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Transcript
Climate change vulnerability and adaptation research at TERI: methods,
experiences, and future possibilities
Ulka Kelkar, Associate Fellow, TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute), India
Presentation abstract for the Second AIACC Asia-Pacific Regional Workshop,
Philippines, 2-5 November 2004
Climate change is projected to have differential impacts across regions, sectors, and
communities. India, in particular, with its large and growing population, densely
populated and low-lying coastline, and an economy that is closely tied to its natural
resource base, is highly vulnerable to climate change. The need therefore exists to
understand more clearly the range of possible impacts, to determine which locations and
systems may be most vulnerable, and to explore appropriate adaptation strategies. Recent
climate change vulnerability and adaptation research at TERI has employed a range of
methods - empirical observations, statistical modelling, index development, GIS
mapping, and stakeholder participation.
In a case study of the Lakhwar watershed in northern India, it was found that about 1500
km2 of the total 4000 km2 of the watershed receives an annual runoff of less than 1250
mm, and is highly sensitive to increased water stress due to climate change. To asses the
relative vulnerability of India's coastline to 1-m sea level rise, indicators of economic
activity, infrastructure development, coastal water, ground water, and mangrove
vegetation were used to grade and rank districts. Greater Bombay and Chennai emerged
as the coastal districts where coastal ecosystems are already stressed due to extant human
activity, and which are also the most vulnerable to sea level rise. These megacities
already have pressing planning concerns due to high ground water needs, aggravated by
salinity problems. For India's agriculture sector, a district-level vulnerability profile was
developed assuming that climate change exposure will affect current sensitivity, and that
farmers will respond to these changes if they have sufficient adaptive capacity. It was
found that districts with the highest climate sensitivity are not necessarily the most
vulnerable. Case studies within districts revealed how socioeconomic factors like
cropping patterns, asset ownership, and access to services can create marked differences
in adaptive capacity.
Such research can have practical relevance in helping focus adaptation efforts by
identifying areas where climate change will exacerbate current stresses and have
potentially severe economic consequences. While methods like vulnerability mapping
can provide an effective visual representation of spatial differentiation in climate impacts,
community involvement is essential to understanding the capacity to cope with impacts.
One of the most important lessons learnt is the need to study climate change in the
context of multiple stresses, like globalization and urbanization. Critical for the
formulation of adaptation strategies is the appreciation that existing national and regional
policies can enhance or constrain ability to adapt to climate change.