Politics Of Climate Change

Adaptation to climate change: An emerging science

Adaptation to climate change is growing rapidly around the world both in practice as well as in the research community. This was amply demonstrated at the recent International Conference on Adaptation Futures held at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona in the United States of America from May 29 to 31. There were over 700 participants from all over the world, including a significant number from developing countries, and over two hundred papers were presented on various aspects of adaptation.
This was in fact the second international conference on Adaptation Science with the first having been held in Australia in 2010. These Adaptation Science conferences will now be held every two years under the aegis of a major new scientific initiative on vulnerability, impacts and adaptation to climate change called PROVIA, which is jointly supported by Unep, WMO and Unesco. The next conference will be held in Fortaleza, Brazil in 2014.
The Adaptation Futures conference in Tucson signified a rapid development of our understanding of adaptation science in several ways. A few are described below:

Some early lessons from Adaptation Science:
Firstly, adaptation to climate change is no longer seen as only something that concerns poor developing countries. There is now considerable attention being paid to adaptation in richer countries as was demonstrated by presentations from the US, Europe, Japan and a large number from Australia, which is perhaps taking adaptation most seriously.
The second significant finding was that in order to carry out research on adaptation the academic researchers cannot do it alone as adaptation is a learning-by-doing process and hence there needs to be close collaboration between the researchers and practitioners. The Arizona conference had many more practitioners than the previous meeting in Australia.
The third emerging issue is the potential for genuine collaboration on an equal footing between researchers from developed and developing countries as the former have access to higher levels of technology but the latter have the experiential knowledge. Adaptation science thus has the potential to find synergies between top-down and bottom-up research.

Bangladesh's role:
It was interesting to note that Bangladesh featured in significant ways at the conference in Tucson.
There were a number of papers presented on Bangladesh by a combination of Bangladeshi researchers studying or working in USA, Europe and Australia, foreign researchers who had done their field work in Bangladesh and Bangladeshi researchers working in Bangladesh from Buet and Khulna University.
The organisers of the conference in Arizona provided funding for fifty young researchers from developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America on a competitive basis depending on the quality of the abstracts submitted. The largest cohort from a single country was from Bangladesh.
Thus, Bangladesh is beginning to make its mark on the global adaptation science scene.
With continued support to carry our research on adaptation to climate change Bangladeshi researchers have the potential to make an even bigger contribution to the next Adaptation Science conference.

The writer is senior fellow at the London based International Institute for Environment and Development and Director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development at the Independent University, Bangladesh. E-mail: [email protected]


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