Preparedness for climate change, a study to assess the future impact of climatic changes upon the frequency and severity of disasters and the implications for humanitarian response and preparedness

06-12-2003 Report

Document prepared by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in cooperation with the Netherlands Red Cross, 28th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, Geneva, 2 to 6 December 2003

 Executive summary  

  •  Weather-related disasters are increasing: affecting 2.5 billion people and inflicting more than US$ 400 billion of damage over the past decade. These figures reflect an alarming rise in vulnerability to extreme weather events.

  •  Climate change is already happening and it's here to stay: It is very likely that the global mean surface temperature in the 20th century has risen by about 0,6 °C. The 1990s was the warmest decade, and 1998 was the warmest year on record. This century is expected to see warming quicker than at any time in the past 10,000 years, the modern history of humankind .  

  •  Climate change will have a variety of impacts : it is likely to lead to a rise in sea level, more droughts, floods, heat waves, water shortages, and increased threats to human health.

  •  Climate change will hit the poor hardest: climate change will disproportionately affect developing countries, and poor people within all countries.

  •  Impacts will be unpredictable: a country may be hit by drought one year and floods the next. Every government ans National Society should assess the range of risks and plan to reduce vulnerability accordingly.

  •  Precautionary principle: a key element of the 1992 UN climate change convention is that a lack of scientific certainty is not an excuse for inaction.

  •  Adaptation is essential: we cannot prevent climate change altogether so we must adapt. That means integrating risk reduction strategies into humanitarian and development strategies.

  •  Seven steps for reducing risk: adapting to climate change requires a particular focus on disaster risk reduction. Only preparing to respond to disaster is not enough. The seven steps towards risk reduction are: carry out climate risk assessment, assess priorities and plan follow-up, raise awareness, establish and enhance partnerships, highlight vulnerability with other actors, document and share experiences, shape global response through advocacy.

  •  National Societies can make a major contribution to global efforts: All four core areas of the Federation Strategy 2010 - disaster preparedness, disaster response, health and care in the community, and principles and humanitarian values – are critical elements of the response to weather and climate related disasters. The global network of volunteers working with communities on the frontline of disaster enables the International Federation to inject a humanitarian dimension into global development policy. And the mandate for   relief, development and health care enables the Federation to integrate disaster risk reduction across multiple sectors.

  •  Act now – in partnership with the world's most vulnerable people, so that they do not suffer the consequences of inaction.


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