Guests: Mahamat Assouyouti, Senior Climate Change Specialist, Adaptation Fund, and Martina Dorigo, Program Analyst, Adaptation Fund Host: Matt Pueschel, Communications Officer, Adaptation Fund
Members of the Adaptation Fund (AF) discuss AF’s Results-Based Management Framework in the context of its diverse portfolio of projects and programmes, and how they are improving lives, livelihoods and ecosystems on the ground that support them.
The value of adaptation metrics in enhancing adaptation outcomes and progress to date was detailed through highlights from the Fund’s latest Annual Performance Report, knowledge study on portfolio monitoring missions, virtual project country-level visits and examples of AF projects that have been scaled up by other funds. How projects have adapted in the face of the pandemic, continued high demand for projects, as well as expanded programmes being offered in the portfolio such as new project scale-up, enhanced direct access, innovation and learning grants were also discussed.
This is a transcript of episode 5 of The Conversation Weekly podcast, How climate change if flooding the Arctic Ocean with light. In this episode, two experts explain how melting ice in the far north is bringing more light to the Arctic Ocean and what this means for the species that live there. And we hear from a team of archaeologists on their new research in Tanzania’s Olduvai Gorge that found evidence of just how adaptable early humans were to the changing environment.
NOTE: Transcripts may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.
Dan Merino: Hello and welcome back. From The Conversation, I’m Dan Merino in San Francisco.
Gemma Ware: And I’m Gemma Ware in London and you’re listening to The Conversation Weekly, the world explained by experts.
Dan: In this episode, two Arctic Ocean researchers explain how melting ice in the far north leads to more light in the Arctic – and what that means for sea life.
Karen Filbee-Dexter: Our ecosystems are responding, because these changes are really dramatic and they’re noticeable.
Gemma: And we talk to a team of archaeologists about the early humans who lived in Tanzania’s Olduvai Gorge 2 million years ago.
Makarius Peter Itambu: In this scenario, hominims from Oldupa maintained the very same toolkit.
Dan: So Gemma, today we’re going on a journey up to just about as far north as we can go, all the way up to the Arctic. What do you imagine when I say the word Arctic?
Gemma: I feel a bit cold already, and I guess I think of big expanses of snow and ice, drifting, like wind. Maybe the odd polar bear. And I guess in winter it’s just dark.
Dan: That’s a great example if you were to stay on top of the ice, but there’s a whole different world beneath it. And it’s full of ocean, like teeming alive.
Gemma: We know climate change is causing some of this ice to melt though, right?
Dan: Yeah totally… well some of the ice melts every summer. The sun’s up and then in winter when the sun goes away it grows back, but that ice is melting much more than it used to. So in September 2020, Arctic sea ice covered 3.74 million square kilometres.
Gemma: Well that sounds like a lot…
Dan: It does. But it’s the second smallest measurement ever. And only roughly half of what was measured in 1980.
Gemma: So what does that melting sea ice mean for all that teeming sea life living in the Arctic Ocean?
Dan: It’s not clear cut… it’s not all bad news even. Different scientists are studying all sorts of changes to see how it’s going to matter for the life in the Arctic, but one of the things they’re looking at is light. If there’s less and less sea ice, more light gets down into the ocean. And in the dark winter, where ice would normally cover the ice caps, it’s not there, so ships are driving through more and more and bringing with them a lot of artificial light.
I spoke to two researchers who’ve been spending a lot of time in the cold icy waters way up north to study all of this. And let’s just let one of them kind of set the scene. So Gemma, and all you listeners out there, imagine you step off a plane in the far, far north. Here’s what you might see.
Karen: So you have these places that are so covered in snow and ice, that they almost have a moon landscape of just bare rock in the summer. No leaves, no forest, no trees.
Dan: That’s Karen Filbee-Dexter, a research fellow at the university of Western Australia and a scientist at the Institute of Marine Research in Norway. She’s talking about the shoreline there. The long dark winters make it so that even in the sunny summer, the landscape is barren. But in the ocean, there’s a very a different story.
Karen: And then you go under water and you have to go a little bit deeper, but when you dive you sort of past this zone, where all of a sudden these amazing underwater forests appear.
Dan: These forests are not made of trees of course, but of kelp, attached to the sea floor, swaying in the currents.
Karen: So you have these long blades that will float in the water column and then they, just like a forest, shade light and create these understory conditions that fish and animals use and live in the same way as a forest does on land.
Dan: And how big are we talking? And I’m thinking Redwood trees, or am I thinking a bush in my yard kind of size?
Karen: It depends on the species and it depends on the forest. So, the first kelp forest that I dove on in the Arctic was about one to two meters tall. And it was actually in Arctic Norway. But the largest kelp forest that I’ve been in the Arctic has been in Canada. So there is an area in Nunavut where the kelp was about three to five meters tall. And that was spectacular.
Dan: Until recently, not too much was known about Arctic kelp. What kind grow where, or even how much there is.
Karen and her colleagues at the Arctic Kelp project, an aptly named group of universities, institutions and NGOs across Canada, are trying to catalogue which kelps are growing in the Arctic today, and how the warming temperatures are going to affect where they grow in the future.
Karen has spent a lot of time underwater using scuba gear to study these kelp ecosystems. But for many of these places, you can only access them in the short window when sea ice disappears.
Karen: So that’s what’s incredible about these habitats. They’re covered by ice. For sometimes more than half of the year and they require light to live. So they’re just growing based on light that reaches the sea floor in this very short period when the ice is not there.
Dan: Kelps, and well, everything in the Arctic Ocean, spend a huge amount of time in the dark, either because it’s winter the sun hasn’t come up for months, or because the sea surface is covered by ice. When the ice melts and daylight returns, kelps grow really fast. They have to, it’s a short growing season. But that growing season is getting longer.
Karen: What’s happening now in the Arctic is we have this massive and dramatic loss of sea ice. So this means that a large amount of Arctic coastline, which is normally covered in ice and normally doesn’t get that much light is now suddenly sort of open to, to the sun.
Dan: All you gardeners out there will know this equation: more sunlight, more growth. As Arctic temperatures warm due to climate change and sea shrinks, these underwater forests are expanding, and kelp is now growing in places where it didn’t used to.
Karen: So based on, how the conditions have changed from 1950 to now, we can predict that the migration rate in the Arctic is about, 20km per decade. So this sort of poleward expansion is definitely marching along, and there’s all the evidence that these changes are accelerating.
Daniel: 20km per decade is pretty fast for a bunch of trees
Karen: Yes, the marching forest. It is definitely something out of a Lord of the Rings movie. But the rules are different in the Arctic, right? So, so it’s changing much faster than the rest of the world. Everything happening there is happening at, you know, two to three times the rate of change. So, we’re already way into the climate change future, along our Arctic coastlines. So it’s not surprising that our ecosystems are responding because these changes are really dramatic and they’re noticeable. And they’re going to put a lot of pressure on marine species to move.
Dan: These changes which are causing kelp to expand and move are not good everywhere though. A lot of the Arctic coastline is made of permafrost.
Karen: This is essentially frozen soil. When that frozen soil thaws all of that dirt and sediment just flushes into the coastal zone and creates a lot of turbidity.
Dan: This murky brown water prevents light from reaching the seafloor and the kelps growing there.
Another side effect of climate change is that glaciers and ice sheets are melting and dumping huge amounts of fresh water into coastal areas, that can also harm kelp.
So while not every change is good for kelps and seaweeds way up north, overall Karen says that predictive models show the future is looking pretty good for Arctic kelp forests.
In many other parts of the world, these ecosystems are shrinking, so it’s kind of cool that, as least to some extent, these losses are being offset up north. And a large expansion of underwater kelps might actually help slow climate change ever so slightly.
Just like trees on land, kelps rely on carbon dioxide to grow. Expanding kelp forests in the Arctic could become a pretty significant carbon sink. When these kelps die, they just drift slowly to the deep dark depths of the ocean, and because it’s so cold, they don’t really rot either. Instead, they just sit there, keeping corbon dioxide locked up at the bottom of the ocean.
There are other more tangible benefits to larger kelp forests too. It’s great habitat for marine life.
Karen: They’re going to have a higher canopy height and a higher biomass. This means that there’s more space for animals to live in. So basically more rooms in the house, more structure, more niches for different species to occupy.
It also probably will mean a shift in species. So most seaweeds and most kelps in the Arctic were almost kicked out in the last ice age and then they’ve been slowly inching their way back in. And some of them have done a better job and have adapted to these really extreme conditions, better than others.
Dan: Kelps aren’t the only thing that likes less sea ice. Us humans do as well. As sea ice decreases in both summer and winter, the formerly dark polar night that last for weeks or months, is now being lit up like never before by boats and the artificial light they bring in with them. This is a big deal to the multitudes of sea creatures that have adapted over millions of years to the darkness of the polar winter. One group of scientists is studying how this new influx of light is changing the behaviour of these animals.
Jørgen Berge: My name is Jørgen Berge, I’m a professor in marine biology at UIT, the Arctic University of Norway.
Dan: Jørgen, unlike most people, doesn’t actually mind the long dark, polar, winter. I spoke to him late last year, when the polar night in Norway had just begun
Jørgen: We actually just started the polar night items sitting now in Tromsø at 70 degrees north. The sun orbits around our horizon for 24 hours a day for two months in a row. There is still clear difference between day and night. But that difference becomes less and less the further north you get. And then once you get up to around 80 degrees, then the human eye is hardly able to distinguish any difference between night and day during the darkest part of the polar night.
But the polar night is certainly not just dark. It’s actually all about different kinds of light. Both background illumination from the sun, the aurora borealis the moon, also biological light.
Dan: Up until fairly recently, scientists used to think that the darkness of the polar night was uninteresting, devoid of life. But a research project that Jørgen started back in 2006 changed all that – and kind of by accident. His team was actually looking at how retreating sea ice would affect the marine ecosystem in an Arctic Fjord.
Jørgen: So we had to be there in the late autumn to deploy instruments that would then be in place and do measurements when the sun came back. But then as more or less a byproduct, the instruments were also doing measurements during the dark polar night. But when we got these data back, we started to realise that, hang on something, something is actually happening here.
Dan: What him and his team found changed scientists’ understanding of the polar night. The polar night isn’t not boring, far from it in fact.
Jørgen: So it’s a system that is in fact in full operation. Seabirds, fishes, zooplankton. It’s just so fascinatingly full of life during the, during the dark polar night.
Dan: One of the processes Jørgen and his colleagues has studied is called diel vertical migration.
Jørgen: That is the behaviour where organisms – zooplankton and fish – they move up from the deep up into the shallow, during nighttime and go migrate down into the deep, during daytime.
Dan: This is entirely controlled by light, so researchers just assumed it would stop. The polar night is just perpetual darkness after all.
Jørgen: It turns out that it doesn’t stop, it’s ongoing. One of the things that we have started to realise is how extremely intimately, these organisms are connected to the light climate, to ambient light.
Dan: Even with the sun gone during the winter months, light plays a huge role in the Arctic. The sun still brightens the sky ever so slightly as the earth rotates. Moon cycles also change light levels, and so does the aurora borealis. And creatures react to all of this. But when Jørgen and his colleagues were studying these creatures, they got conflicting data between the instruments they left alone over one winter and the data they collected from their boats. The reason was light pollution from the researchers themselves.
Jørgen: The first year we really didn’t fully really understand why the samples we took never matched the data that we got from acoustic instruments that had been deployed autonomously. But it turns out that these organisms, they are able to respond to extreme small levels of light.
Dan: Jørgen and his team need, well, light to work on their boat, so they use headlamps and floodlights and stuff. For ultra light-sensitive sea creatures, these lights are huge signals. Some swim towards them, some swim violently away. And not just animals near the surface. The team found this happening down to depths of 200 metres below the sea level.
The effect of light pollution could be happening on a large scale, thanks to melting sea ice and increased human presence.
Jørgen: As sea ice retreats, as we start fishing further north, oil and gas exploration, shipping, not the least, more and more human presence in the high Arctic during the polar night, then we also bring with us artificial lights. At the moment we are not able to, to, to say to which degree this really is a problem, but, that is one of the things that we are now really starting to look into.
Dan: And melting sea ice, well that’s climate change.
Jørgen: So artificial light, it’s not of course a direct effect of climate change, but it’s certainly related to climate change because as it gets warmer, as there is less sea ice then we see more human presence and human presence will, it means there’s more artificial lights involved.
Dan: So what does this all mean for the fish, zooplankton and other sea creatures that are super-sensitive to light and live in this high Arctic environment? Jørgen says that’s a difficult question to answer.
Jørgen: Personally, I think that we have to look at the effects in two ways. One is the direct effect of light pollution. It does affect organisms there and then. Most likely that effect is limited, because it only last while there is artificial light there. And there’s certainly a limit to the, the geographical extent of that impact.
However, I think there’s another effect that is much more important. And that is how it’s affecting our knowledge about the polar night. To take one example, there’s more and more fisheries the high Arctic during the polar night. If you want to do surveys to give an estimate about how much there is of say haddock or cod, you have to do acoustic surveys with research vessels in the polar night, in where we are fishing. And these measurements might be strongly biased and impaired.
Dan: Essentially what Jørgen is saying is that every measure of arctic fisheries even taken in winter could be way off. By bringing in light, the fishermen and researchers change how fish and other animals behave. This is one of the oldest problems in biology: how to study ecosystems without disturbing them. And I asked him he feels as a scientist, to discover that his own presence could be distorting the results of his research.
Jørgen: Yeah, it sorta makes you feel unwanted. You know, that your presence is affecting the organisms, but it also, as a scientist, it also makes me, maybe wonder and questions. And I find it fascinating trying to understand things I cannot see.
It’s difficult to explain, but to me, when you really go, go up into the high Arctic and you allow yourself to be in the darkness and you start to take in all the senses, the sounds, the light, it’s just a, just a miracle sometimes.
I can still remember one on the experience we had. This was one of the first years when we were up on Svalbard in, early January, and I was out in a small boat out in the middle of the fjord and we turned off the engines. We turned off all lights because we wanted to look for seabirds. And we looked down and we saw this upside down sky filled with blue-green light, and that was just an amazing experience to see all this organisms from big jellies to small unicellular organisms blinking and glowing and moving in all directions. That was a beautiful sight.
Dan: What Jørgen saw was bio-luminescence – light produced by creatures in the Arctic night to communicate with each other. When you live in total darkness, light is, almost paradoxically, one of the most important and useful things there could possibly be. Even to the scientists who study it, the darkness of the polar night is so much more complex than anyone even imagined.
Gemma: I love the idea of the ocean blinking back at you, that’s just so beautiful as Jørgen said.
Dan: It made me want to take a vacation to the polar night in the middle of winter, which I’d never thought I’d say before. But, it is also dangerous, both Karen and Jørgen were talking about polar bears and how you actually have to carry guns, so it’s not all blinky lights and gorgeousness.
Dan: Both Karen and Jørgen have written for The Conversation as part of a series we’re running called Oceans 21. It examines the history and future of the world’s oceans. On The Conversation’s website, we’ve actually got a profile of every ocean on earth and Jørgen and Karen contributed to the one on the Arctic.
Dan: We’ve put a link to that, and the Oceans 21 series, in the show notes.
Gemma: Coming up, a group of archaeologists talk to us about some of their recent finds from Tanzania. But first, we’ve got a message with some recommended reading from Laura Hood, politics editor and assistant editor at The Conversation in London.
Laura Hood: Hello. My name is Laura Hood. I’m a politics editor for The Conversation here in London. I’ve got two recommendations this week. I worked with a team of psychologists led by Daniel Jolley from the University of Northumbria here in the UK. He told me about some work his team has been doing investigating how young people are being affected by conspiracy theories in the pandemic. Before they got in touch. I hadn’t realised that almost everything we know about conspiracy theories is based on work investigating adults. We know next to nothing about how children encounter and absorb misinformation. So they’ve been conducting surveys with British adolescents to try to work out at what age we’re most vulnerable to conspiracy theories and the extent to which young people are being exposed to them during lockdown. It’s really interesting reading, I think, particularly for parents.
I’d also like to recommend an article written by Mark Toshner, he’s an expert in respiratory medicine at the University of Cambridge. He’s put together a guide for anyone who’s feeling a bit overwhelmed by the scientific information that’s flying around about vaccines right now. He says, he feels really sorry for us trying to absorb all this information and he wants to make it a bit easier. So he’s tackling topics such as what it means when we hear that one vaccine is 90% effective, say, or another one is only 70% effective. Is that something we should be worrying about? Should we be trying to pick and choose our vaccines? He’s also talking about what it means for a vaccine to be potentially less effective against particular types of variant of COVID-19. So it’s useful information at this stage of the pandemic.
Daniel: That was Laura Hood from The Conversation in London.
Gemma: So for our next story, we’re heading to a warmer climate, thankfully, to Tanzania in East Africa and a place called the Olduvai Gorge. It’s known as the birthplace of humanity.
Dan: Birthplace, so how long we talking here?
Gemma: Ages, so about 2 million years or so. And today, archeologists from around the world, come to Olduvai to study the remains of different species of early humans. But scientists are also interested in the ancient environment and what the gorge actually looked like back then.
Dan: So is there a name for studying ancient climates?
Gemma: Yes, and it’s a great one. It’s paleoecology. So basically this is looking for evidence of ancient plants and pollen, and even bits of airborne charcoal by delicately sifting through layers of sediment. So we’ve been talking to a group of researchers who’ve been doing this work in a specific parts of the Olduvai Gorge called Ewass Oldupa, which actually means “the way to the gorge” in the Maa language of the local Masaai and what they’ve found has provided new insights into just how adaptable early humans were to the changing environment around them.
Julio Mercader: I’m Julio Mercader and I’m a professor with the University of Calgary, which is in Western Canada.
Gemma: OK, and we’re talking to you today, Julio, about your most recent research that’s just been published. It’s about an area in Tanzania, in East Africa. Can you just give me a bit of context? Why is this part of the world so important for our history?
Julio: Olduvai Gorge is in East Africa, and if you think of it as a region – there is this reef that is splitting the crust of the earth that is allowing volcanoes to spit out lava and ash. But at the same time as the splitting, it’s making the terrain sink. And when that happens, you have water building up that forms lakes and rivers and swamps. And because of that biodiversity tends to be really, really high because nature is a really productive in these kind of a rfit context.
Now in East Africa, which is where Olduvai is, the rift has been alive, so to speak, for more than 20 million years so that when humanity is forming, several million years ago, early humans, like any other animal, are being attracted to the resources that you find in the rift.
Now life near volcanoes was preserved because the eruptions and the sediments covered that up and then archaeologists exposed it. So now imagine an African Pompeii. But this time is much older. It is two million years. And instead of Romans, you want to imagine humans. But these humans are not like you and I, huh? They are early humans, several species. Unlike today when there is only one species. And among them on Olduvai Gorge, you have the first member of our genus, that we say in biology, and that is the genus homo. Right? And so to sum it up, Olduvai Gorge is important because many aspects of early human life have been buried, covered and preserved for posterity. And it’s not only the human fossils, but what we humans did on a daily basis, our activities.
And as you know, the gorge is like a canyon, it’s like a small version of the Grand Canyon. And because there is like a scar in the terrain, you can see the fossils in the remains, popping out from the walls that create the canyon.
Gemma: So it seems like an incredibly important place for archaeologists like you and your colleagues. How long ago are we talking and is this a period of time when different species are actually competing for dominance?
Julio: Well, there is a lot we don’t know about this, but what we do know is that it was 2 million years ago. And at this point, what you have is humans belonging with a several genera. So for example, various homo habilis, and that species belongs with the same genus as you and I. But there is also paranthropus boisei, and other members of the australopithecines.
Now, are they competing directly with one another? From an ecological point of view, maybe not. Maybe not because we know that the adaptations, the morphology of the body, the cranial architecture, the diets may be a little different. So to explain this, imagine different species taking on different niches within the environment.
Gemma: OK, so let’s get into a bit more detail now about the research that you and your colleagues have recently published a paper on. What did you find?
Julio: We uncovered evidence that hominins were coming to a specific location within the gorge, which is on the western side of it. And, they kept coming back.
Gemma: To understand more about what the team of archaeologists found in the gorge, I spoke to two of the Tanzanians who’d worked on the study. Pastory Bushozi and Makarius Peter Itambu. I got them on a slightly dodgy line. So bear with us.
Pastory Bushozi: My name is Pastory Bushozi. I’m a senior lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam, and archaeologist working on paleoanthropology.
Makarius: My name is Makarius, I’m a lecturer in archaeology, teaching human evolution, paleoenvironment and African stone age.
Gemma: What did you find? What did the ecology of the Olduvai gorge look like when these populations you were studying were living there 2 million years ago?
Makarius: The discovery revealed that the oldest Olduvai hominins used diverse but rapidly changing environments, that range from fern meadows, to woodland mosaics, but also natural band landscape to the lakeside. But also there’s woodland and palm groves, as well as steppes. Those were the kind of environment that looked like during 2 million years ago.
Gemma: So the landscape was changing, you were having forest, you having like a big steppe, you were having grasslands.
Makarius: Right, but the more interesting things, hominims continued to utilise the same toolkit, which is Olduwan. And this is so interesting because we believed that climatic change always trigger technological change, but in this scenario, hominins from Oldupa, it was the Oldupa site, maintain the very same toolkit, the Olduwan stone tools.
Gemma: You were seeing that they were using the same tools throughout that period?
Makarius: Yeah, that was so fascinating that despite of these rapid changes, adaptation to this major geomorphic and ecological transformation did not have any impact.
Gemma: Here’s Julio Mercader again.
Julio: What is interesting here is that over the course of 300,000 years, these Olduwan hominins are coming back to exploit different environments. And so what we have here for the first time is evidence in one place of the diversity of the adaptive tools and strategies that humanity is using to exploit many different ecologies and environments, showing an early example of great adaptability
Gemma: So you were seeing a real ability to use the environment to their benefit?
Julio: That is right. And so to me, this is a real landmark because there is technological dependence, but also the ability to adapt to whatever changes there are happening. And so, in a way it is like the very beginnings of the invasive behaviour typifies any other pioneer.
Gemma: Dr. Bushozi, can I bring you in there. I understand it was you who made one of the oldest discoveries?
Pastory: Yes, it was me, because actually I found those stone tools that were coming on the lower sequence. So I was excited, myself, and I called my colleague to come and see that. That day, everybody was excited. So by then we were collecting everything to see what we were going to do in the lab.
Gemma: And are you able to do research at the moment or is the pandemic stopping your research in the gorge?
Pastory: Because of the pandemic, we are not doing research, but still we are working on the lab. The work I’m doing now is to clean those stone tools by using chemicals so that I can get a good picture on those stone tools, and then after that we are also trying to do get what kind of raw materials, what kind of implement they were using to shape those tools. And then when we go back into the field, we’ll be able to find, trace now where those rocks were coming from.
Gemma: Thank you so much for your time, I really appreciate it.
Makarius and Pastory: Thank you so much.
Gemma: You can read more about the research in a piece that Julio Mercader wrote for The Conversation about their findings.
Alright, that’s it for this week. Thanks to all the academics who’ve spoken to us for this episode – and to The Conversation editors Natasha Joseph, Jack Marley, Hannah Hoag and Laura Hood.
Dan: You can find links to all the expert analysis we’ve mentioned in the episode – and tonnes of other recommended reading – in the show notes. And if you learnt loads and want to read more, click the link to sign up for our free daily email.
Gemma: This episode is co-produced by Mend Mariwany and me, with sound design by Eloise Stevens.
Dan: Our theme music is by Neeta Sarl. Final thanks also to Alice Mason, Stephen Khan and Imriel Morgan.
Gemma: Thanks for listening everybody. Until next time.
IIED has launched the first in a series of three animations that depict the deep and personal loss and damage caused by climate change in the least developed countries (LDCs) – stories that, too often, go untold or unheard.
IIED invited people from LDCs to share their experience of climate impacts, and to work closely with us to bring their stories to life.
While there is no agreed definition of ‘loss and damage’ in international climate policy, these animations show how the escalating devastation from climate change is real and unavoidable. And it needs to be accounted for.
The first animation in our series comes from the Solomon Islands. Young climate activists Gladys Habu and Solomon Yeo, whose characters and voices feature in the short film, share how the relentless impacts of climate change are destroying their beautiful islands.
The two-minute clip, available in English and Pijin, depicts the harsh realities of the climate crisis that Solomon Islanders experience every day: rising seas ravage coastal communities while salt from the sea poisons fresh water supplies; communities look on as whole islands sink before their eyes; meanwhile, the threat of violence between ethnic groups looms, sparked by depleting freshwater and land.
As the animation explains, there was a time when the islanders could cope with the impacts of climate change. Now, weather disasters bring devastation on an unmanageable scale, while death and displacement have escalated beyond their control.
The loss and damage from climate change are overlooked – or, worse, ignored – by the nations across the world whose emissions have fuelled the crisis.
In the short animation, Habu and Yeo demand action – calling on governments to recognise loss and damage, and to provide urgently needed financial and technological support to help the LDCs, including the Solomon Islands, face fast accelerating climate impacts.
IIED senior researcher Brianna Craft said: “Habu and Yeo’s stories are paramount. The lived experiences of those in the Solomon Islands bring to life the great injustice of climate change. It was an honour working to depict their reality. I hope that others with greater responsibility act.”
In a separate short film, Habu and Yeo give insights into the making of the animation and share how personal experiences and interests have driven them to tell their stories of loss and damage. They underline why tools like animations are crucial for getting international policymakers to act, and for building awareness of the impacts of climate change – which are not well understood at the local level.
As we continue to operate in a COVID-19 environment, the UN Women Multi-Country Office (MCO) in the Caribbean is playing an integral role in strengthening gender-responsive disaster resilience across the region.
Since early March 2020, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) has managed multiple disasters
It is managing the impact of COVID-19, prepared for the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season, and is now faced with an active La Soufrière Volcano. COVID-19 has resulted in varying and disproportionate impacts on livelihoods and the economy, requiring the differing needs of women, men, boys’ and girls’ to be considered when developing policies to manage impacts from the pandemic. Moreover, the recent volcanic activity at La Soufrière has triggered more cohesive, proactive, and gender transformative preparedness.
At both the national and community levels, women and men have been impacted differently by multiple hazards
In terms of loss of income, more women work in the lower paid and informal segment of the tourism sector, one of the hardest hit sectors with closures and contractions. The many women small holder farmers in the Saint Vincent and Grenadines agriculture sector were also impacted by the closure of markets due to COVID curfews and restricted movement; and could not sell their produce. Men in the construction, agriculture and tourism sectors have also suffered loss of income. Effusive eruption of the volcano has also contaminated nearby agricultural fields, further threatening women’s livelihoods. Therefore, gender-responsive climate change and disaster resilience planning, is key at the various stages of sustainable development.
Gender-informed assessment and analysis is informing decision-making
UN Women Representative Tonni Brodber said “national assessments and feedback into their governmental planning from national partners on the different impacts of COVID-19 and hazards on women, men, girls and boys, are guiding decisions on the support being given to address the challenges being faced and build on the successes.” In collaboration with the Gender Affairs Division, the UN Women MCO Caribbean has mobilised USD 26,350 for the procurement of 100 protection kits, 500 cloth masks and the provision of food/medication vouchers for 200 vulnerable women and families at risk.
She further noted: “who best to say what is needed than Vincentian women and men? We are always pleased to be able to collaborate with Ms. Quammie and the team at Gender Affairs to do what we can to meet the outlined needs. The impacts of COVID-19 and the volcano threaten to erode so much progress made, we will continue to collaborate with the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines and the development community to serve where we can.”
“We are cognisant of the differential needs and vulnerabilities of men and women which are further exacerbated during any emergency crisis. Therefore, we are extremely grateful for the continued support of UN Women in building the capacity of our national gender machinery to assist the national emergency response and recovery so that the needs of women and other vulnerable groups are taken into consideration.”
Coordinator of the Gender Affairs Division, La Fleur Quammie
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is also a beneficiary of the Canada and UK funded EnGenDER Project, which is being implemented across nine Caribbean countries by UN Women in collaboration with UNDP, CDEMA, and WFP. With the Gender Affairs Division identifying need for immediate and direct support to women in agriculture who are being affected by the COVID-19 impact, funds from this project have been used to purchase agriculture equipment and provide psycho-social support for women, given the mental toll these hazards have taken on the population. This initiative also incorporated an Advocacy and Awareness campaign which was focused on Gender-Based Violence against women.
The EnGenDER project supports an integrated approach and includes the integration of gender equality and human-rights based approaches into disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation, and environmental management frameworks and interventions, addressing the gaps to ensure gender-responsive and equal access to solutions.
Climate services are vital tools for decision makers addressing climate change in developing countries. Science-based seasonal forecasts and accompanying materials can support climate risk management in agriculture, health, water management, energy, and disaster risk reduction.
But in East Africa, natural resource managers have been slow to use climate information services, partly because they are difficult to understand and may not feel relevant for their local planning purposes. A new study published by the journal Risk Analysis suggests that one way to encourage policymakers in East Africa to use climate services more often is to appeal to the motivational factors that influence their professional actions on climate change.
Researchers at the University of Cape Town found that experience with extreme weather events and social norms — external expectations of how one is supposed to feel, behave, or think in particular situations — may play important roles in motivating professional action on climate change.
“Based on our results, aligning climate services with social norms could offer low-hanging fruit for designing more effective climate services interventions,” says climate scientist Anna Steynor, head of climate services at the Climate System Analysis Group, University of Cape Town. For example, messages such as “80 percent of urban planning professionals are using climate information in their planning” could highlight the use of climate information among policy planners and, therefore, encourage the use of climate services by those who aren’t currently utilizing them.
Between September 2018 and January 2019, the team conducted structured surveys of 474 “policy decision influencers” in five East African countries: Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. The majority of respondents (71 percent) were employed by national and local government ministries. Others worked for trade unions, international development agencies, non-governmental organizations, research organizations, and the private sector.
All of the respondents were involved in some way with natural resource management. “These individuals are an important community because they are an accessible group for introducing adaptation-oriented interventions and are in a position of leadership to drive social adaptations around climate change,” the authors write.
The participants were asked if they had taken general action, as part of their job activities, to prepare for the impacts of climate change. Three items on the survey assessed overall worry about climate change, as risk perceptions have been shown to underlie action on climate change. Other questions were designed to gauge observance of social norms, personal values, psychological closeness to climate change, and experience of extreme weather events. Questions related to psychological closeness pertained to whether participants felt that climate change would have a big impact on them now, personally and on their community.
The results were statistically analyzed using structural equation modeling in order to construct a conceptual explanatory model for professional action. The resulting causal model illustrates the important role that social norms, psychological closeness to climate change, and experience of extreme events play in motivating action. It also elucidates the cascading effects of variables such as age, gender, education and personal values on action.
“Our model provides a framework for prioritizing the different factors that motivate adaptation action,” says Steynor. “We hope it will prompt further research on individual climate change action and encourage behavioral change among policy decision influencers in Africa.”
Real estate has led the way as an early adopter of TCFD requirements. In this whitepaper Willis Towers Watson outlines key lessons learnt throughout the sector.
Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) is being increasingly adopted by the real estate sector, with the past two years seeing significant momentum in adherence to the guidance1. Indeed TCFD disclosures made by Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) and Real Estate Management and Development organisations have increased. Total disclosures made in 2020 more than doubled the total number reported for 2019, and the number of disclosures for 2020 exceeded the total combined disclosures made over the previous three years from 2017 to 20192. This is in spite of the macro-economic decline and uncertainty, which has hit some landlords especially hard.
Total TCFD disclosures made in 2020 were more than double than the total number reported from 2017 to 2019
With disclosure mandatory (on a ‘comply or explain’ basis) from 2022 for premium listed companies3, this whitepaper outlines the key themes and lessons learned from real estate experience in addressing TCFD guidance.
article of top picks from our 2020 article archive features six articles
related to climate impacts and extreme events. Despite COVID-19 dominating
the news headlines this year, the climate crisis continued unabated in 2020,
with the joint highest global temperatures on record, alarming heat and record
wildfires in the Arctic, and a record 29 tropical storms in the Atlantic.
resilience and better recover from extreme weather events, it is important that
adaptation measures are taken. For over fifteen years, Acclimatise has provided
world-leading advisory services, helping corporates, investors and governments
integrate climate change risk into their business processes and build
resilience. Acclimatise has now been acquired by Willis Towers Watson and
will combine with their Climate and Resilience Hub (CRH), creating a
market-leading centre of climate adaptation expertise.
issue new warning as Earth approaches 1.5°C
In July, the
World Meteorological Organisation (WMO)
there was around a 20% chance that one of the next five
years will be at least 1.5 degrees warmer than pre-industrial levels. The earth’s average temperature
is already over 1 degree warmer than pre-industrial levels, and continues to
rise as more greenhouse gas emissions are released into the atmosphere. The WMO
forecast is significant as, in November 2016, countries signed the Paris
Agreement, which included a commitment to keep warming “to well
below 2°C and pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5°C”.
impacts outside Europe pose greatest risk to German economy
countries that avoid the most severe direct impacts of climate change
themselves will not be spared economic damage from climate change, so suggests
a new study. The report from the German Environment
Agency (UBA), shows that the effects of climate change on countries outside of
Europe, pose a much larger risk to Germany’s economy that climate impacts
within Europe, because of international trade networks.
been a proliferation of articles that have drawn connections between the
COVID-19 and climate change. Many have been hasty to declare the ramifications
of COVID-19 on climate change, as well as what this means for our goals and
targets to minimise its impacts. The truth is that nobody really knows how this
will unravel. But we can choose, to some extent, how we react.
report promotes CCA and DRR cooperation through the use of foresight methods
The European research
project PLACARD (PLAtform for Climate Adaptation and Risk reDuction) has released
a follow up report to their 2018 foresight report, expanding on the importance of collaboration between
Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) communities. Through
the establishment of a coordination and knowledge exchange platform, PLACARD
aims to support multi-stakeholder dialogue and consultation between CCA and DRR
research, policy and practice communities, and across scales. Specifically, the
latest PLACARD report aims to promote cooperation through the use of foresight
methods for policy and decision-makers.
Climate linked to largest locust swarms in 25
years threatening East Africa food security
By Will Bugler
Billions of locusts swarming through East Africa are
the result of extreme weather swings and could prove catastrophic for a region
still reeling from drought and deadly floods, according to experts. While
desert locusts are not uncommon in the region, this years’ exceptionally high
numbers have been driven by a dangerous mix of extreme weather events. At the
end of 2019, the extremely wet conditions and a series of typhoons created
favourable conditions for locusts to breed, and enter Ethiopia, Somalia and
New review confirms climate change is increasing the
risk of wildfires
By Sophie Turner
The ongoing fires in Australia have caused
devastation of epic proportions. And with the end of the fire season still
months away, it will be a long time before the full extent of the damage will
become known. Most recently, it seems that some Australian journalists and
politicians are looking to find someone to blame for the fires, with false information circulating
online about arson or green policies being responsible – anything except
It’s that time of year again! The beginning
of a new year marks a great time for dedicating oneself to resolutions, whilst
also giving us an opportunity to reflect on the past year and the moments that
shaped us. With that spirit of reflection in mind, we sifted through our
network’s article archive and selected some of our favourites from the past
year. We’ve sorted our favourite articles by topic, to make up a short, three-part
series throughout the month of January. To kick
things off, we bring you six articles related to climate adaptation for the
financial services sector.
While 2020 was a
big year in terms of newsworthy moments across the globe, there were also many
significant developments within the financial services sector. In September,
the United Nation’s Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) released
a report on Phase II of its Task Force for Climate-related Financial
Disclosures (TCFD) Banking Program with Acclimatise. The new report, “Charting
a New Climate”, provides financial institutions with a state-of-the-art
blueprint for evaluating physical risks and opportunities. A new learning paper
was also launched, one which provides insights on the lessons
learnt from implementing Green Climate Fund (GCF) Readiness projects in the
Caribbean and aims to inform future Readiness efforts in the region or
Despite the grave conditions many economies are facing due to
2020’s COVID-19-induced lockdowns, expectations for corporates and financial
institutions on climate risk analysis and disclosure have not slowed. In fact,
climate risk and reporting mandates only appear to be increasing. 2021 will see a continued
focus on climate risk analysis in the private sector, in the lead up to the 26th Conference
of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Acclimatise has now been acquired by Willis Towers Watson, where
we offer joined up services on both physical and transition related-risk
Launch of “Charting a New Climate: State-of-the-Art Tools and Data
for Banks to Assess Credit Risks and Opportunities from Physical Climate Change
By Acclimatise News
UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) has released
a report on physical climate risks and opportunities from Phase II of its Task
Force for Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) Banking Program with
climate risk advisory and analytics firm, Acclimatise. The report, “Charting a New Climate”, provides a state-of-the-art
blueprint to support financial institutions to navigate the changing physical
climate risk landscape.
Why climate resilience bonds can
make a significant contribution to financing climate change adaptation
By Maya Dhanjal
There is a rising cost associated with economic damages related to
climate change with 2019 being the most expensive year to-date and expected to
only get worse. Governments who are mainly responsible for providing this
funding are strapped in their ability to mobilise and manage emergency funds.
Resilience bonds provide a unique opportunity to hybridise principles in debt securities
and insurance policies and ultimately divert available funds into
climate-resilient projects that will enhance adaptive capacity, particularly
for long-lived infrastructure assets that have to face the test of time and a
GCF readiness efforts in the Caribbean: Learning from Practice
By Acclimatise News
A new learning paper by Acclimatise provides an insight on the
lessons learnt from implementing Green Climate Fund (GCF) Readiness projects in
the Caribbean and aims to inform future Readiness efforts in the region or
New report: Protecting low-income communities through climate
By Will Bugler
Since 2015, the InsuResilience Investment Fund (IIF)
has worked to build the climate resilience of poor and climate-vulnerable
households as well as micro, small and medium enterprises, by increasing
climate insurance coverage. A new report “Protecting low-income communities through climate
insurance”, takes stock
of its experience and achievements to date.
de-risking nature: The next frontier for financial institutions
Nature and biodiversity have gained the spotlight this year,
becoming the next frontier for financial services. Earlier this year, the Task Force on Nature-related
Financial Disclosure (TFND) was launched under
the leadership of the Global Canopy, UNDP, UNEP and WWF, aiming to redirect
financial flows towards nature-based solutions and nature-adding activities.
Earth observation data has huge potential to enrich our understanding of the world around us. With increasingly advanced satellites continuously capturing high resolution data, it is possible to monitor the planet like never before. By analysing patterns in earth observation data, it is possible to better understand complex socio-ecological relationships. This data has huge potential to increase our understanding of and response to climate change and its impacts, especially in parts of the world where other forms of climate data are scarce. As a member of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) and working with clients including ESA Acclimatise continues to explore how earth observation data can be used to inform climate adaptation and risk management.
As an illustration of the power of satellite data to inform us about the environment and human behaviour, NASA released a video that shows what the world looks like during Christmas, Ramadan, and celebrations around the world. Unsurprisingly the researchers found that more intense light is emitted around Christmas and New Year’s as people gather in clusters and turn on their festive decorations. However, some of the more subtle changes revealed other interesting things about human behaviour during festivities…
source: Jesse Allen / NASA Earth Observatory: Green patches in Texas indicate
that Dallas and Houston celebrated hard in 2014.
2021 will see a continued focus on climate risk analysis in the private sector, in the lead up to the 26th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). COP 26 will be held here in the UK and is set to have a strong focus on private sector finance. Mark Carney, special finance advisor to the UK Prime Minister has made clear that the objective for the private finance work for COP 26, is to “ensure that every financial decision takes climate change into account”. Finance is also one of five campaigns of the UK COP 26 presidency.
As 2020 comes to a close, this article summarises major developments expectations for corporates and financial institutions on climate risk analysis and disclosure in the last quarter of this year. Other reviews of progress in this space – and there has been a lot – are available here and here.
US Federal Reserve, Treasury Department, and the Securities and Exchange Commission have all indicated in various ways that they are on-board with their counterparts in other countries, who have long since been making progress toward mandating climate risk analysis and disclosure. (e.g., the dozen or more central banks and supervisors around the world who are undertaking climate-related stress testing.). This is no doubt in part due to President-Elect Joe Biden, who has made climate one of four priority areas in his Administration. The US is also set to re-join the Paris Agreement, and the expectation is that the US Federal Reserve will soon join the Network (of Central Banks and Supervisors) on Greening the Financial System (NGFS) (more information is available here and here.)
Importantly, there is ample
evidence that President Biden and his Administration may not need
congressional approval for any further climate-related laws or regulations,
which would not be likely, given the Republican stronghold on the US Senate.
There is, however, a growing call
by some Republicans to take climate action, which represents an important
There are now 75 central banks
covering 60% of global emissions who are members of the NGFS. Members are
already taking action, with central banks now requiring climate stress testing,
e.g., Bank of England.
To celebrate its three year anniversary in
December 2020, the NGFS published two reports on 15th December:
A progress report
on sustainable and responsible investment practices by central banks; and
The findings of a
survey on monetary policy operations and climate change.
The guide explains how the ECB expects banks to prudently manage and transparently disclose such risks under current prudential rules. The ECB will now follow up with banks in two concrete steps. In early 2021 it will ask banks to conduct a self-assessment in light of the supervisory expectations outlined in the guide and to draw up action plans on that basis. The ECB will then benchmark the banks’ self-assessments and plans, and challenge them in the supervisory dialogue. In 2022 it will conduct a full supervisory review of banks’ practices and take concrete follow-up measures where needed.
A new alliance between 30
international asset managers with $9tn in assets under management (AUM) has
formed, setting net-zero emissions targets. The group of asset managers pledges
to support investing aligned with net-zero emissions target by 2050 or sooner.
More asset managers are due to join in the coming months. More information is
This new initiative complements
the Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance, an international group of 33 institutional
investors delivering on a bold commitment to transition investment portfolios
to net-zero GHG emissions by 2050. More information is available here.
The International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) Foundation released a Consultation Paper on global sustainability standards, including climate risk reporting, open for public comment until 31 December 2020. More information is available here.
The TCFD is holding a public consultation on decision-useful, forward-looking metrics to be disclosed by financial institutions. The Task Force’s 90-day public consultation solicits input on forward-looking climate-related metrics for the financial sector. The consultation asks questions about the usefulness and challenges of such metrics and what may be necessary to enhance their comparability, transparency, and rigour. The consultation is open for public comment until 27 January 2021.More information is available here.
The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) announced that it is going to be consulting on rules in early 2021, which would introduce TCFD obligations for asset managers, life insurers and pension providers by 2022. These extended rules would build the FCA’s new requirement that by 1 January 2021, premium listed companies will be required to disclose how climate change affects their business, consistent with TCFD, or explain why not.
The European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) published a consultation on the use of climate change risk scenarios in the Own Risk and Solvency Assessment (ORSA) in the form of a draft supervisory Opinion. EIOPA invites stakeholders to provide their views on the consultation paper by filling in the survey by 5 January 2021. More information is available here.
Many banks, asset managers, asset owners, insurers, and at very least listed companies are already getting out ahead of the curve of emerging climate risk reporting. Acclimatise has now been acquired by WillisTowersWatson, where we offer joined up services on both physical and transition risk-related analysis. Please contact Robin Hamaker-Taylor (r.hamaker-taylor at acclimatise.uk.com).