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< prev - next > Environment and adaptation to climate change ESRC_briefing_paper_1 (Printable PDF)
Integrating climate change analysis – the Christian Aid
More than half of Christian Aid’s programme funding supports livelihoods work and a substantial part
of this is directed towards reducing disaster risks. A major challenge has been to integrate climate
change adaptation, building on existing programme expertise and experience, rather than creating
another specialism.
The key to this has been establishing frameworks that use
existing tools wherever possible, explaining new concepts
where necessary and building these into one integrated
approach (see Figure 2). Central to this is a risk cycle
management approach to development planning, where
predictable risks are anticipated and long- and short-term
risk reduction activities are integrated into livelihood
development. In this way, time spent in emergency or
rehabilitation is minimized.
livPerloihteocotdins g
livTeralinhsofoodrms ing
Figure 2. Christian Aid’s framework for programme
Coping and adaptation
The problem of how to deal with the risks related to both
variability and slow trends in climate is two fold:
how to expand coping limits in the face of increased
climate variability so that the damage to livelihoods of
extreme events is minimized;
how to adapt livelihoods so that longer-term resilience
can be strengthened.
Participatory vulnerability and capacity assessment
(PVCA) is a tool already used extensively in risk reduction
work. When informed by a climate change analysis, this
can be deployed to address both fast-onset disaster
risk and slow-onset climate change. It also provides an
opportunity to examine how long- and short-term climate
change risks interact with each other and with other
risks, such as earthquakes, conflict and unaccountable
Climate change analysis
Climate change analysis involves five basic steps:
1. accessing climate science, and particularly time
series data for key variables such as rainfall,
temperature, etc;
2. documenting local knowledge, which can raise
additional questions that science can address, so
these first two steps may require some iteration;
3. cross-referencing science with local knowledge,
increasing the value of information through
triangulation and attribution;
4. prioritizing key climate risks and developing this
into a forward-looking scenario to detail what might
happen over the next 10 years;
5. linking back to climate scientists regularly to get
the latest information in this fast-moving field, and
feed back local knowledge and new information
The value of local knowledge is increasingly
acknowledged and is, for example, included in regional
climate outlook fora. Certain livelihoods groups,
especially pastoralists, are known as ‘libraries’ of
climate expertise and can provide vital location-specific
information where gaps exist in climate science coverage.
Where science and local knowledge agree, confidence
increases. Where they disagree reveals interesting points
for discussion. For example, a low-density network of
meteorology stations may miss flash floods cited by the
community as a major emerging threat. On the other
hand, community knowledge may be vulnerable to biases
which need to be addressed by the scientific record.
The key issue for both national climate science
institutions and the emerging Global Framework for
Climate Services is how scientific information can be
made available through mechanisms such as climate
change analysis to support risk reduction and adaptation
by the poorest and most vulnerable.
Richard Ewbank,
Christian Aid,
35 Lower Marsh, Waterloo, London, SE1 7RL.
See also
Adaptation Toolkit. Integrating Adaption to Climate
Change into Secure Livelihoods. 1. Framework and
Approach. Christian Aid.
Christian Aid Climate Change Resources, available
online at
policy/climate_change.aspx – papers on various
aspects of climate change, including adaptation.