Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability

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7.5.4. Adaptation Options

Adaptation to climate changes involves planning of settlements and their infrastructure, placement of industrial facilities, and making similar long-lived decisions to reduce the adverse effects of events that are of low (but increasing) probability and high (and perhaps rising) consequences. The adaptation response consists of planning to reduce the sensitivity of key assets, designing resilience and flexibility into the public and private infrastructure on appropriate time scales, and managing settlements and institutions in a climate-resilient manner. The following discussion of example options and strategies is divided into Planning and Design, Management, and Institutional Frameworks (see Table 7-2 for a summary):

  • Planning and Design
    – Take advantage of rapidly increasing populations in many regions. Growing populations and cities provide economic advantages, not just costs (Satterthwaite, 1998). In the case of infrastructure, growing populations provide an opportunity for new construction that can be designed for increased resilience and flexibility with respect to climate change. With good planning and building practices in new construction, considerable energy and environmental cost can be saved at relatively small incremental construction costs compared with later retrofit or protection (Rabinovitch, 1998). It can be less costly to design and build flood works “oversized” in the beginning than to rebuild them later to add capacity (this is not a foregone conclusion and depends on local uncertainties; see Wood et al., 1997).
    – Take advantage of replacement schedules. Many short-lived assets such as consumer goods, motor vehicles, and space heating/cooling systems will be replaced several times in the course of a few decades, offering considerable opportunities for adaptation. Even medium-life assets such as industrial plants, oil and gas pipelines, and conventional power stations are likely to be completely replaced over such a time scale, though there will be less opportunity for adaptation through upgrades and relocation.
    – Community design tools such as floodplain and hillside building practices and landscape design (zoning in developed countries; perhaps land-use planning in developing countries) can be improved to limit damage. Reducing heat islands (through judicious use of vegetation and light-colored surfaces, reducing motor transportation, and taking advantage of solar resources) also should be included in the package of possibilities.
    – Improved sanitation, water supply, and electric power distribution systems can be planned in an integrated manner, with sensitivity to the location of air sheds and water sheds and efficient utilization of plant (e.g., properly price water to reflect scarcity and reduce leakage in water supply systems) (Wood et al., 1997; Lettenmaier et al., 1998; Tindleni, 1998). In some cases, this requires “hardening” the system. In other cases, it requires flexible approaches to plans for cleanup and movement of waste facilities in the flood zone throughout the watershed and, for example, sanitation (Bartone, 1998). There are more opportunities to do this in developing countries, which are still acquiring their basic urban infrastructure. According to the United Nations Center for Human Settlements (UNCHS) Global Urban Indicators Program Web site in 1999, which developed city data collection systems in 237 cities in 110 countries, about 38.5% of African urban households were connected to water systems, 15.4% to sewerage, 46.9% to electricity, and 14.1% to telephones; in Asia the corresponding connection rates were 52.4, 33.2, 82.5, and 26.5%, respectively, and in the industrialized countries the percentages were 99.4, 95.8, 99.2, and 78.2% (UNCHS, 1999).
    – Measures can be taken by governments to anticipate floods (Smith and Handmer, 1984), including “hard” engineering measures such as dams, levees, diversions, channels, and retarding basins and “soft” or “nonstructural” methods such as acquisition of properties, fiscal and financial incentives, regulations such as zoning and building regulations, information and education campaigns, forecasts/ warning systems/evacuation plans, salvage, emergency services, insurance, and flood relief. “Designing with nature” is an effective strategy for curbing flood losses even with current climate (Rabinovitch, 1998). In some cases, this may require cleanup and movement of waste facilities in the flood zone throughout the watershed, an issue also discussed in the SAR. FEMA (1997) has concluded that the process of establishing and implementing state and community comprehensive development and land-use plans provides significant opportunities to mitigate damages caused by natural hazards. Losses from floods in the upper Mississippi valley in 1996 (after some of these actions had been taken) were two orders of magnitude lower than in 1993 for similar-sized floods. Albergel and Dacosta (1996) propose analyzing runoff patterns from non-normal storm events as a basis for more sustainable water resource management in the specific instance of Senegal to deal with extreme events more effectively. Colombo, Sri Lanka, has an ambitious plan to redesign and rebuild its flood management system, incorporating improved maintenance of the existing system, development of flood retention areas, cost-effective defined flood safety margins, movement of people out of flood-prone lands immediately adjacent to canals, and even a plan to move industries and public organizations out of Colombo to hold constant the amount of unbuilt lands in the face of increased urbanization (Gooneratne, 1998).
    – Put key infrastructure in less vulnerable areas and (as appropriate) harden against fire. Urban/ wildlands interface fires at locations such as Oakland/East Bay Hills in California and Sydney, Australia, have yielded examples of design practices to prevent such occurrences, including limiting development densities and/or requiring large lot sizes; setting buildings back from flood, landslide, and fault hazard zones; requiring adequate minimum paved street widths and grades; requiring second access points; restricting the lengths of cul-de-sacs; developing adequate water supply, flows, and redundant storage; and using open space easements for fire breaks, equipment staging, and evacuation areas (Topping, 1996). Wildlands fires also may affect settlements at a distance. In 1997, health and haze effects of wildfires alone cost Indonesia US$1 billion (EEPSEA, 1999; Wheeler, 2000). Total costs were about US$4.5 billion.
    – Diversifying economic activity could be an important precautionary response that would facilitate successful adaptation to climate change for resource-dependent settlements.
    – Use suitable design techniques to reduce cooling demand in many buildings. For example, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Building America Program uses a systems engineering approach and works with the home building industry to produce quality homes that use 30–50% less energy without increasing building costs, that reduce construction time and waste by as much as 50%, and that improve builder productivity. Eliminating inefficiencies is not strictly an adaptation option, but these improvements also would have the benefit of reducing the impact of warming on energy use. Adaptive measures that can effectively reduce energy use relating to space cooling include better design of building envelopes (which can cut cooling energy consumption by more than one-third in current subtropical conditions or 5–30% under current European conditions—see Chan and Chow, 1998; Balarus et al., 2000); high-albedo roofs (field tests in Florida show savings of 2–40%—Akbari et al., 1999); and development of urban trees and other greenery (Avissar, 1996; Spronkensmith and Oke, 1998; Upmais et al., 1998), reducing summertime urban cooling loads by 3–5% (Sailor, 1998). See also Angioletti (1996) for criteria for sustainable building practices. Low-income energy assistance and weatherization can play a role in assuring equity (Miller et al., 2000).

  • Management
    – To stretch water supplies further, especially in high-income parts of developed countries, institute market-like mechanisms and more efficient management of water supplies. Experiments with market systems in the United States have yielded water surpluses during drought in California, but such schemes must consider distribution and equity effects when water consumption is very low already (Hardoy et al., 2000), as well as external environmental effects on third parties (Frederick, 1997). In some urban water systems, a significant percentage of water put into the system is lost through leakage (e.g., 23%—or about eight times the expected increase in demand resulting from climate change—in the case of the southern part of Britain). Urban water systems may lose as much as 40–60% of their water in distribution (Cairncross, 1990; Daniere, 1996; Rahman et al., 1997). Simply fixing leaks in cases such as this would go a long way toward making sure that supplies are available (Arnell, 1998). Boland (1997) found that mandating and widely promoting conservation measures in the Washington, DC, area (such as a 50% increase in tariff level, industrial/commercial water reuse and recycling, and a moderate conservation-oriented plumbing code) could cut the increase in baseline water use in the year 2030 from 100% to about 45%. This would more than offset any increase in use resulting from climate warming. In developing-world cities’ poor neighborhoods, where water use already may be below levels that are conducive to good health, a mixed response involving improving pipes, instituting neighborhood water wholesaling, and improving water vendors and kiosks may be effective and affordable, if coordinated with organized liquid waste disposal (Hardoy et al., 2000).
    – Provide flood control and other forms of property assurance (not necessarily insurance). On the insurance side, Germany and France have taken very different approaches, with Germans adopting private insurance and minimal flood assistance and the French adopting compulsory extended coverage under the “cat ’nat” system. Neither system has proved to be able “to provide sufficient coverage at reasonable cost (Gardette, 1997). The United States has been able to provide flood insurance through a national system—at the cost of not controlling losses. Much more activity is now going into loss prevention in the United States (FEMA, 2000). The FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) provides grants to states and local governments to reduce loss of life and property from natural disasters and to enable mitigation measures to be implemented during the immediate recovery from a disaster (FEMA, 2000). Some authors argue that loss prevention could be anticipatory (Miller et al., 2000).
    – Institute emergency preparedness and improve neighborhood response systems and mutual assistance. This strategy is featured in many of the local initiatives cataloged by the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI). Increasing access to cooling stations and city heat emergency response plans for urban heat island effects are an example. Plans for extreme events have improved considerably in the past 50 years, especially in developed countries, and can be very effective against some of the anticipated consequences of climate change. For example, preparation of disaster prevention organization in Japan, including forecast techniques and information systems between weather bureau/meteorological offices and individuals through local government/offices, has resulted in a dramatic decrease in the number of deaths and houses destroyed, especially for middle-sized typhoons (Class III) in the past 4 decades. This trend suggests that disaster prevention systems such as river improvement, establishment of information systems, improvement of typhoon forecasting, and so forth were most effective for middle-sized typhoons (Fukuma, 1996; Yoshino, 1996a). In most developing countries, local governments are particularly weak and ineffective at environmental management and have little capacity to integrate disaster preparedness into their current tasks and responsibilities. For example, no significant change has been found in deaths per violent hurricane in Bangladesh (Fukuma, 1999/2000), whereas there has been a significant decline in the United States (Pielke, 1997). However, some of the differences may be partly a result of a reduction in violent hurricanes making landfall in populated areas. U.S. property damages increased while the incidence of hurricanes fell (see Pielke and Landsea, 1998). Analysis of 15 years of simulation and observations show that typhoon frequency has decreased off the Philippine Islands and that the location of their generation shifts toward the east during El Niño years (Matsuura et al., 1999). If similar conditions in typhoon regions also occur under global warming, more effective prediction and tracking of tropical typhoons in the 21st century could reduce typhoon disasters.
    – Improve health education. Because the consequences of flood and drought on water quantity and quality are fairly straightforward to predict, concerted public awareness campaigns can significantly reduce adverse heath consequences on populations from water-borne enteric diseases. For example, in the Marshall Islands in 1997–1998, a public awareness campaign to boil all water supplies was triggered by public health officials’ concerns over dwindling water availability. The number of hospitalizations for diarrheal disease was lower than normal (Lewis et al., 1998).

  • Institutional Frameworks
    – An institutional framework can be put in place that is more “friendly” for adaptation strategies. Some key features of such a strategy include regularizing property rights for informal settlements and other measures to allow low-income groups to buy, rent, or build good-quality housing on safe sites. Much of the poor-quality settlement infrastructure in the developing world in particular is traceable to the questionable legal status of housing in these settlements (e.g., Jaglin, 1994; Acho-Chi, 1998; Perlman, 1998). Thus, the occupants of such housing units can be reluctant to spend much on quality construction and may have little legal standing to demand municipal government services such as piped water, sewerage, or waste collection. Perhaps more important, even if they are financially able to do so, governments may be unable or reluctant to extend services to households and communities lacking legal standing, especially if such extension of service thereby “validates” the settlement.
    – Build institutional capacity in environmental management. Capacity to adapt to climate change, as with other environmental problems, will be realized only if the necessary information is available, enterprises and organizations have the institutional and financial capacity to manage change, and there is an appropriate framework within which to operate. In this respect, autonomous adaptation cannot necessarily be relied on. Governments may have a role in terms of disseminating information (Miranda and Hordijk, 1998) and in any case should not stand in the way through indifference, hostility, or inefficient or corrupt management (Foronda, 1998). Building efficient environmental institutions requires coherent policy, planning, mechanisms for implementation, procedures for monitoring and corrective action, and a means for review. Mechanisms include use of market-based regulatory instruments to limit contributory pollution and to organize land use; development of appropriate roles for central and local governments; involvment of communities and civil societies in adaptive strategies (including traditional environmental knowledge and informal regulation as appropriate); and expansion of the scope for international cooperation (World Bank, 1999).
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