Adapting to climate change: some observations

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<ul><li><p>This article was downloaded by: [Tulane University]On: 11 October 2014, At: 05:58Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House,37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK</p><p>Building Research &amp; InformationPublication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:</p><p>Adapting to climate change: some observationsDavid Rousseaua Urban Design Ecology , P.O. Box 38, Manson's Landing, B.C. VOP 1K0, Canada E-mail:Published online: 13 May 2010.</p><p>To cite this article: David Rousseau (2004) Adapting to climate change: some observations , Building Research &amp; Information,32:1, 58-60, DOI: 10.1080/0961321032000148505</p><p>To link to this article:</p><p>PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE</p><p>Taylor &amp; Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (the Content) containedin the publications on our platform. However, Taylor &amp; Francis, our agents, and our licensors make norepresentations or warranties whatsoever as to the accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of theContent. Any opinions and views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors, andare not the views of or endorsed by Taylor &amp; Francis. The accuracy of the Content should not be relied upon andshould be independently verified with primary sources of information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable forany losses, actions, claims, proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilities whatsoeveror howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to or arising out of the use ofthe Content.</p><p>This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Any substantial or systematicreproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing, systematic supply, or distribution in anyform to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms &amp; Conditions of access and use can be found at</p><p></p></li><li><p>Forum</p><p>Adapting to climate change:some observations</p><p>David Rousseau</p><p>Urban Design Ecology, P.O. Box 38,Mansons Landing, B.C.VOP 1K0,CanadaE-mail:</p><p>There is an often-cited metaphoric tale of a</p><p>frog placed in a kettle of cold water on a hot</p><p>stove. As the water warms, the frog is quite</p><p>comfortable, even complacent. His sensory</p><p>adaptation progresses with the warming</p><p>water, so that no danger is detected until it</p><p>is too late.</p><p>The classic model of stimulusresponse systems</p><p>in organisms assumes a continuous and linear</p><p>progression from a sensory signal, through</p><p>judgement and decision leading to a response.</p><p>However, there are also sensory adaptations</p><p>involved that can deceive. Furthermore, in the</p><p>human species, there is an uncommon ability</p><p>to rationalize disturbing observations.</p><p>The Building Research &amp; Information special</p><p>issue (2003, 31[34]) Preparing for Climate</p><p>Change: Adapting the Built Environment pro-</p><p>duced some welcome surprise and some disap-</p><p>pointment. With the overwhelming emphasis</p><p>of climate change information and response</p><p>focused on mitigation, it was refreshing and</p><p>even encouraging to discover that there was</p><p>an active discourse on adaptation. This is par-</p><p>ticularly true in consideration of the evidence</p><p>that no amount of probable mitigation mea-</p><p>sures are likely to affect the established green-</p><p>house gas trends and resulting climate changes</p><p>for several decades. However, each paper still</p><p>seemed to contain a similar preamble: climate</p><p>change is highly probable, albeit not precisely</p><p>predictable and perfectly linked to anthropo-</p><p>genic greenhouse gases; there is doubt about</p><p>climate outcomes, especially in particular</p><p>locales, but enough trends are apparent to</p><p>make a case, etc., therefore . . . .</p><p>Is it still actually necessary to produce ratio-</p><p>nales for climate change action in view of the</p><p>substantial evidence that both mitigation mea-</p><p>sures and some adaptation measures are actu-</p><p>ally economically productive and lead to risk</p><p>reduction and social benefit?</p><p>Although it is encouraging just how much cli-</p><p>mate change adaptation debate there was in</p><p>the special issue, given the lack of profile gen-</p><p>erally afforded to adaptation, it is evident that</p><p>most is framed in the form of policy and</p><p>action postulates that precede an actual</p><p>research and action agenda. This raises several</p><p>questions:</p><p> How is an agenda set as research pro-</p><p>blems emerge?</p><p> How are resources allocated to the</p><p>research that are proportional to its capa-</p><p>city to improve future outcomes?</p><p> How does research guide and motivate</p><p>policy and action programmes?</p><p>The latter question is perhaps the most signifi-</p><p>cant with regards to climate change given the</p><p>tendency for political systems to respond to</p><p>newsworthy or immediate and pressing cir-</p><p>cumstances.</p><p>Larssons (2003) observation in Canada that</p><p>adaptation is more acceptable to the public</p><p>than mitigation, perhaps simply because citi-</p><p>zens can readily respond to disaster prepared-</p><p>ness out of self-interest, is very revealing.</p><p>Mitigation scenarios propose actions, such as</p><p>changes to energy use patterns and technolo-</p><p>gies, some of which are economically painful</p><p>in the short term. Mitigation actions are rela-</p><p>tively simple in their scope: conserve fossil</p><p>energy, shift to renewables, modify some</p><p>agricultural and industrial practices, etc.</p><p>Unfortunately, these proposals are weak and</p><p>unconvincing to many with regard to the</p><p>potential benefits for the individual, especially</p><p>in the short term. They are therefore politi-</p><p>cally unpopular. Adaptation measures, on the</p><p>other hand, are wide in scope, ranging from</p><p>more climate-resistant building materials to</p><p>changes in land-use policy and possible reloca-</p><p>tion of entire populations. Some of these</p><p>clearly also present major political challenges,</p><p>but at least have the benefit of offering some</p><p>tangible and relatively immediate benefits to</p><p>the populace.</p><p>The good news that many adaptation mea-</p><p>sures are also mitigation measures, well</p><p>defined by Mills (2003) with regard to the</p><p>insurance and lending industries, suggests that</p><p>where political motivation to pursue aggres-</p><p>sive mitigation measures is lacking, it may be</p><p>expedient to promote adaptation steps and</p><p>thereby enhance mitigation. Unfortunately,</p><p>this is not a simple solution. As Lowe (2003)</p><p>pointed out, there are also significant conflicts</p><p>between mitigation and adaptation that neces-</p><p>sitate a careful, integrated response.</p><p>Larssons further observation that adaptation</p><p>may be politically problematic, because it is</p><p>an admission that mitigation alone cannot</p><p>form a complete response, is also very signi-</p><p>ficant. However, by the same reasoning,</p><p>BUILDING RESEARCH &amp; INFORMATION (JanuaryFebruary 2004) 32(1), 5860</p><p>Building Research &amp; Information ISSN 0961-3218 print ISSN 1466-4321 online # 2004 Taylor &amp; Francis Ltdhttp: journals</p><p>DOI: 10.1080 0961321032000148505</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Tul</p><p>ane </p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity] </p><p>at 0</p><p>5:58</p><p> 11 </p><p>Oct</p><p>ober</p><p> 201</p><p>4 </p></li><li><p>adaptation may not even be in the lexicon of</p><p>governments and research agencies that ignore</p><p>or deny climate change and the consequent</p><p>need for mitigation. In this quarter, the pro-</p><p>found silence around adaptation is usually</p><p>accompanied by the shrill rationalizations for</p><p>mitigation inaction.</p><p>Notably absent also was a thorough evalua-</p><p>tion of international development needs for</p><p>adaptation aid, research and policy.</p><p>Hundreds of millions of the worlds poor live</p><p>in regions extremely vulnerable to climate</p><p>change by flood, extreme winds, drought, pol-</p><p>lution of water supplies, landslides, changing</p><p>disease vectors, etc. These populations have</p><p>the least access to emergency services, financial</p><p>aid and technological adaptations. Without</p><p>the aid to make possible adjustments now, will</p><p>these people become the climate change refu-</p><p>gees of the future? Are international develop-</p><p>ment agencies anticipating and responding to</p><p>these nascent urban crises?</p><p>There is a partial answer in du Plessis et al.s</p><p>(2003) poignant description of urban develop-</p><p>ment pressures and needs among the majority</p><p>poor of South Africa. The social issues and</p><p>political realities here are about survival and</p><p>basic services. Under these urgent conditions,</p><p>it is very difficult to use resources for research</p><p>and action towards any anticipated future</p><p>needs, whether produced by climate change</p><p>or otherwise. It is even more difficult to justify</p><p>climate change mitigation measures when it is</p><p>the worlds rich who have fuelled the problem.</p><p>This is an international development conun-</p><p>drum, since many adaptation and mitigation</p><p>measures, such as better climate adapted, dur-</p><p>able and secure homes, could save money for</p><p>those who may spend over half their income</p><p>on maintaining shelter. This type of aid could</p><p>thereby help redress the essential nutrition,</p><p>education and healthcare shortfalls that the</p><p>poor suffer.</p><p>There appears to be a potent linkage here for</p><p>international development agencies to exploit.</p><p>Understanding risks from climate change and</p><p>preparing management plans can produce an</p><p>aid agenda that not only averts future crises,</p><p>but also, carefully guided, can produce social</p><p>and economic benefits for the most needy.</p><p>Some of these efforts might be fundable by</p><p>international greenhouse gas offset purchases</p><p>(carbon credits), others by enlightened gov-</p><p>ernments that see the future savings in emer-</p><p>gency aid and refugee costs.</p><p>It would have been refreshing to hear from the</p><p>Netherlands where the pressing reality of</p><p>threats to the lowlands is driving a great deal</p><p>of adaptation policy, and where vigorous miti-</p><p>gation actions are also underway.1 There are</p><p>probably many lessons available there for</p><p>developing nations with lowland populations,</p><p>if technologically and financially transferable.</p><p>Shimodas (2003) analysis of Japans adapta-</p><p>tion factors is probably representative of many</p><p>densely populated, highly developed nations</p><p>where climate change, exacerbated by urban</p><p>heat effects, is likely to affect air-conditioning</p><p>demand. However, as an island nation with</p><p>many urban areas on harbour fill, there is the</p><p>added complexity that changes in the level of</p><p>the water table may have serious effects on the</p><p>outcomes of the seismic events that Japan is so</p><p>familiar with. Similar geologic and urban cir-</p><p>cumstances exist on the West Coast of the</p><p>Americas. This is an example of the common-</p><p>ality of some adaptation needs, and the</p><p>uniqueness of others that research must</p><p>address. Clearly, the agenda must contain</p><p>both universal components and those that are</p><p>specifically adapted to the region. This charac-</p><p>teristic of adaptation needs again distinguishes</p><p>it from mitigation measures that tend to be</p><p>more universal types.</p><p>For the UK, some serious and practical adap-</p><p>tation questions and possible responses are</p><p>posed. These include more durable, adaptable</p><p>and repairable buildings, better readiness for</p><p>extreme storm events, energy efficiency and</p><p>comfort improvements, etc. However, Hertin</p><p>et al.s (2003) surveys of the UK house build-</p><p>ing sector uncovered some deep faith in the</p><p>emergence of technological solutions for cli-</p><p>mate change adaptation. This may be a rea-</p><p>sonable expectation insofar as building</p><p>designs and technologies can respond to shift-</p><p>ing temperature, humidity, precipitation and</p><p>wind. However, expecting reliable, affordable</p><p>and acceptable technology for flood control in</p><p>the lowlands is probably highly optimistic.</p><p>Furthermore, the ability of the building sector</p><p>to respond to climate change is always highly</p><p>limited by the degree of adapted urban infra-</p><p>structure available to it.</p><p>The technocratic view evident within the UK</p><p>house building sector is probably indicative of</p><p>many practically based sectors in all regions.</p><p>When a problem emerges, practical people use</p><p>their wits to generate solutions. This is their</p><p>strength. However, the technical aspects of</p><p>mitigation and adaptation mask the deep</p><p>social, institutional and psychological patterns</p><p>that underlie human settlements, any one of</p><p>which may be even more intractable than the</p><p>technical. For example, if adaptation measures</p><p>for urban development on a floodplain area</p><p>are technically and financially unfeasible,</p><p>what are the likely results? History has shown</p><p>that people who are flooded will resist reloca-</p><p>tion pressure, attempt to repair and rebuild,</p><p>seek legal recourse and massive compensation</p><p>for what was patently an untenable location.</p><p>This is the way a person defends their chosen</p><p>home. In terms of public policy, there is so</p><p>much market pressure to allow new develop-</p><p>ment on cheap and available floodplain lands</p><p>that many civic administrations cannot resist.</p><p>The result is that future calamities are being</p><p>engineered every day.</p><p>In a house building industry looking to the</p><p>market for a rationale for innovation, a mar-</p><p>ket edge, there is a classic paradox. Adoption</p><p>costs for advanced features such as energy effi-</p><p>ciency and durability, which can be both</p><p>adaptation and mitigation measures for cli-</p><p>mate change, are borne by the developer/</p><p>builder. However, the benefits in the long-</p><p>term accrue to the owner in the form of</p><p>reduced costs of operation and maintenance,</p><p>and a better resale value. Some benefits may</p><p>accrue to lenders, insurers and governments.</p><p>Property markets have been notably slow to</p><p>place a fair price on this type of value-added</p><p>feature in housing, dominated as they are by</p><p>selling location, fashion, floor area, and exotic</p><p>baths and kitchens.</p><p>This dilemma seems to be the obvious place</p><p>for the insurance industry, lenders and govern-</p><p>ment regulators to step in if climate change is</p><p>to be seriously addressed. These are agencies</p><p>that can enjoy the value of more durable,</p><p>energy efficient and extreme weather-resistant</p><p>homes in the form of reduced risk of losses,</p><p>reduced draws for disaster relief, and more</p><p>stable resale value. However, this is unlikely</p><p>to happen so long as indeterminate risks are</p><p>readily uploaded from the development and</p><p>building industry to financial institutions and</p><p>governments. This is an obvious focal point</p><p>for policy and regulatory reform.</p><p>Furthermore, those providers of social hous-</p><p>ing, such as housing trusts and government</p><p>agencies, are perhaps better motivated to pur-</p><p>sue climate change adaptation than the private</p><p>market. This is simply because they are gener-</p><p>ally long-term holders and managers of pro-</p><p>perties. These agencies already engage in</p><p>strategic planning and management studies</p><p>that shape their policies, and can therefore add</p><p>adaptation to their agendas.</p><p>In the climate change discourse, there is also a</p><p>notable lack of emphasis on the need for adap-</p><p>tation of urban systems and infrastructure.</p><p>Many urban areas are vulnerable to storm</p><p>events, have obsolete sanitary sewers, inade-</p><p>quate storm drainage syst...</p></li></ul>