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[NEW DELHI] Science must come to the rescue of communities trying to adapt to climate change, which have so far relied on anecdotal help through sharing experiences with each other, an international conference heard last week (24–31 March).

Although there is extensive evidence on how local communities are adapting, it is loosely gathered. It also lacks the rigorous analysis that could help formulate national and sub-national policies, and initiate local action, the 5th International Conference on Community-Based Adaptation to Climate Change, in Bangladesh, heard.

"So far, there has not been a lot about community-based adaptation in the academic literature and we are trying to fill that gap," said Saleemul Huq, a senior fellow in the climate change group at the International Institute for Environment Development (IIED), which co-organised the meeting with the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies.

Huq said the conference marked a transition from a phase of sharing lessons from the field to one of analysis. He said that the fact that the conference attracted more academic researchers than before could help establish how to define, measure and analyse community-based adaptation to bring value to global efforts.

"We may not have all the answers on what constitutes community-based adaptation. But we are getting better at understanding what it is not," he said.

Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), told the meeting it was a neglected area worldwide. He said there are also knowledge gaps on the impacts of climate change at the community level; the adaptive capacity of communities; the link between adaptation, and socio-economic development and vulnerability; and the categorisation of types of adaptation measures.

A peer-reviewed book based on inputs from the meeting will be published and sections of it will be used for the adaptation chapters of the IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report, scheduled for 2014.

Ian Burton, professor emeritus at the University of Toronto, Canada, and a contributor to a chapter on climate resilient pathways in the upcoming report, said the analysis from the conference would help make the IPCC process a "scientific assessment process, more sensitive and more aware of [community-based adaptation]".

See below for an IIED video of Saleemul Huq talking about the conference: