Societal Adaptation to Climate Variability and Change

Societal Adaptation to Climate Variability and Change

Climate Policy 1 (2001) 283–287 Book reviews Societal Adaptation to Climate Variability and Change Sally Kane and Gary Yohe (Eds.); Kluwer Academic P...

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Climate Policy 1 (2001) 283–287

Book reviews Societal Adaptation to Climate Variability and Change Sally Kane and Gary Yohe (Eds.); Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, 2000, 278 pp., US$ 106.00, ISBN 0792363841 In the context of climate change, the issue of adaptation has so far been much less looked at than mitigation. However, a certain degree of anthropogenic climate change will be inevitable and thus adaptation will become a major policy focus. The book edited by Kane and Yohe paves the way for a policy-oriented treatment of the adaptation issue. However, it suffers from the fact that it is the reprint of a special issue of the journal “Climatic Change” and thus a collection of 12 papers that are only loosely linked to each other. This leads to a structure that is not very well developed and sometimes somewhat repetitive. Nevertheless, the papers give a wealth of analysis on different levels of aggregation ranging from case studies to general theories about the need for a linked analysis of mitigation and adaptation. After a short overview by Kane and Yohe, Robert Kates looks at the adaptation capacity of the poor in developing countries. Using case studies that look at the reaction on droughts, floods and cyclones in different developing countries as well as the green revolution and reaction to population growth in Africa, he concludes that the poor have great difficulties in adapting and that one has to look at secondary costs of “adapting to the adaptations”. As adaptation would often lead to increased market-orientation, the poorest segments of developing country society could be displaced and marginalized. The following paper by Hallie Eakin confirms this notion by emphasizing that the withdrawal of agricultural subsidies to small maize producers in Mexico reduces their capacity to adapt to climatic variability. They do not use seasonal forecasts to choose other crops as they prefer the subsistence crop maize to crops that would have to be marketed and thus entail financial risk. A completely different level is addressed by Kathleen Miller in an analysis of the impact of climatic variability on the US–Canadian negotiations about a salmon protection agreement. The existing agreement broke down in the mid 1990s due to the unforeseen effects of ocean warming that led to a change in migration patterns of the fish. However, the analysis shows that climate variability is only one factor that may trigger breakdown of cooperation, especially if there is a multitude of interests whose income will be affected. This shows the need for an efficient institutional setting to react on climate change. Maxx Dilley looks at the impact of climate forecasts on Southern African agriculture during the El Niño of 1997/1998. He concludes that El Niño did not lead to the forecast drought and thus the value of the forecasts is debatable. While drought preparedness was high, evaluation of the spread of the forecast to users revealed considerable confusion. In a theoretical paper, Kane and Jason Shogren link adaptation and mitigation in a highly stylized policy model. The model starts on the assumption that a society tries to minimize risk by choosing a 1469-3062/01/$ – see front matter © 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.


Book reviews

mix of mitigation and adaptation. Nations are modelled to maximize welfare subject to a risk parameter that can vary. In principle, nations will then equalize marginal benefits of adaptation and marginal costs of mitigation. Of course, the latter is a public good while the former is much less prone to free riding. Now the decisive question is whether mitigation and adaptation are complements or substitutes. This determines the second-order effect of an increase of risk on the volume of adaptation — in the case of complementarity, adaptation will be increased while in the case of substitutability the overall effect is unclear. A general discussion of endogenous risk follows that stresses transferability of risk across space and time. Risks apply both to mitigation and adaptation strategies, an artificial separation of the two makes no sense. Yohe and Toth look at the “guardrail” approach that tries to define tolerable rates and final values of temperature change. Adaptation may extend the borders of the tolerable “window” considerably. However, it is decisive which constraints are relaxed by adaptation. If it has no influence on constraints that remain binding, the value of adaptation is limited. Lempert, Schlesinger, Bankes and Andronova look at the impacts of climate variability. Variability masks trends in climate change. An adaptive strategy is found to be better than a non-adaptive one. However, the finding is surprising that adaptation should focus on reactions to changes in mitigation costs and not on reaction to damages from climate change. This may be due to the assumption that the mitigation costs are known exactly (which is obviously not the case, see debate on the existence of “no regrets”) and that the future trend of costs can be derived easily, while damages are highly variable. De Loë and Kreutzwiser discuss the potential for adaptation in the Great Lakes region in North America. The analysis starts from three categories of adaptation: loss bearing, loss reduction and avoidance of the impact. Regional climate model results forecast a significant decrease in lake levels with predominantly negative consequences for the infrastructure and shipping. An analysis of historical infrastructure development shows that historical lake level variability was not taken into account. A complicating factor is the inequitable distribution of damage costs on different groups and jurisdictions. Adaptation of existing cross-border treaties, for example, may prove to be difficult. Bryant and half a dozen of collaborators analyse the adaptation potential in Canadian agriculture. They stress the multi-dimensional and multi-scale nature of the agricultural adaptation process and differentiate according to the nature of stress (where climate change is only one issue among others), characteristics of the agricultural system, scales and responses. The latter are differentiated into autonomous decisions by farmers and public policy. Research methods used to elicit adaptation potential are questionnaire surveys and interviews as well as empirical studies on decisions in the past. The surveys indicate that many farmers do not think that climate is changing. But even among those who “believe” in climate change, active adaptation strategies are rare. Perceptions are strongly influenced by recent experience. Crop insurance payments reduce adaptive responses and may not be sustainable in the long run. Schneider and Easterling look at the role of adaptation in integrated assessment modelling. They first discuss the treatment of adaptation in past studies and conclude that there is either instantaneous adaptation or no adaptation at all. Adaptation lags and decision rules incorporating the different layers of adaptation (individual versus institutional) have to be included in the analysis and described in a transparent way. They calculate crop yields in the Great Plains and look at three cases: instantaneous, lagged and no adaptation. The differences are significant. A critique of “cross-sectional” models follows that is based on doubts that a perfect substitutability of changes at one place over time with changes across space at the same time exists. These doubts are based on the issue of different possible transient behaviour between two states of the world and the multi-factor nature of climate change.

Book reviews


Smit, Burton, Klein and Wandel discuss general definitions of adaptation along the three dimensions: adaptation to what, who adapts, and how adaptation occurs. The first dimension relates to climate-related stimuli and time scales, the second to system definition and characteristics and the third to processes and outcomes. A final step is evaluation. The final paper by Reilly and Schimmelpfennig discusses the role of autonomous adaptation, i.e. non-conscious changes and temporal dimension, i.e. short- versus long-term reaction. They derive five “portraits” combining these attributes ranging from purely autonomous response over fast response with conscious action, lack of knowledge, unavoidable adjustment costs to no response. Most systems do not have characteristics of the “extreme” portraits but can develop institutional capacity to adapt autonomously. The first step to look at the capacity of any system is to identify its performance measure. Agriculture and ecosystems are used as examples to illustrate the approach. Overall, the book assembles a lode of information on different aspects of adaptation. However, this lode has to be mined using a great amount of intellectual energy on the part of the reader. Axel Michaelowa Hamburg Institute of International Economics Neuer Jungfernstieg 21, 20347 Hamburg, Germany Tel.: +49-40-42834-309; fax: +49-40-42834-451 E-mail address: [email protected] (A. Michaelowa) PII: S 1 4 6 9 - 3 0 6 2 ( 0 1 ) 0 0 0 0 9 - 2

Received 28 February 2001

Climate Policy and Development: Flexible Instruments and Developing Countries A. Michaelova and M. Dutschke (Eds.), Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, UK, 2000, £59.95, ISBN 1 84064 331 5 After the collapse of the 6th Conference of the Parties (COP6) Climate Change talks in The Hague in November 2000, the press officer described the meeting as a ‘non success’. This somehow seemed an attempt at spin-doctoring which was itself a ‘non success’. The negotiations had failed to reach any agreement. Why not call them a failure? The reason, of course, was the gulf between the negotiating parties on a range of issues and the complexity of the negotiating task that encompassed all the flexibility mechanisms first outlined in Kyoto in 1997 as well as many other financing and compliance issues. Despite the high expectations before the meeting, it is not surprising that in the time available in The Hague, there was no final agreement. Progress was made on many issues but the real disappointment was that we seem to be still quite far from agreement on the implementation of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) which was due to start operating in 2000. It is the CDM which provides the primary focus for this collection of papers on ‘Climate Policy and Development’, edited by Michaelowa and Dutschke. However, at least some of the analysis in this book has much wider ramifications and affects the other ‘Kyoto mechanisms’ of joint implementation (JI) and emissions trading as well as the overall equity, and environmental and economic integrity of the Convention. If anything, this signals a major characteristic of the book in that just when you are absorbed in the detail of the analysis, the authors always seem to be able to raise the horizon again to include an examination of the broader implications. We are constantly reminded of the wider repercussions of