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Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change

Climate change and disaster risk reduction (DRR) are closely linked. Increased extreme weather events in the future are likely to increase the number and scale of disasters while the existing methods and tools of DRR provide powerful capacities for adaptation to climate change.

DRR in a changing climate

The Bali Action Plan was agreed by Parties to the UNFCCC in Bali, Indonesia, December 2007 as the basis for developing a new international agreement on climate change. The Plan states that adaptation requires consideration of “disaster reduction strategies and means to address loss and damage associated with climate change impacts in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change”. However, the climate is changing and higher rainfall, changing temperatures and rising sea levels will make disasters more frequent and unpredictable in the future. Climate change therefore poses considerable challenges for those battling to reduce the changing disaster risks – calling into question the suitability of ongoing DRR practice to reduce current and future disasters. For example, growing attention and debate highlight the need for DRR: to give greater emphasis to slow onset disasters (rather than extreme one-off events); to re-think how calculations of risk are undertaken; and how DRR interventions design incorporate climate modeling and uncertainty.

DRR and Climate Change Adaptation

Disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation (CCA) share common goals as both fields aim to reduce the vulnerability of communities and achieve sustainable development. As a result, there are growing efforts to closely link DRR and climate change adaptation, both in policy and practice to enable improved and more effective interventions. However, as highlighted in the readings recommended below, there are also a number of important differences. DRR deals with all hazards, including geophysical hazards (i.e volcanos). CCA deals exclusively with climate related hazards associated with changes in the average mean climate conditions. Both CCA and DRR aim to reduce the impact of hydro-meteorological hazards, but on different timeframes. Most significantly, CCA aims to help communities undertake long-term adjustment to changing average climate conditions, DRR focuses on dealing with short-term occurrences. Nevertheless, there is a considerable overlap between them although their agendas have evolved separately and integration between them is still limited. Most development and humanitarian organisations are still seeking effective integration, conceptually as well as operationally but this is still very much work in progress.

Recommended reading...

Disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation: closing the gap
T. Mitchell; M. Van Aalst; I. Douglas / id21 Development Research Reporting Service 2008
There is significant overlap between the practice and theory of disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation. However, there is limited coherence and convergence in institutions, organisations and policy frameworks. Bot...
Towards mainstreaming disaster risk reduction into the planning process of road construction
Asian Disaster Preparedness Center 2008
With particular reference to Asian countries, this paper discusses the mainstreaming of disaster risk reduction into the planning process of road construction. It highlights some areas of learning in this process, provides some recomm...
Tools for mainstreaming disaster risk reduction: guidance notes for development organisations
C. Benson; J. Twigg / ProVention Consortium 2007
How to mainstream disaster risk reduction into the work of development organisations? This ProVention paper aims to support the efforts of development organisations in mainstreaming disaster risk reduction into their work. It provides...
Mainstreaming disaster risk reduction: a tool for development organisations
S. La Trobe; I. Davis / Tearfund 2005
In recent years a large amount of work has been done to increase awareness of disaster risk reduction (DRR) within the context of development. Much remains to be achieved, however, before it acts to effectively reduce loss of life, li...
Legislation for mainstreaming disaster risk reduction
M. Pelling; A. Holloway / Tearfund 2006
Legislation is crucial for mainstreaming disaster risk reduction (DRR) into development. This report aims to support national and donor governments to develop and improve their DRR legislation. The report: reviews exis...
Integrated risk management to protect drinking water and sanitation services facing natural disasters
P. Mcintyre (ed) / IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre 2008
This guide provides updated information for professionals, agencies, and authorities in the health, drinking water and sanitation sectors on alternatives for strategic interventions to combat risks inherent in drinking water...
Managing the risks of extreme events and disasters to advance climate change adaptation
C., B. Field (ed); V. Barros (ed); T., F. Stocker (ed) / Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2012
This Summary for Policymakers presents key findings from the Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX). It assesses scientific literature on issues that range from...
Climate change and local level Disaster Risk Reduction planning: need, opportunities and challenges
S.V.R.K. Prabhakar; A. Srinivasan; R. Shaw / Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network: Indore Initiative 2009
This paper examines strategic disaster risk reduction and what needs to be done to get reliable estimates of future climate change impacts. It looks at problems in the existing disaster risk management planning and highlights the need...
A better climate for disaster risk management
International Research Institute for Climate and Society 2011
This paper highlights recent advances in the use of climate information to improve livelihoods and save lives. By analysing experiences like that of the Red Cross in West Africa, it takes stock of the needs and capabilities of the hum...