Friday, September 12, 2008

In Africa, climate change = adaptation

Policy debates on climate change focus almost exclusively on a scientific understanding of climate change and the mitigation of greenhouse gases.  Adaptation, although officially part of the debate, has not really made an impact. This is changing - read the full article in The Economist.

A striking illustration in this same article depicts the inequality in greenhouse gas emissions: 

With the possible exception of a few large scale emitters,  adaptation is the name of the game in Africa. See earlier posts on the ability of African farmers to adapt in the face of climatic changes and that Africa is particularly vulnerable to climatic changes (see also here). 


Rory Williams said...

I am with you on this one, Martin, but I think one of the challenges in bringing adaptation into the debate is that it suggests a failure of some sort in preventing climate change. And in the developed / developing world discourse, it's also a bit like the victim having to make amends for what the purpetrator has done. Still, we're all in this together, and those arguments are just politics.

On another topic: Since you're an economist, I would value your opinion on the Copenhagen Consensus. It's an attempt to look at the world's "great problems" from an economics perspective, and the conclusion is that fighting climate change is not worth the investment. As I suggested in my blog post in May, I don't think the analysis is entirely fair. Free market advocates would love it, but it doesn't ring true for me. What do you think?

Martin de Wit said...

Rory, thanks for the comment. Yes, adaptation is an entirely different political agenda, controlled by different agencies. In effect, it is close to improving the resilience of (often poor and marginal) communities, making it part of (mostly rural) development and natural resource management policies.

I have sympathy with honest assessments on the big problems facing our time. Different disciplines/tools will come up with different lists though. I think living in a continent of poverty, loss of human dignity and missed chances, makes one sensitive to the suffering of people. A workable policy on adaptation to climate change will have to support other development goals as well.