MedWetCoast Project for conservation of Wetlands and Coastal Ecosystems in the Mediterranean Region MedWetCoast Project for conservation of Wetlands and Coastal Ecosystems in the Mediterranean Region
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New publication on adaptation measures launched at the 3 rd World Water Forum
Change: Adaptation of Water Resources Managers to Climate Change
Thursday 27 March 2003, by Web Team

Gland, 12 March 2003 (IUCN) - Dealing with climate change can no longer be solely a matter for experts. Wide-spread involvement of society is needed to deal with the growing uncertainty about future impacts, according to a new report by IUCN - The World Conservation Union.

"The uncertainties about the impacts of climate change are great, and will only increase. Science alone cannot deal with this. To adapt to climate change, we need coalitions of politicians, scientists, managers and civil society to assess risks and identify appropriate responses", says Mr. Brett Orlando, Climate Change Advisor of IUCN - The World Conservation Union.

Climate change already shows its impacts in increased climate variability. Reducing glaciers, thawing permafrost and changing rainfall patterns are already resulting in widespread damage, as the recent floods in Europe have shown. The annual damage that may be incurred was recently estimated at US$ 300 billion per year .

However, climate change has been mostly a topic of heated debate amongst scientists. The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change, for instance, long weighed the evidence until finally concluding that human activities are affecting the global climate in 2001. The political debate, mainly on the Kyoto Protocol, showed similar expert debates and even minimal reductions in emissions proved hard to achieve.

The new report "Change: Adaptation of water resources management to climate change" highlights the actions being taken by water professionals to adapt to a changing climate, and building on these early experiences, suggests the best ways for others to follow suit. Water is one of the most pressing issues of our time, illustrated by the prediction that two-thirds of the world population will live in water scarce areas in 2025. Climate change will change temperature and rainfall patterns, greatly exacerbating this already critical problem. The new report will be launched at the 3rd World Water Forum, to be held 16 - 23 March in Japan, which recognizes climate change as one of the priority topics for action.

"The classical response of water managers is to focus on technological methods. But with climate change this response will only be part of the solution. We will need to find solutions as we go, and the best way to do this if all those who bear the risks and the costs are involved", says Dr. Ger Bergkamp, IUCN Freshwater Management Adviser and co-author of the report.

An example of such measures comes from the Netherlands where "Growing with the sea" is a Dutch initiative to link coastal defence to nature conservation. It proposes flooding of low-lying areas to store excess water. These areas would then also purify water, supply water for industry, agriculture and human consumption, provide a habitat for important plant and animal species and provide various recreational opportunities. The innovative idea combines long-term aspects of adapting to climate change with direct, short-term benefits to society. However, given that people live and work in the proposed areas, government and society will need to negotiate on how to balance costs to the individuals with the benefits to society.

Another example comes from Costa Rica where Costa Rica’s Electricity Institute has developed a nationwide strategy to reduce energy consumption and encourage users to be more efficient when using energy. With a 98% dependency on hydropower, Costa Rica’s energy supply is directly dependent on its water resources and strongly affected by climatic variability. Through a newspaper, radio and television campaign the government is working to reduce energy demand. In addition, incentives are provided to directly reduce energy consumption. The initiative establishes a societal process in which people value energy and water resources and assume responsibility for actions towards sustainable water management.

These examples illustrate that changes are required not only from politicians and water managers, but from direct and indirect water users as well. Furthermore, the measures to deal with climate change will have costs and benefits and these will need to be negotiated between politicians, experts and users. "It may mean that a farmer in India should stop farming in the mountains to prevent floods downstream. How can one convince them and how does one compensate? This is an example of the societal questions we must answer", says Brett Orlando.

Nonetheless, the authors of the book are convinced the changes required can be achieved: "Many of the changes required are very much in line with the modern forms of water management. The threat of climate change is another strong encouragement of water managers to look beyond their models and sluices and talk to the people who live with water and depend on it", says Dr. Bergkamp.

- Source : IUCN - Water and Nature Initiative Website

About the publication

Change: Adaptation of Water Resources Managers to Climate Change is written by Ger Bergkamp, Brett Orlando and Ian Burton. The publication will be launched on 17 March, starting 8:45 in Room B2 of the Conference Venue in Kyoto during the 3rd World Water Forum in Kyoto, Japan. Download the book (1 Mb, PDF)







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