By Dean Thompson
Yesterday the latest IPCC Assessment Report was released to the public. Its focus on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability makes it an essential point of reference for the work that World Vision Australia is doing across the globe.
During the press conference for the launch of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Report, Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the IPCC, said that “nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change.” Interestingly, the report also highlights the varying degree to which different regions and populations will be affected.
The differences in vulnerability and exposure to climate change have nothing to do with climate: they mainly stem from the different level of development and the consequent capacity to cope with the impacts of climate change. Australia will be confronted with the risks of sea-level rise and regional water scarcity: in tackling these challenges and implementing adaptation strategies Australia will be able to count on its financial, technical and human resources.
World Vision Australia, however, in its efforts to eradicate poverty, has committed to the most marginalised and vulnerable people. Subsistence farmers in Africa are already experiencing negative impacts on crop yields due to increased temperatures and reduced access to irrigation water. Will they be able to increase rural resilience without capital and external support? Malaria and other vector-borne diseases are expected to resurge due to higher temperatures. Who will provide health assistance to all the children affected? Village dwellers on the coast of low-lying pacific islands are finding their homes and fields regularly inundated and submerged with salted water. How could they afford to relocate to a different region?
The findings from the IPCC report inevitably induce to reflect on these kinds of questions. The answer is that vulnerable communities across the world need the shared support from the international community of governments and development agencies. Context specific interventions to date have contributed to accumulating knowledge and experience on how to devise and implement mitigation and adaptation projects. But they are far from sufficient to address the magnitude of the threats ahead. There is still time to act and respond to climate change, keeping in mind that our choices in the near-term will affect the risks we will face throughout the 21st century.
The IPCC report indicates a path to manage future risks and build resilience: the “first step towards adaptation to future climate change is reducing vulnerability and exposure to present climate variability”. This is the spirit we put in the work we do: empowering and building communities’ capacity today, to provide them with the equipment to cope with tomorrow’s challenges.
Dean Thompson is the Commercial and Compliance Advisor for the Food Security and Climate Change team at World Vision Australia