On November 18th, The Stockholm Association of International Affairs (UF) and The Law Students’ Association (JF) at the University of Stockholm, invited Richard Klein, a geographer and a leading expert on human vulnerability and adaptation to climate change variability. Klein leads Stockholm Environment Institute‘s research theme ‘Reducing Climate Risk’.
Klein gave a short history from the first IPCC report. COP1 was in Berlin. The second assessment report soon after the Berlin meeting, concluded that there is discernible human influence on global climate.
Klein spoke on the mandate of the IPCC. With the negative press of Climategate, one has to keep in mind that the IPCC does not do its own research. It is more a network of scientists.
Mitigation is reducing greenhouse emissions. Developing countries say they have not caused the problem. He said they need to adapt, while showing the 2007 Nature article ”Lifting the taboo on adaptation”. Adaptation is natural or human systems. It can be anticipatory or reactive.
There are differences in capacity and responsibility. China, which has largely a developing population cannot adapt like USA.
Prevention is better than cure. It was politically correct to talk about mitigation.
Most importantly, the Stern review came out. The awareness was there. The Bali action plan or roadmap was launched for a two year negotiation process. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon flew in from Singapore, and basically said get your act together. He was dissapointed in the level of progress. The hour was late and it was time to act.
They argued on the wording in Bali. USA said they came forth with the hope to address climate change and recognise differences. They found the issue important but could not accept the formulation at the time. All countries expressed their dissapointment with USA. In the end USA agreed to be part of future conferences leading up to Copenhagen.
The issue of trust was therefore standing in the way in Copenhagen. Very few if any are optimistic of Cancún. Developing countries mistrust developed countries, and vice versa.
Research on mitigation has gone far longer than adaptation. That is changing. Adaptation is getting more important since Bali.
Klein asked the audience, what is vulnerability to climate change? Is Netherlands or Bangladesh more vulnerable? Most said Bangladesh. But Klein responded with asking if Netherlands has more to lose economically. The answer is not as obvious as one may think. Everyone agreed that Bangladesh ability to act is weaker.
Vulnerability can be measured in many ways using indices. All have different outcomes. It is subjective and about the choices you make. Countries can simply not agree.
There is a north-south divide. It makes sense to link adaptation with development. Developing countries are concerned on mainstreaming.