Establishing the Context for Climate Change Adaptation

NAPSNet Policy Forum

Recommended Citation

Saleem Janjua, "Establishing the Context for Climate Change Adaptation", NAPSNet Policy Forum, July 04, 2013,

by Saleem Janjua

July 04, 2013


Saleem Janjua writes “For developing-country local governments to start any climate adaptation actions, it is important to secure a high level commitment from local leaders….Once the vision for climate adaptation action in local governments is formulated by the political and public-sector local leadership and understood by the staff as well, strategies to adapt to climate change can then be developed easily.”

Saleem Janjua is the Climate Change Adpation contributor to the NAPSNet Weekly Report, and the Editor of AdaptNet.

The views expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Nautilus Institute. Readers should note that Nautilus seeks a diversity of views and opinions on significant topics in order to identify common ground.


Establishing the Context for Climate Change Adaptation 

Initiating climate adaptation action in developing-country local governments should not be visualised only through a technological lens (concerning new local urban infrastructure, transfer of technology, urban structural modifications). Whereas a technological approach may be essential to successful adaptation at a later stage, it will not be useful without first establishing the context and a supportive organisational environment for adaptation. I do agree that analysing and managing climate-related risks in local government context will entail a sophisticated technological and methodical knowledge, contrarily adaptation efforts would be incommensurate to the risks – either inadequate or over planned. However, I also consider that building up the institutional capabilities through learning and prudent policy making for climate adaptation actions are equally important in developing-country local governments for utilising and transmitting words into deeds. Therefore, establishing the context for climate adaptation in local governments should be considered as one of the fundamental adaptation actions itself, entitled to be given all due consideration.

I consider that for developing-country local governments to start any climate adaptation actions, it is important to secure a high level commitment from local leaders (e.g. administrators and/or elected representatives) by declaring that adaptation is one of the primary needs to their local governments. A strong local adaptation leadership and vision is required to outweigh the administrative hurdles and risk aversion, particularly related to the multifaceted developing-country management issues that split various organisational authorities. Also, in most of developing-country local governments, conflicting goals and enmities of stakeholders can also restrain inter and intra-departmental harmonisation required for designing and implementing pragmatic climate adaptation actions. Therefore, the most effectual and realistic means for practicing that leadership in local governments should come from increasing their capacity for local governance itself, and putting together climate adaptation into their local level planning and developmental programs and actions.

Strong local leadership with a clear vision has also shown to be essential in the initiation of climate adaptation actions in various local areas throughout the world. Therefore, I consider that the vision for climate adaptation in the context of developing-country local governments could be based on three interlinked guiding principles: (1) adaptation activities in local governments are planned on the basis of learning from current past climate inconsistency and extreme events;(2) adaptation activities in local governments are strongly connected to the development processes, and planned within the on-going local level planning and development programmes; and (3) adaptation activities in local governments are taking place at different scales within the local governments. Once the vision for climate adaptation action in local governments is formulated by the political and public-sector local leadership and understood by the staff as well, strategies to adapt to climate change can then be developed easily. Hence, the presence of a visionary leadership is crucial for the creation of adaptation initiatives to climate change at the local government level in developing countries.


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One thought on “Establishing the Context for Climate Change Adaptation

  1. For the last several decades, we have searched ways to control the CO2 and other pollutant, whereas scientific community was busy to inform and convince the reality of global climate change to the intellectual sectors of the world community. Still, we have not quite reached American consensus as the 85 percent of the world community now accept there is global warming and climate changes caused by anthropogenic pollution of our life-support system. The public acceptance of man-made climate change seems to stimulate scientific community for research on the mitigation of impacts of climate changes, though slowly, as yet without making all-out commitments and definitive outcome. Now, we are already faced with serious weather changes all over the world and experiencing disaster after disaster with loss of people, destruction of houses and all infrastructure of urbanized regions helplessly, which quickly raises the question as to how we could deal with unpredictable destruction of anthropocentric infrastructures along with the loss of all innocent people worldwide and economic damages. That is what Saleem Janjua’s article is all about but it should not be limited to developing countries but every country in the world. It is absolutely necessary for every local government and their leadership to be prepared for climate change adaptation very soon.

    Today’s global warming and climate change did not occur overnight, which has built up since the later stage of Industrial Revolution due to the total life stages of technological humanity at large which was rapidly accelerated at the middle of 20th Century. Yet, global alarm was note readily noted in the public domain until towards the last decade, as the impact and intensity of climate change were limited and varied to local or regional sites though destruction of buildings and landscapes and economic loss along with human death were felt worldwide: a) the loss of human lives and their cohorts, destruction of property and infrastructure; b) damages to economy, social and cultural, educational matters; and c) loss of biodiversity and habitats, damages or alteration of community, ecosystem and landscape, are diverse and localized. In this context the first two kinds (a and b) of climate change impacts are commonly expected and understood by local governments though the level of preparedness and its adequacy differs by country and local municipality. Strangely enough, however, we have not paid too much attention to the impacts (c) upon biodiversity that includes basic elements and primary natural resources for sustaining our life support system which we downplayed their importance to humans and today’s humanity and likewise humanistic issues along with biodiversity and habitats associated with climate change have been neglected and not taken into account by policy makers and disaster management, particularly at the grassroots.

    Biodiversity refers to the totality of all living organisms and interactions of all those species in a spatially defined unit or site such as global biodiversity on the Earth and backyard biodiversity at the grassroots. Thus, biodiversity is a fountain of life and the foundation of life forms that supports and sustains ecosystem function and services by interactions of resident species in natural and human ecosystems. Local ecosystem with its biodiversity, so-called backyard biodiversity, at the grassroots, is the foundation to support local human ecosystem and sustains the dynamics of human inhabitation and also characterizes local human community (e.g., village). Therefore, every biodiversity is unique in its own definitive way as ecological environment defines species composition and community structure. Such data are indispensable for local land-use, building permit, taxation, biodiversity conservation, local economy, species application for local enterprises and landscaping, and other legal and formal administrative activities. Yet, there is practically no municipal or local site with biodiversity database throughout the world. Once local biodiversity and ecosystem data are developed, such site description of local human inhabitation would be invaluable for climate change application to rescue operation, damage assessment, mitigation, and adaptation.

    Global warming and climate change impact on backyard biodiversity at the municipality everywhere in the world and the climate change mitigation and adaptation should be closely linked to the state of biodiversity and its ecosystems. Biodiversity is everywhere on the planet and it is now broadly considered in climate change and disaster management but usually considered as the last parameter to be reckoned with for climate change mitigation and adaptation. Biodiversity that is usually defined spatially as an operational unit is often subjected to quantitative analysis by species richness. Unlike the treatment of community and ecosystem every biodiversity is unique because species composition and community structure are different by habitat and landscape characteristics. Even if ecological types may be similar, the composition and population density of each resident species at a biodiversity unit is different and thus, biodiversity assessment is the first preparatory task for mitigation, adaptation and sustainable development at the grassroots or municipality, as species composition and community structure would open door to the contents and value of its primary natural resources in its own domain. Future mitigation and adaptation of climate change requires site-specific biodiversity database for developing specific plan and strategies by knowing ecosystem configuration along with its biodiversity for each local biodiversity.

    At the grassroots, biodiversity assessment can directly be carried out by local people including students and adults who are trained by mobile workshops with relatively small expenditure. The assessment data of local biodiversity and ecosystem configuration should be readily available for application with assistance and scientific services provided by “regional” biodiversity service center. This regional center associated with taxonomic collections or museums may be staffed with mid-level scientists/educators who were trained in taxonomy and biodiversity science and such centers would be instrumental in educating students and the public on nature, natural history, ecology, ecosystem services, and sustainable development. Scientific database on biodiversity and ecosystem configuration for each municipal unit would not only help develop local strategy for climate change mitigation and adaptation but should also help advance local economy and business enterprises towards sustainable development. Prepared by Ke Chung Kim, Ph. D., Emeritus Professor, Penn State. July 7, 2013.

    Related primary references:

    Kim, K. C. and L. B. Byrne. 2006. Biodiversity loss and the taxonomic bottleneck:
    emerging biodiversity science. Ecol. Res. (2006) 21: 794-810.

    Rohr, J. R., C. B. Mahan, and K. C. Kim. 2006. Developing a monitoring program for
    invertebrates: Guidelines and a case study. Conservation Biology (2006) 21(2): 422-435.

    Kim, K. C. 2009. Taxonomy and Management of Insect Biodiversity. Pages 561-574 in
    Foottit, R.G. and P. H. Adler, eds., Insect Biodiversity: Science and Society. West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.

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