Report from the SREX-conference

SREX, you might ask?

That is the cool lingo for the new IPCC report on extreme weather, a so-called Special Report. The Norwegian government, aka the Ministry of foreign affairs and the Climate and pollution agency, arranged a two days’ conference about the SREX this week. Kudos for the initiative! Main themes were climate adjustment and disaster risk reduction. A lot of cool people were invited to speak, a.o. a bunch of people involved in the work of making the report, and the first day was mainly about discussing the most important conclusions from the SREX.

These people spoke on the first day:

A bunch of us from Spire attended the conference as well. Here we are, all bold and beautiful:

Now, what did we learn?
A whole lot of things. It was very interesting both to listen to the participants and join in on the debates.

Some key points to take home:

There is a clear link between human behaviour and increase in extreme weather.

Losses as a result from extreme weather is highly unequally distributed. Between the period of 1970 and 2008, 95% of the people killed because of extreme weather, died in countries in the South. Economic losses are also unfair: while developed countries has to repair damages for 0,1% of their GDP, the relative number for developing countries is between 1 and 8%. There are tremendous challenges for developing nations to cope with the extreme weather. And it is likely to increase.

The temperature is rising, and will continue to rise. Even small changes in mean temperature will lead to big differences in extreme weather, as you can see from this:

Now, the conference was, as mentioned, focusing on adaptation and means of reducing risk and vulnerability. Now, there is a debate going on about the relationship between adaptation and mitigation. While there is no doubt that mitigation is needed, and is without a doubt the most important thing we can do concerning the climate changes, there is still a need for adaptation.

I am one of those people who think that increased adaptation doesn’t necessarily mean less mitigation. Rather, I believe that there has got to be a way of keeping these two things in mind at the same time. Obviously, there has got to be an increased political effort on mitigation, but at the same time, we must try to reduse the number of lives lost due to poor adaptation and a lack of adressing vulnerability issues.

As we already know, the people who suffer from extreme weather is the people that already is worst off. That is what it’s like now, and that would be the case even if climate changes didn’t occur. Something must be done about that. The rich countries, which are in fact most responsible for the climate changes, are best off, because we have the money to prepare ourselves better for extreme weather. Thus, we have the responsibility to try to create good risk reduction strategies and adaptation systems in the countries where it’s needed.

What was good about the report, is that it offers some suggestions as to what can be done, like for example better education, involvement of children and youth and early warning systems.

Even so, what it basically comes down to is that in order to actually take adaptive measures, we depend upon good government. There has to be political will and resources to make this happen. When a country lacks basic infrastructure, and in addition has poor local and national governance, there is very little to be done. The SREX, or any other report for that matter, has yet to come with solutions as to how we can actually change societies to meet these challenges. The underlying structures that causes both climate change and unequal distribution has to be adressed, and as we all know, this is no easy task.

Karen O’brien contributed with some wise words during the two days the conference lasted (which perhaps made her one of my favourite academics): Changing the system and combating climate changes really has to begin with changing our minds and the way we think. In order to make real changes, the entire global society has to change. That is the only way we can reach our goals.

And that makes me more certain than ever that biologists, climate researchers, scientists and politicians isn’t enough. It all comes down to people; and what we need is people who understand people, society and how minds work, in order to create a desirable society. We have to ask ourselves: What kind of society do we really want in the future? Only when we know the answer to that, can we establish goals and make strategies in order to fulfill them.

And that makes me think that there might be a use for me in this grand scheme of things after all.

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