetated gabions.
5 key adaptation messages from new US climate report

5 key adaptation messages from new US climate report

By Elisa Jiménez Alonso

Late last week, the fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4) for the United States was released by the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), a federal program mandated by Congress. The 1,600-page report finds that by 2100, climate change could harm the US economy even more than the Great Recession did costing roughly $500 billion per year under the most extreme scenario (RCP 8.5). But it also highlights that the impacts are already being felt.

“The impacts and costs of climate change are already being felt in the United States, and changes in the likelihood or severity of some recent extreme weather events can now be attributed with increasingly higher confidence to human-caused warming,” authors write in the first chapter of the NCA4.

Climate risk reduction and adaptation are especially important given that even under moderate scenarios (RCP 4.5) annual economic losses are still at several hundred billion per year.

Projected damages and potential for risk reduction by sector. Source: NCA4

In its 28th chapter, the NCA4 outlines 5 key messages about reducing climate risks through climate change adaptation.

1. Adaptation implementation is increasing

While the last NCA found that adaptation in the US was mainly in the planning stage, implementation has significantly picked up. Both the scale and scope of implementation have increased in federal, state, tribal, and local agencies. However, there is still no common reporting system on adaptation, making it difficult to tally the extent of implementation accurately. But due to increasing climate-risk awareness, especially in the private sector, the recognition that adaptation investment benefits exceed their costs, and the increasing number of extreme weather events, adaptation actions have increased in the US.

2. Climate change outpaces adaptation planning

While much headway has been made in climate adaptation, it still has a long way to go. Many organisations have yet to move away from the assumption that they can rely on historical data to make informed decisions about the future. Due to this slow evolution, climate change is worsening faster than the US are adapting to it.

3. Adaptation entails iterative risk management

In order to successfully adapt to climate change and build resilience, climate risk management needs to be an iterative process. The process includes steps for “anticipating, identifying, evaluating, and prioritizing current and future climate risks and vulnerabilities; for choosing an appropriate allocation of effort and resources toward reducing these risks; and for monitoring and adjusting actions over time while continuing to assess evolving risks and vulnerabilities.” Through this ongoing cycle of assessment, action, reassessment, learning, and response climate challenges can be grappled with and climate risks reduced significantly.

4. Benefits of proactive adaptation exceed costs

The NCA4 confirms what many climate adaptation practitioners have been promoting for a long time: the benefits of investing in adaptation often exceed the cost. By anticipating and preparing for future impacts, organisations can avoid large economic losses at the same time as providing many co-benefits. These can be especially extensive when adaptation actions include nature-based solutions.

5. New approaches can further reduce risks

Climate risks can be reduced by working climate considerations into existing organisational policies and practices. However, it will be necessary to create new approaches that alter regulatory and policy environments, cultural and community resources, economic and financial systems, technology applications, and ecosystems in order to build systemic resilience to climate change.

Access the Fourth US National Climate Assessment by clicking here.


Cover photo by ESA/A.Gerst (CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO): Hurricane Florence seen from the International Space Station.
Biodiversity is plummeting, humanity needs a radical response

Biodiversity is plummeting, humanity needs a radical response

By Will Bugler

The scariest thing about Halloween this year? Digesting the findings of the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) most recent 2018 Living Planet report. The report shows that in the 40 short years between 1970 and 2014, more than 4,000 species of mammal, bird, fish reptile and amphibian are in decline. The average rate of decline of the species in the study? 60 percent. This astonishing loss of biodiversity presents a grave threat to human prosperity. The loss of wildlife and the ecosystems that support it will undermine any attempt to mitigate or adapt to climate change.

WWF’s report lists many factors for the decline, noting that just 25% of land on the planet has not been severely damaged by human activity. It also warns that this is likely to drop to just 10 percent by 2050 due to pollution, disease and climate change. The report was particularly striking in its timing, coming just weeks after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent report on climate change, which warned of the impacts that the world faces at 1.5 degrees of warming. The impacts included wiping out almost all of the world’s coral reefs and altering other fragile habitats and ecosystems.

These two reports together show that significant and far reaching change is necessary in order to protect the vital systems that we rely on to grow food, access fresh water, and power our lives. They also clearly imply that only a holistic approach to climate change adaptation will be effective in safeguarding human systems in the coming decades.

Broadly speaking, the purpose of adapting to climate change is to safeguard lives and livelihoods of people in the face of considerable changes to the climate system; many of which are now inevitable. This goal becomes impossible if we are unable to protect the ecosystems that support life. These may seem like straightforward statements of the obvious, however this does have implications for the way we respond to climate change.

Decision making on climate adaptation should be part of a much broader approach to socio-ecological protection. When making decisions about how best to adapt to climate related impacts such as flooding for example, a narrow, impact-specific approach might be to identify the threat (an overflowing river) and then come up with a cost-effective way to reduce the risk it poses to people and property (a flood barrier perhaps). Congratulations you have successfully reduced the risk of flooding – but have you increased the overall resilience of the people and the environment?

The flood barrier might have diverted the flood risk further downstream leading to flooding of a fragile ecosystem or farmland. It may have cut off vulnerable populations from accessing the market to sell their goods or reduced access to the river for fishermen, or it may provide a perverse incentive for people to build houses and property behind the barrier, increasing the potential impact of a future, more severe flood event.

Finding solutions to climate change that build long-term resilience, requires decisions that are taken in line with a coherent, systemic approach to strengthening ecosystems and protecting the lives of the most vulnerable people. Decisions that reduce climate risk or indeed cut carbon emission at the expense of either people or the environment are self-defeating.

Download the full WWF Living Planet Report by clicking here.


Cover photo by Thomas Kelley on Unsplash
Open data and information sources to support climate risk assessments and decision making

Open data and information sources to support climate risk assessments and decision making

By Dr Anna Haworth

“Data! Data! Data! I can’t make bricks without clay!” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sir Conan Doyle’s famous fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, couldn’t form any theories or draw any conclusions until he had sufficient data. The same is true for climate risk and adaptation practitioners – data and information are the basic building blocks of everything we do: the analyses we perform, the reports we build, the decisions we encourage, and the improved resilience we hopefully derive.

Against this backdrop of a need for robust, contextual and high-resolution climate data and information, a recently published technical note by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) provides a concise, yet detailed summary of open source datasets that can be used to assist experts carrying out climate risk assessments.

Authored by Rob Wilby, a close friend of Acclimatise, and colleagues at the ADB, this technical note provides details of 70 sources of public information, including data on historical and future climate, climate-related disasters, indicators of national vulnerability, and preparedness to adapt.

Data sources are collated in four appendices, which broadly map to successive phases of the ADB Climate Risk Management Framework, covering:

  1. National emissions, climate vulnerability, risks, and impacts;
  2. Historic weather, climate, and environmental change;
  3. Multidecadal, regional climate change projections; and
  4. Climate change impacts and adaptation.

Although the report focuses on the Asia and Pacific region, it does have wider applicability as most of the datasets are global in coverage.

As the authors acknowledge, there is a limit to which globally accessible, open source data can meet the detailed information needs of local adaptation projects. This note is intended to supplement rather than replace efforts to gather relevant climate information from government agencies and counterparts.

The technical note concludes by encouraging ADB, other multilateral development banks, and partner agencies to continue to invest in programs that strengthen national monitoring systems for climate and environmental change. Unfortunately, large parts of the developing world still lack both the climate and socioeconomic information required for robust climate risk assessments – in particular, for high-elevation and physically remote locations.

Remotely-sensed and reanalysis products certainly improve coverage, but the accuracy of these assets ultimately depends on high-quality observing networks. As the note highlights, open access to long-term records is invaluable for detecting emergent risks and devising, then implementing, effective adaptation measures.

Download the report by clicking here.


Cover photo by Thomas Beckett on Unsplash
New framework helps strengthen institutional capacity for planning and delivering climate adaptation

New framework helps strengthen institutional capacity for planning and delivering climate adaptation

Institutions face many challenges in dealing with the complexity of climate change: Its urgency, its cross-cutting nature, how it interacts with other societal challenges such as social inequality, and how it can stymie existing development efforts. Even translating climate science into actionable information can be challenging. The capacity constraints that exist to respond to these challenges, particularly in the institutions of developing countries, are well documented.

The urgent need for governments to build resilience has frequently led to a reliance on short-term and ad-hoc efforts to boost capacity. International organisations are often ‘parachuted’ into developing countries to provide one-off training sessions and workshops. Such support has yielded limited impact and is often unsustainable. In such situations local institutional capacity to deal with climate change remains constrained.

There is a recognition globally, on the need for more and better approaches to support the strengthening of institutions. The 2015 Paris Agreement enshrines a commitment to building long-term, in-country capacity to address climate change. The Agreement also states that capacity building must operate through appropriate institutional arrangements and be an iterative process that is participatory, cross-cutting, and gender-responsive.

The new ACT learning paper details how this capacity building goal can be achieved. It introduces and describes a new framework for strengthening institutional climate capabilities to guide stakeholders in designing, planning and delivering other development and adaptation programmes and initiatives. It provides a comprehensive picture of the changes required, involving individuals, organisations, and the wider processes, resources, norms, and values governing institutions. The framework was developed using ACT’s experience in building institutional capacity, and is also informed by wider empirical literature on governance, climate change, and capacity development.

ACT is a £23 million UK government-funded regional programme managed by Oxford Policy Management (OPM) in collaboration with many consortium partners. It works in partnership with national and sub-national governments of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan to assist the integration of climate adaptation into development policies and actions while transforming systems of planning and delivery, including leveraging additional finance. Institutional capacity building is therefore one of the main purposes of the programme.


The full ACT learning paper “Building institutional capacity for enhancing resilience to climate change: An operational framework and insights from practice” and a learning brief can be accessed by clicking here.

Listen to the abstract:

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:

Cover photo by Terry Boynton on Unsplash
New report by IPCC finds world faces huge risks if warming is not kept below 1.5C

New report by IPCC finds world faces huge risks if warming is not kept below 1.5C

By Elisa Jiménez Alonso

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released a special landmark report on the impacts of 1.5 °C warming above pre-industrial levels. The report finds unprecedented changes would be necessary worldwide to keep warming below 1.5 °C but that it would massively decrease global climate risks.

The half-degree difference between 1.5 °C and 2 °C, the target range set out in the Paris Agreement during COP21, is a significant one. “Every extra bit of warming matters, especially since warming of 1.5°C or higher increases the risk associated with long-lasting or irreversible changes, such as the loss of some ecosystems,” Hans-Otto Pörtner said, who leads the working group on impacts and adaptation.

At the current rate of warming, we could reach the 1.5 °C target as early as 2030 and 2052. Keeping to that ambitious warming target would significantly lower the risks of droughts, floods, extreme heat and poverty for millions of people across the globe. For example, the proportion of the global population exposed to water stress would be 50% lower at 1.5 °C than at 2.0 °C.

Climate adaptation needs will be much lower at 1.5 °C, above it there are limits to adaptation and adaptive capacity for some human and natural systems, meaning losses would become inevitable.

However, keeping to that target and not exceeding it would require “rapid and far-reaching” transitions across all sectors and human carbon dioxide emissions would have to be reduced by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching net zero by 2050.

“We have presented governments with pretty hard choices. We have pointed out the enormous benefits of keeping to 1.5 °C, and also the unprecedented shift in energy systems and transport that would be needed to achieve that,” said Jim Skea, co-chair of the working group on mitigation. “We show it can be done within laws of physics and chemistry. Then the final tick box is political will. We cannot answer that. Only our audience can – and that is the governments that receive it.”

At the moment the world is on track for disastrous 3 °C warming. Amjad Abdulla, IPCC board member and chief negotiator for AOSIS (Alliance of Small Island States) said “the report shows that we only have the slimmest of opportunities remaining to avoid unthinkable damage to the climate system that supports life as we know it.”

Download the IPCC special report on global warming of 1.5 °C by clicking here.


Cover photo by Zooey/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
USA among top countries to suffer highest economic damage due to climate change according to new research

USA among top countries to suffer highest economic damage due to climate change according to new research

A recently published study indicates climate change is costing the USA hundreds of billions of dollars per year.

The results, which were published in Nature Climate Change, use climate model projections, empirical climate-driven economic damage estimations and socioeconomic forecasts to estimate country-level contributions to the social cost of carbon (SCC). SCC is an estimate that adds up “all the quantifiable costs and benefits of emitting one additional tonne of CO2, in monetary terms” and is used to weigh the benefits of reducing global warming against the costs of cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

The study shows the global SCC is significantly higher than that used by the US American government to inform policy decisions. The latest numbers from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for global costs range from US$12 to US$62 per metric tonne of CO2 emitted by 2020. However, the new data shows the SCC to be as high as US$180–800 per tonne of carbon emissions.

The country-level SCC for the USA alone is estimated to be US$50 per tonne, which is much higher than the global value used in most regulatory impact analyses. This means that the nearly five billion metric tons of CO2 the USA emits each year is costing the US economy about US$250 billion.

“Evaluating the economic cost associated with climate is valuable on a number of fronts, as these estimates are used to inform U.S. environmental regulation and rulemakings,” said lead author, University of California San Diego assistant professor Kate Ricke, who holds joint appointments with UC San Diego’s School of Global Policy and Strategy and Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

CO2 is a global pollutant and previous analyses have always focused on the global SCC, but this paper offers a country-by-country breakdown of the economic damage climate change will cause.

“Our analysis demonstrates that the argument that the primary beneficiaries of reductions in carbon dioxide emissions would be other countries is a total myth,” Ricke said.  “We consistently find, through hundreds of uncertainty scenarios, that the U.S. always has one of the highest country-level SCCs. It makes a lot of sense because the larger your economy is, the more you have to lose. Still, it’s surprising just how consistently the US is one of the biggest losers, even when compared to other large economies.”


Ricke, K., Drouet, L., Caldeira, K. and Tavoni, M. (2018). Country-level social cost of carbon. Nature Climate Change. Available here https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-018-0282-y. [paywall]

Cover photo by Antonio DiCaterina on Unsplash
FAO: Climate change is a key driver behind recent rise in global hunger

FAO: Climate change is a key driver behind recent rise in global hunger

By Elisa Jiménez Alonso

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) recently released its annual flagship publication The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World stating that world hunger was on the rise for the third year in a row. The number of people facing chronic food deprivation had increased to almost 821 million in 2017, from roughly 804 million in 2016. Climate variability and extremes are two of the key drivers of this trend.

Worldwide trends

In 2017, the prevalence of undernourishment (PoU), or the percentage of undernourished people in the world population, reached 10.9 percent. According to the FAO, the main reasons for this deteriorating situation are instability in conflict-ridden regions, economic slowdowns in more peaceful regions, and adverse climate events. The most affected regions are Africa with a PoU of 21% and Asia with 11.4%. The worldwide trend indicates that without increased efforts by the international community, the world will fall short of the Sustainable Development Goals target to eradicate hunger by 2030.

Climate impacts food security and nutrition

Last year’s FAO report suggested conflict and violence were the main causes for food insecurity and efforts to fight hunger should go hand-in-hand with those that aim at sustaining peace. This year and thanks to new evidence, climate variability and extremes are added as a key factor influencing global hunger and a leading cause of food crises.

Since the early 1990s, the number of climate-related disasters has doubled. An average of 213 events per year have occurred between 1990 and 2016 with numbers rising dramatically after 1998.

Total number of natural disasters that occurred in low- and middle-income countries by region and during the period 1990–2016. Disasters are defined as medium- and large-scale disasters that exceed the thresholds set for registration on the EM-DAT international disaster database. See Annex 2 for the full definition of EM-DAT disasters. Source: FAO elaboration based on data from Emergency Events Database (EM-DAT). 2009. EM-DAT [online] Brussels. www.emdat.be
Climate variability and climate-related extreme events are already impacting agricultural production of major crops in the tropics. A situation that will only worsen without adaptation measures.

Drought: biggest risk to agriculture

Food production is most severely affected by floods, tropical storms, and droughts. However, droughts impact it by far the most causing over 80% of the total losses and damages to agriculture.

Droughts have the potential to affect national food availability and access, impacting nutrition and increasing the national PoU.

Countries in Africa, Central America, and Southeast Asia experienced drought through abnormally low accumulated rainfall and also through lower rainfall intensities and fewer days of rainfall.

Visit the digital report by clicking here and download the PDF by clicking here.


Cover photo by RobertoVi/Pixabay (public domain).
First ever assessment of climate change influence on India’s hydropower plants points to increased generation potential

First ever assessment of climate change influence on India’s hydropower plants points to increased generation potential

Will Bugler

Climate change will have a significant impact on India’s hydropower plants, according to a new study. Changes in rainfall patterns, snowmelt and streamflow in India’s major rivers however, will affect the design and operation of India’s planned and current hydro plants. Amazingly however, the role of climate change on hydroelectric facilities in the country remains largely unexplored.

India is the world’s 7th largest producer of hydropower, and the predictable, low-carbon energy source is vitally important for the country’s ambitions to improve energy supplies and cut greenhouse gas emissions. With India’s population continuing to grow, the demand for clean energy will rise in the coming years. Hydropower offers considerable potential to meet some of this demand. Estimates suggest that the country uses less than 20 % of its total hydropower potential.

Dams must be built to last

As with other large infrastructure developments, proper consideration of climate change on hydroelectric facilities is essential. The lifespan of a large, concrete dam can extend to well over 100 years. A hydropower dam built today will be operational in a considerably different climate in its later life.

The study, undertaken by researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology, provides the first-ever assessment of climate change impacts on the hydropower potential of 7 large hydropower projects in India. Each facility has an installed capacity of over 300 MW, and most are among the top 10 largest hydropower projects in the country.

The study found that all 7 reservoirs studied are projected to experience greater levels of overall rainfall by the end of the century, with some being up to 18% wetter than today. However, the increase in rainfall will not be evenly spread throughout the year. The authors expect that much of the increase will fall as heavy, monsoon rains. This means that the hydro-electric dams may have to withstand more severe flood events than have been previously experienced. It also means that streamflow will not increase throughout the year, meaning that the increased rainfall is unlikely to be matched by a similar increase in electricity generation potential.

The study also found that snow cover is likely to decline affecting several catchments of hydroelectric facilities. This decline in snow cover will mean reduce its contribution to streamflow in the winter season.

Other factors affect streamflow

Overall, the study found that that there would be an increase in streamflow for the 7 hydropower facilities, and that with good planning, India could increase its overall generation from hydropower. Planners should take account of climate-driven changes in streamflow to best capitalise on these changes.

To do this, it will be important to consider other factors, notably the changing demand for irrigation. Increased irrigation demand can have a significant effect on streamflow and reduce hydropower production capacity. If rain falls over shorter periods of time and in more intense bursts, the demand for irrigation in the longer dry periods is likely to rise. This could offset some of the potential increase in generation.

Other factors such as changing land-use patterns will also have significant impacts on India’s hydropower production capacity. However, it is clear from this study that climate change will have significant influence on the streamflow that reaches each facility. As streamflow is highly localised, and dependent of many contributing factors relating to local geography, assessments should be carried out on all current and proposed hydropower plants to assess how they will operate under various climate scenarios.

The study Projected Increase in Hydropower Production in India under Climate Change can be found here.


Kumar, A., Kumar, K., Kaushik, N., Sharma, S. & Mishra, S. Renewable energy in India: Current status and future potentials. Renew. Sustain. Energy Rev. 14, 2434–2442 (2010).

Cover photo by Thangaraj Kumaravel/Flickr (CC BY 2.0): Sharavathi hydroelectric power plant view.