Climate change is real! It’s happening! Its effects are being felt now more than ever and the magnitude is bound to increase if this global phenomenon is not addressed fully.

So many individuals and groups have come up with research geared towards addressing this phenomenon. Depending on the effects being felt in a given geographical area, efforts addressing climate change do vary. The joining factor of such efforts is that collectively, they reduce climate change effects.

One tree & 3 colors
Arid land in Africa: Photo by Karim MANJRA / Unsplash

Most conservationists and environmental researchers are shifting focus to a more viable and transformative approach towards environmental conservation- resilience. This is a game changing approach as it encompasses most of the other approaches and is more human centered because of its attachment to human behavior. There are so many schools of thought about resilience depending on the context. The concept of resilience originally comes from engineering and initially referred to the ability of solid materials to undergo external stress without breaking or losing functionality; elasticity.

"There are probably hundreds of definitions of resilience in existence, and the term itself connotes shades of meaning outside its numerous denotative spotlights. In fact, some claim that because the term means so much to so many, it actually means nothing at all—or, at least, nothing concrete." Bill Kakenmaster - Research Assistant, Stanford University.

Resilience is defined as the capacity or elasticity of an individual/group to recover quickly from difficulties. Resilience is a measure of how much you are willing and able to overcome obstacles. It is the process of successfully adapting to difficult or challenging life experiences. Resilient people overcome adversity, bounce back from setbacks, and can thrive under extreme, on-going pressure without acting in dysfunctional or uncoordinated ways.

Greenland ocean sunset
Photo by William Bossen / Unsplash

IPCC defines a systems’ resilience capacity as a function of three factors: hazard, exposure, and vulnerability. A hazard is any source of potential damage, harm or adverse health effects on a system. Under exposure we are looking at the degree with which systems interact with a given hazard and the effects thereof. Vulnerability is the inability of a system to withstand the effects of a particular environment when fully exposed to a particular hazard.

Climate change resilience means strengthening the capacity of life systems to withstand and respond to changes in the earth’s climate, and it can be thought of as a way to bridge the conceptual divide between mitigation approaches  and adaptation approaches.

Historical data shows that the African continent has experienced an average warming of 0.7 °C in the 20th century [1]. The Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) also revealed that warming in Africa is likely to be higher than the global annual mean warming throughout the continent and in all seasons, with drier sub-tropical regions warming more than the moister tropics [2]. In Africa, investment in capacity building has been and needs to be re-evaluated to improve the adaptive capacity of organisations, institutions and individuals [3]. Adaptive capacity is the ability of a system to adjust to climatic stressors and reduce the likely damages, by adopting available opportunities. The IPCC [4] observed that the occurrence of multiple stresses and low adaptive capacity makes Africa one of the most vulnerable continents to climate change and variability.

If a community cannot determine if it is sustainable before a crisis, how can it then determine if it will be resilient after a crisis? The approaches and interventions to address these issues require greater attention, strong partnerships and a multi-sectoral approach from the humanitarian community.

"Community resilience is a community’s ability to anticipate crisis, take action to reduce their impacts, respond effectively to them, and recover rapidly.” - Dr. John Plodinic.
Introduction to Climate Change Impacts, Vulnerability and Resilience.

Impact investors and sustainability advocates have been searching for multi-sectoral solutions.  For most investors, the discussion around investing in climate only becomes comfortable as a market-opportunity (rather than an impact strategy). Many climate investors respond by asking “Who do I invest in?”- which indeed is a fundamental question only that it shows how slow/rigid we are on climate solutions.

So how do we move the conversation from “Why” and “Who caused it” to “What do we do about it”? Well, resilience is the answer. Behavior change is one way best suited to cap climate change because it's a product of human activities.

The time to act is-and always been-NOW!

Reference:

  1. Christensen, J. H., Hewitson, B., Busuioc, A., Chen, A., Gao, X., Held, I., … Wheton, P., “Climate Change: the physical science basis”, Contribution of working group I to the fourth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change,  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 847-940, 2007.
  2. Denton, F.,  “Climate change vulnerability, impacts and adaptation: Why does gender matter?” Gender and development Vol.10, no. 2, pp. 10- 20, 2002.
  3. Folland, C. K., Karl, T. R., & Salinger, M. J., “Observed climate variability and change”. Weather, Vol. 57, no. 8, pp. 269-278, 2006.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1256/004316502320517353
  4. Harvey, C. A., Rakotobe, Z. L., Rao, N. S., Dave, R., Razafimahatratra, H.,  and Rabarijohn, H. R., “Extreme vulnerability of smallholder farmers to agricultural risks and climate change in Madagascar”. Philosophical Transactions of the Roral Society B, Vol.369, 20130089, 2014.