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World Climate Panel to Report on Extreme Events, Disasters - 23 April 2009

Source: Environment News Service (ENS)

ANTALYA, Turkey, April 23, 2009 (ENS) - Increasing human ability to cope with most extreme effects of global warming such as disasters due to floods, droughts, storms and heat waves will be the focus of a special report by the United Nations' intergovernmental body that assesses scientific information about climate change.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, will prepare the report on managing the risks of extreme events and disasters to advance climate change adaptation, the scientific group decided today at the conclusion of its meeting in Antalya.

The report will integrate the findings of the climate change scientific community and the disaster risk management community.

Key main topics to be assessed will be the frequency, intensity and duration of extreme events; vulnerability; and disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation.

"In its Fourth Assessment Report, the IPCC had found that climate change was being manifested in the nature of changed frequency, intensity and length of many extreme events, such as floods, droughts, storms and extreme temperatures," said Rajendra Pachauri of India, who chairs the IPCC.

"This special report will generate knowledge on these extreme events and their characteristics, whereby the global community can prepare more effectively for adapting to future risks posed by the hazards that these occurrences will present," said Dr. Pachauri.

"Communities at the local level and national governments can deal with such extreme events by adopting a range of disaster risk reduction strategies, and prevent some of the worst humanitarian consequences that they are projected to give rise to," he said.

Its regular schedule calls for the IPCC to produce an assessment every seven years. The Fourth Assessment Report was issued in 2007, and preliminary work is underway for the next assessment that will be finalized in 2014.

Today it was decided that the IPCC Working Group II, which deals with impacts, adaptation and vulnerability, will prepare the special report on extreme events and disasters for publication in the second half of 2011.

"There has been a consensus among the experts on the opportunity to produce such a report,” explained Vicente Barros, co-chair of IPCC Working Group II. "Extreme events are one of the direct consequences of climate change, with severe economic repercussions."

"There's new and relevant scientific literature subsequent to the AR4 Fourth Assessment Report, in particular on disaster risk management, most of which is grey literature, which we will make the effort to assess," Barros said.

A great number of countries provided inputs to the panel discussion this morning, and there was universal support for the preparation of this special report, considered very timely and needed.

"Comments highlighted the importance of focusing on the practical applications for the decisionmakers who need to manage the risk of extreme events; on the need to integrate the new science and to integrate the work of the different scientific communities involved," said Christopher Field, the other co-chair of Working Group II.

"The clearest message was that climate change will be the central piece of the report, the integration with disaster management being the infrastructure surrounding it,” said Field. The special report was proposed last year by the government of Norway with the involvement of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, the UN organization overseeing the development of disaster reduction policy.

A meeting of more than 100 experts from 51 countries was convened in March 2009 to provide advice to the IPCC on whether or not to develop the special report.

It was decided that the report will be a useful tool for governments to learn how to manage disasters and also an important support to the work of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to help Parties make informed decisions on practical adaptation actions.

Disaster risk reduction strategies and practices are essential for reducing vulnerability and increasing resilience to extreme weather events, yet there has not been a comprehensive assessment of the guides, frameworks, and tools used to build the capacity for reducing vulnerability and risk, experts at the March meeting recognized.

The special report is intended to help governments to develop early warning systems; to strengthen community capacity and social resilience, particularly among the most vulnerable; to improve construction practices; and to establish preparedness to respond to inevitable climate impacts.

The special report will include nine chapters, three of which will be about managing the risk, focusing on the different levels of organization - community based responses, national scale responses and international responses.

Two main case studies will be carried out throughout all chapters, while Chapter 9 will be dedicated to case studies.

A representative of the UN's International Strategy for Disaster Reduction will be part of the Steering Committee.

Based in Geneva, Switzerland, the IPCC is a scientific intergovernmental body set up by the World Meteorological Organization and by the United Nations Environment Programme. The body was awarded the 2007 Nobel Prize for Peace jointly with former U.S. Vice President Al Gore.

The IPCC does not conduct any research nor does it monitor climate related data or parameters. Its role is to assess on a "comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis" the latest scientific, technical and socio-economic literature produced worldwide relevant to the understanding of the risk of human-induced climate change, its observed and projected impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation, the organization says on its website, adding that "IPCC reports should be neutral with respect to policy."

Special reports of the IPCC follow the same comprehensive proceedings as the assessment reports, taking into consideration all the relevant scientific literature produced worldwide, with a multistage review process and geographical balance in the composition of the authors' teams.