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Development Impacts

Man collecting water bigClimate change and development are inextricably linked, both in terms of impacts and necessary and possible responses. Climate change adds a burden to the question of water stress. Complex science and the IPCC emissions scenarios project higher temperatures to affect all aspects of the hydrological cycle. As a result, such changes to the hydrological cycle will increase risks associated with inadequate access, including greater food insecurity, disease burden and low availability of livelihood assets (in particular land, labour and finance). Climate change will also impact the extent and productivity of both irrigated and rainfed agriculture across the globe. For example, reductions in river runoff and aquifer recharge are expected in the Mediterranean basin and in the semi-arid areas of the Americas, Australia and southern Africa, affecting water availability in regions that are already water stressed (FAO, 2011).

Climate change is foreseen to affect both the livelihoods of rural communities and the food security of a predominantly growing urban population worldwide. The rural poor are expected to be the most vulnerable and are likely to be disproportionally affected, “Four of the world’s poorest nations top the list of the 12 countries at the highest risk”. There is also a danger that in the absence of more effective governance of water, localized resource conflicts could increase. Development impacts manifest in different ways in different geographic scales (local, national, regional, and river basins). For example, the key vulnerabilities to climate change in the Nile basin vary from one country to the other. In Egypt, there are long term water security concerns; for Sudan and Ethiopia, there are high risks of extreme events and concerns over food security; for Lake Victoria basin region, climate change vulnerabilities concern extreme events such as flooding and its associated risks. In this sense, the Nile basin provides a rich context to showcase how different approaches are important to strengthen regional resilience to cope and adapt with climate change future risks.

The existing adaptation and mitigation approaches mostly address land and water management practices to create resilience to climate and to enhance water security. Adaptation is mainly about water management, and ultimately about maximizing welfare over time; it can be also perceived as “an adjustment in ecological, social or economic systems in response to observed or expected changes in climatic stimuli and their effects and impacts” . In terms of mitigation, the IPCC indicates that action to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases can limit the severity and pace of climate change. Without such mitigation action, global mean temperature is likely to pass the internationally agreed limit of 2 degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels at some point this century, possibly before 2050.

In order to alleviate adverse impacts of change, or take advantage of new opportunities, two dimensions are especially important for analysing adaptation strategies: the first one is the presence of deep uncertainty and timing issues, which complicate the task of decision makers; the second one is the need to clarify the specific role of government intervention . Dynamic adaptation and mitigation measures imply a good understanding the impact of climate change on available water resources and on agricultural systems and require a set of policy choices, investments and managerial changes to address them.

Water and climate change adaptation: policies to navigate uncharted waters
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development 2013
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) survey and report setting out the climate adaptation challenge for freshwater management, and providing policy guidance. Climate change is reshaping the future for f...
Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability
C.B. Field; V.R. Barros; M.D. Mastrandrea / Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2014
Summary for policymakers on climate change impacts, vulnerability, and adaptation, based on the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report. As part of the Working Group II (WGII) contribution to the fifth assessment report of the Intergovern...
Adaptation to climate change in water, sanitation and hygiene: Assessing risks, appraising options in Africa
N. Oates; I. Ross; R. Calow; R. Carter; J. Doczi / Overseas Development Institute 2014
This Overseas Development Institute report assesses the risks of, and appraises options for adapting to, climate change in the areas of water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) in Africa. The report begins by presenting the context and r...
Guidance on water and adaptation to climate change
Economic Commission for Europe, UN 2009
Comprehensive United Nations guidance on water-related climate change adaptation strategies. Evidence to date suggest that water resources are highly vulnerable to climate change impacts, representing a grave risk to regions ar...
The political economy of climate change and development
T. Tanner (ed); S. Nelson (ed) / Institute of Development Studies, Sussex [ES] 2011
Climate change financing initiatives have emerged as a prominent part of international development activities through the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and it has become evident that political factors are vital in ensurin...
Climate change, water resources and WASH: a scoping study
R. Calow (ed); H. Bonsor (ed); L. Jones (ed) / Overseas Development Institute [ES] 2011
It has been predicted that water will be the primary medium through which early climate change impacts will be felt by people, ecosystems and economies. However, scientific analysis and water policy do not appear to be giving enough a...
Climate change, water and food security
E. Ludi (ed) / Overseas Development Institute [ES] 2009
Agriculture constitutes the backbone of most African economies. Climate change is, however, posing the greatest threat to agriculture and food security in the 21st century, particularly in many of the poor, agriculture-based countries...
Adaptation to climate change in international river basins in Africa: a review
M. Goulden (ed); D. Conway (ed); A. Persechino (ed) / Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research 2008
Africa’s fresh water resources, which are under pressure, are vital to the support of livelihoods, food security and power generation, as well as growing domestic and industrial needs. This paper reviews literature on climate ch...
Vulnerability of arid and semi-arid regions to climate change: impacts and adaptive strategies
This perspective document, part of the 16-paper series on water and climate change adaptation, focuses on the impacts and adaptive strategies in arid and semi-arid regions. The series reflect the central topic of the 5th World Water F...
Climate change and development links
S. Huq; H. Reid; L.A. Murray / Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Livelihoods Programme, IIED 2006
Part of the Gatekeeper Series produced by the Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Livelihoods Programme at IIED, this paper charts the evolution of climate change and development study and shows why the two fields have, until recently, ...