, February 5, 2009 (ENS) - A new international network of resource managers, scientists and decision-makers is being forged to help some of the most vulnerable ecosystems and societies cope with the impacts of global climate change.
The Ecosystems and Livelihoods Adaptation Network, or ELAN, is being created as a collaboration between two of the world's largest environmental organizations - the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and WWF International - both based in the Swiss town of Gland.
ELAN's formation will be bankrolled with a $2 million grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the organizations announced Tuesday. The funding will enable more institutions to participate and establish ELAN as an effective network to face the adaptation challenge, they said.
"This generous grant from the MacArthur Foundation will enable WWF and IUCN to develop and implement important measures that will help protect fragile ecosystems and the societies whose livelihoods they support," said Carter Roberts, president and chief executive of WWF.
Members of a fish nursery cooperative in Tikamgarh, India share hatchlings with another cooperative. (Photo by Lucy Davies)
A key feature of ELAN will be its ability to link various adaptation and ecosystem management networks and serve as platform for sharing information globally. This decentralized approach will leverage existing climate adaptation efforts being undertaken by various institutions and consortia.
"Make no mistake: mitigation efforts to reduce emissions are vital if we are to keep climate change from surpassing a dangerous and rapidly approaching threshold," said Roberts. "But the fact is, the effects of climate disruption are already upon us and are growing rapidly. While curbing emissions, we must also prepare for and respond to the impacts - we must adapt."
The organizations plan to use ELAN as a tool to connect scientific researchers with resource managers and local and regional decision-makers to ensure ecosystem-based management approaches benefit from the latest science, and practical experiences.
"Well-managed ecosystems provide a valuable resource in helping people adapt to climate change, such as regulating water flows during periods of heavy rain or coastal storms," said Julia Marton-Lefèvre, director general of IUCN. "However, these values are all too often disregarded in climate adaptation strategies."
"If we are to meet the growing challenge of adapting to the world’s changing climate, we need to recognize and value the importance of this natural infrastructure," she said.
The two organizations conceive of ELAN as a means to accelerate the application of existing knowledge while expanding that knowledge capacity and creating additional resources.
Healthy taiga forest in Mongolia (Photo by Uncommon Vistas)
"Maintaining healthy ecosystems can often provide a cost-effective alternative to other investments in natural hazard defenses, and ecosystems also provide additional benefits to local communities," said Marton-Lefèvre.
ELAN will take a targeted, localized approach to climate adaptation, focusing initially on the developing world, where climate impacts are generally more acute and response capacity is more limited compared with the developed world.
"The scale and urgency of climate change demands global cooperation and innovation to help animal and human populations adapt to our changing planet," says Jonathan Fanton, president of the MacArthur Foundation, which is based in Chicago, Illinois.
Instrumental observations over the past 157 years show that temperatures at the Earth's surface have risen globally. Average surface temperatures have increased by about 0.74 degrees Celsius between 1906 and 2005, with 11 of the 12 warmest years occurring between 1995 and 2006, according to the most recent report of the Nobel Prize winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, who heads the IPCC, told government negotiators at the UN's annual climate conference in December 2008 of "the serious impacts of climate change, which would accrue as a result of inaction."
He said the number of people living in severely stressed river basins would quadruple from a minimum of 1.4 billion in 1995 to 4.3 billion in 2050.
"Roughly 20-30 percent of species assessed are likely to be at increasingly high risk of extinction as global mean temperatures exceed two to three degrees above pre-industrial levels. We are getting close to that range," he warned.
Lake in Macedonia retreats as drought advances. October 26, 2008. (Photo by Davcevski)
Dr. Pachauri also warned of "abrupt and irreversible" changes such as "collapse of the Greenland or West Antarctic ice sheets, which can lead to sea level rise of several meters," affecting small island states and low-lying coastal communities and cities.
"In some countries of Africa, yields from rainfed agriculture could be reduced by 50 percent by 2020," said Dr. Pachauri. "At the local level many people are likely to suffer additional losses to their livelihoods when climate change and variability occur together with other stresses, such as conflict."
"If global mean temperature increase is to be stabilized between 2.0 to 2.4°C, then carbon dioxide emissions must peak by 2015," he told the climate negotiators, who are attempting to write successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol that all industrial and emerging economies can approve at the upcoming UN climate conference in December.
This agreement would attempt to mitigate climate change by reducing emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, but the ELAN network will not wait for mitigation to begin adapting to the warming that has already begun.
"Mitigation is a necessary but insufficient response," Fanton said. We can no longer afford to dismiss adaptation as 'giving in' or worry that it will reduce incentives for addressing the root causes of climate changes. This creative new network will nurture the emerging field of adaptation science, helping to build knowledge and catalyze new ideas."
To ensure sustained funding for adaptation projects, ELAN will engage the support of major multilateral financing bodies, including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which manages a climate change adaptation fund.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2009. All rights reserved.
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