Adaptation signatures

Submitted by Sukaina Bharwani | published 25th Mar 2011 | last updated 30th Mar 2011

Signatures: seeing adaptation in an integrated way

One approach to understanding climate change adaptation is to focus on a typology of adaptation responses. For instance, many of the NAPA projects are direct investments to improve livelihood security, through income diversification, education and social mobilisation. Other NAPA projects fall in a general category of increasing institutional competence to assess vulnerability, monitor climate changes and support adaptation decision making.

While overlapping in practice, these are distinct approaches to adaptation: each involves with different stakeholders and decision frameworks, responds to climate change in somewhat different ways, from reducing current vulnerability to increasing risk-resilience in the future, and entails different costs and finance, as well as benefits and outcomes. This collection of attributes is termed a signature--recalling the use of the term in multi-variate statistics as revealing a characteristic profile in complex data sets as well as the unique signature that would be employed in specifïc situations.

We propose to develop a typology of such adaptation responses, or signatures, to explore the different costs of climate adaptation. The signatures will be developed at a conceptual level based on secondary sources, such as the NAPA profiles and international adaptation data bases (including the Adaptation Layer in Google Earth that the weADAPT group released in Poznan). Importantly, the unique signatures of local communities and national action plans will be documented through participatory exercises and engagement with key stakeholders. Our initial testing ground will be in Africa and Asia, with further work ongoing in Europe and at a global level.

The baseline is formed by an understanding of current vulnerability and prospective impacts. This is reasonably widespread at least for initial screening, but probably not all that expensive. Using climate information (especially but not only seasonal climate outlooks) and expanding the capacity to cope with current climate variability are worth enhancing, in anticipation of added benefits as climate change.

Disaster risk reduction bridges between coping with current conditions and the potential (and increasingly expected) increase in future hazards. A simple adjustment to trends in climate resources should be ongoing at the margins of climate (e.g., growing crops at higher elevations). Full sectoral protection is expensive, even if carefully targeted at the highest at-risk infrastructure and economic activities.

Finally, migration is a planned strategy already being utilised, that may be increasingly essential.

Further documentation of the approach is being developed:

  • Specific examples of adaptation signatures in East Africa, drawing upon the adaptation layer in Google Earth. The typology of signatures is one axis for icons in Google Earth--the other is the sector concerned.
  • Outline of costing methodology for each signature: this will be explored further in projects underway.

--Tom Downing 17:47, 15 January 2009 (CET)