Last week, the much awaited 4000 page report on Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) arrived to deliver the news – we’re now at the crucial moment when action must either be taken as soon as possible or our options narrow with each delay. What struck me, was that many of the challenges in adaptation, as noted by scientists in their evaluation, resemble the challenges we see in international development programming to alleviate poverty.
Money not being spent properly, projects ill-designed or unsuitable for their locale, uneven distribution of mitigation funds and solutions, all the problems in fact with top-down, expert-led approaches to solving people’s problems that don’t seem to optimize or plan for scarce resources. Maladaptation was identified as a key challenge in Chapter 8, for example, where investments end up benefiting those who are already privileged rather than the more vulnerable population groups.
Climate change impacts affect the entire planet, not just certain geographies. The current narrative in mainstream media tends to focus on the same or similar themes as that of international development – look at the poor countries and their vulnerables who are being harder hit by the changing weather conditions, and many of the mitigation strategies carry an undertone of sacrifice. These narratives are unlikely to have much impact or traction for effecting the kinds of transformations required.
Can they not be changed to a more positive and optimistic approach of resilience and recovery from the pandemic? To highlight opportunities for healthier lifestyles? Whatever they may be, my concern is that the current trend resembles the tactics of the poverty industrial complex far too much and its results have yet to make the kind of large scale impacts even after decades of effort.
We can technically “afford” to allow parts of the planet to remain less developed, spinning their wheels, but we can’t afford to allow the planet to not respond holistically to its own socio-environmental changes.