Local communities adapt to the threats of climate change
November 14, 2012
Typically we tend to associate climate change with low-lying coastal regions, and in some cases with the daunting impacts it has in low-income communities.
But the fact of the matter is that climate change also affects inland cities in central Europe. This isn’t just a phenomenon that occurs in regions typically characterized by warmer weather.
To be more specific, we’re talking about the province of Tyrol in Western Austria; an inland region with over 700,000 inhabitants and 9 districts up high in the mountains that each year is increasingly exposed to devastating cases of rock falls, unpredictable landslides and flooding.
And to make matters worse – and not just for this particular region – a notable climate change in recent decades has brought on additional risks.
According to Andres Koler, Chief Risk Analyst at alpS - Centre for Climate Change Adaptation Technologies, the temperature in Tyrol has risen by almost 2°C, causing large areas of glaciers to melt from mountain sides. Droughts, heat waves and freshwater disruptions are just some of the new risks faced by the community today.
To adapt to these changing conditions, the state of Tyrol implemented a “community-based risk assessment” plan to bring together the collaborative efforts of “the public sector, private sector and the scientific community”.
Early warning systems for avalanches and flooding are just some of the measures in place, even mountain rescue services.
But at the core, what’s truly innovative is how local stakeholders were involved in the process. The idea was to “capture local knowledge/experiences through bottom-up risk assessment workshops”. Anyone with relevant knowledge was able to form part of these assessment teams.
It didn’t just stop there. The teams then received training specific to their duties as well as ongoing support… a step in the right direction to forge a “stronger integration of municipalities and local communities”.
However, the province of Tyrol is not the only actor getting local stakeholders involved.
Across the globe in the low-lying coasts of Asia, in Iloilo (Philippines), a wooden walkway was constructed in a humble community to allow for “people to get in and out of their houses… to go to work, to go to school, event at times when the ground underneath was flooded”— David Dodman, Senior Researcher at International Institute for Environment and Development in London. And in Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic) stairs were built by the local community on a steep hill to enable disaster evacuations.
In all these cases, we clearly see local stakeholders taking part in the process of adaptation at the community level. This movement is truly about recognizing that communities themselves have the knowledge and skills that will help them manage risk.
David emphasized that engaging in community-wide measures is clearly the way and that “the most effective adaptation to disaster risk reduction actions are those that offer development benefits in the relatively near term, as well as reductions in vulnerability over the long-term”.
Learn more about how these communities adapted to climate change, watch the Webinar on Stakeholders in risk assessments and adaptation.
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This blogpost was written by Álvaro Ibargüen Villa, ICLEI Communications Department