Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Success in Durban can not disguise need for climate adaptation

Earlier this month, the world’s heads of state, government, industry and NGOs met in Durban, South Africa, to discuss our common future. These climate negotiations were more successful than many people had feared. 

A new international climate agreement will enter into force in 2020. This agreement makes life more predictable for industry and supports a future based on low-carbon technology. But we cannot rest on our laurels because - irrespective of political processes - climate forces are wreaking havoc everywhere. The authorities are drowning in information but lack knowledge about how to adapt to the climate changes we are already facing.

A number of Native Americans in the town of Kivalina in the wilds of Alaska are currently suing oil and energy companies, accusing them of destroying the basis of Kivalina’s life. The town depends on ice formations which protect it against the massive forces of nature which ravage Alaska’s coast. The problem is that the ice has melted dangerously fast over the past few years. Even in 2006, the US authorities’ research results showed that the little society had to be relocated as a result of global warming. The so-called “climigration” lawsuit that is currently taking place in the USA may be the first of many actions for damages in which companies are made responsible for the negative effect that their operations have on the climate of local communities.

A new UN report shows that man-made climate change has already led to extreme weather in the form of heat waves and flooding. Thailand is a country that has over the past few weeks become painfully aware of how catastrophic amounts of rain can destroy the basis of existence for millions of people. Here in Norway, we were reminded of nature’s inexorable forces when Hurricane Berit struck local communities along the Norwegian coast, leading to major destruction. Norwegian municipalities are now being urged to implement measures to adapt to the extreme weather resulting from climate change.

There is widespread anger, frustration and disappointment about politicians and other decision-makers. The authorities, on the other hand, are drowning in information on climate change but lack knowledge about how to deal with the risks they are facing. More