Adaptation science not trickling down, says commission

Information about how to adapt to climate change needs to reach people Copyright: Flickr/Carolincik

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Knowledge about adapting to climate change lies at an international level and is failing to reach those in the developing world who need it most, according to the international Commission on Climate Change and Development.

Bodies such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) need to start distributing new science on adaptation to the places where it can have the greatest effect, says the commission, whose final report was published last week (14 May).

The 13-strong commission, established by the Swedish Government in December 2007, includes such figures as Nobel peace prize-winner Wangari Maathai; Sun Honglie, director of the China Climate Change Expert Committee; and Youba Sokona of the Sahara and Sahel Observatory.

Its 80-page report, ‘Closing the Gaps: Disaster risk reduction and adaptation to climate change in developing countries’, calls for more money for adaptation research and better distribution methods for its findings.

"There can be no global agreement without adaptation assistance and because of the nature of climate impacts there will be much less global security without it," says the report.

Some US$1–2 billion should be released urgently to help the most needy countries — largely those in Africa and the poorer small island nations, says the report.

The method by which further money is distributed should be carefully considered because funding mechanisms are proliferating, which both confuses and puts pressure on developing countries, it says.

Calling on the UN to take the lead in generating, disseminating and exchanging knowledge, the report suggests that the IPCC — which issues reports every four years — should also take on the role of rapidly processing and distributing peer-reviewed research findings. 

The IPCC could work more actively with other bodies such as the UN Environment Programme, the World Bank, UN specialised agencies, academia, civil society and think tanks, it says, to speed up dissemination of knowledge.

"The knowledge gap for adaptation is vast but a growing knowledge network is being developed. The UN should provide a focal point for UN-related climate change knowledge ‘delivering as one’ within developing countries, providing advice on issues from water and crop management to insurance and disaster risk reduction."

The report also calls for poorer countries to build their own capacity for climate change research.