Adapting to Climate Change
In the shadow of the climate changes that are occurring, and the lack of a binding agreement emerging from Copenhagen, some leading humanitarian groups are seeking ways that people may be able to adapt to the early stages of climate change.
Angie Dazé, Senior Climate Change Adaptation Advisor for CARE International, gave me a personal interview today. She specializes in community-based adaptations, trying to understand the effects of climate change and what the most vulnerable of our world’s people might do to survive the early stages of climate change.
Empower the Most Vulnerable People
A whole community is not affected equally by climate shock. In pastoral communities, men often manage the livestock while women are responsible for fetching water, tending the garden, and ensuring the family has food. “What we often find is that women tend to have a higher level of vulnerability because of their role in the home,” Angie told me. “In agricultural-based communities, in particular, food and water become very difficult within a changing climate. So women’s traditional roles and responsibilities become even harder,” Angie explained. Issues related to climate change vulnerability can be social or political. Although women traditionally have limited decision-making power, when humanitarian managers “empower women to have more power in decisions, they tend to make good decisions that will help the family to manage the resources in a way that will reduce their risk.” But it’s not just women. “It’s making sure that the different members of the household have the skills and the information that they need to play the role that they need to play most effectively.”
Get the Right Information
One of climate change’s biggest problems is the uncertainty of what, how and when changes are going to occur. CARE managers “help people to have a broader range of options open to them, so they’re in a position to make decisions to manage the risks. And also to ensure they have the information they need to make those decisions,” Angie told me. This information includes seasonal forecasts, what crops might be better suited to a particular climate condition, and early warnings for droughts or storms.
Find Practical Solutions
While empowering women is an important part of an overall strategy of making a community more resilient, CARE also works closely with all members of the community, and local organizations, NGO’s, and government institutions. Together, they come up with practical solutions such as different agricultural practices – when rainfall decreases, it’s essential to keep as much moisture in the soil as possible. CARE is launching a program in Africa in which they do small scale adaptations in different communities and countries to find out what works. That learning will then be applied widely, both at the community and broader levels, such as trying to influence national policy frameworks. The focus is always on giving the most vulnerable people a voice and ensuring that the potentially large sums of money that will be donated to stricken areas actually reach the people who need it. It’s also “building skills and new practices and always providing information,” Angie added.
Ultimately, the best solution is for countries to sign a binding agreement to reduce emissions and stop climate change. Adaptation is most hopeful for our current level of climate change, but if it continues to grow (as is likely after Copenhagen), livelihoods are going to become impossible and mass migrations will likely occur. If that happens, we will be facing a whole new set of social and political hot spots.
The silver lining to the recent Copenhagen conference may be the number of average people who became involved and who care about the effect that climate change is having, and will have, on our planet, its people and its animals. So please keep caring and helping – You’re needed!