Climate risk in an international context

Climate change is a global phenomenon

From the Arctic to the Antarctic, from the tropics to the mid-latitudes, the world is experiencing the consequences of increased climate risk, writes Dr. Kirsty Lewis, a Met Office Science Fellow working on climate science to support adaptation and development. growth.

In the last 12 months alone, we have seen the most extreme heat wave on record in western North America, flooding in South Sudan displacing more than 800,000 people, in India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives , 200,000 people had to flee Cyclone Tauktae, while Hurricane Ida and extensive flooding in Europe were two of the costliest weather events ever

Globally, the most vulnerable are most at risk

Although climate change is a serious threat around the world, some of the worst risks are in developing countries. This is not because the most serious dangers occur in these countries, although in some cases they do, but because developing countries are the most vulnerable. They are often highly sensitive to weather and climate and have little adaptive capacity to manage and recover from disasters. For example, the economies and food systems of many developing countries rely heavily on rainfed agriculture, making them highly sensitive to changes in rainfall, floods and droughts, as well as pest outbreaks. and weather-related diseases, such as locust.

In many cases, these events occur in the context of communities that have few safety net assets or systems. The governments of the poorest countries have fewer options to deploy financial means to cushion the impact of extreme events, such as increased food imports or insurance underwriting. Investment in adaptation to substantially reduce vulnerability and exposure is key to managing risk and enabling development.

Agriculture has always faced many dangers, including extreme weather events and crop pests and diseases. In addition, farmers now have to consider the impacts of climate change. Image: Shutterstock.

Globalized risk

Climate risk is not just a problem for those countries directly affected by individual weather events. We live in a globalized world and events in one place often have far-reaching impacts.

The latest international chapter of the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA3) clearly sets out the threat associated with global, complex and compound risks to the UK. These risks can come from direct events, for example a severe storm damaging a strategically important port and thus disrupting supply chains. Or it may be the result of more indirect impacts, such as adverse climatic conditions that, together with non-climatic factors, contribute to the displacement or migration of populations, with knock-on consequences for regional and global security. Complex interdependencies mean that there are sometimes surprising consequences from seemingly small or localized events. Increasing resource dependency and a culture of just-in-time delivery means there is little redundancy in many globalized systems, further increasing risk.

Management of international climate risks

Climate risk is an international problem, and it will take a concerted international effort to address it. Limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, and thus minimizing the increase in climate hazards, is an essential component of managing climate risk. Each degree of warming increases the scale of climate change impacts and thus the risk. However, even 1.5°C of warming brings additional dangers, so along with mitigation, it is critical that we adapt to unavoidable climate changes. This means acting to reduce exposure and vulnerability to climate hazards across the world and not just here in the UK.

International delegates attending the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow last year agreed on efforts to reduce carbon emissions. Image: Grahame Madge (Met Office).

International collaborative action on mitigation and adaptation was the key focus of the recent COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. The summit agreed on efforts to reduce carbon emissions, work towards a Global Adaptation Goal and provide financing to help developing countries manage their climate risks.

How is the UK helping to tackle international climate risk?

As well as addressing national climate adaptation and mitigation issues, the UK is also engaged in action on global climate risk. The CCRA3 identifies risks to UK supply chains and distribution networks, and multiple risks to the UK from overseas climate impacts as critical priority concerns. As priority areas, the UK government will respond to these in its next National Adaptation Programme. More broadly, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) foreign aid budget supports some of the most vulnerable developing countries to adapt to climate change, which also helps manage international risk. The UK is also a major contributor to the Risk-Informed Early Action Partnership (REAP), an international initiative that aims to make one billion people safer from disasters by 2025, by improving of the efficiency and effectiveness of responses to weather and climate disasters.

Climate-smart adaptation is backed by strong evidence and tailored information to support action. The Met Office works on a wide range of projects that engage directly with communities in developing countries, to better understand their vulnerability and exposure, and to tailor climate hazard information to enable informed adaptation decisions to build resilience to climate change. Projects such as Future Climate For Africa (FCFA) Future Resilience for African Cities and Lands project (FRACTAL) that co-developed climate information with key decision makers in cities in southern Africa, or GCRF-Agricultural and Food System Resilience: The Advising project Policy (AFRICAP), which works to make agriculture and food production in sub-Saharan Africa more productive, sustainable and resilient to climate change, contributes to efforts to reduce and manage international climate risk.


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