Jargon Watch: Is a Nation Climate-Fit or Climate-Weak?

gujarat farming photo

photo: Meena Kadri via flickr.

While climate change may pay no heed to human political boundaries, how well people cope with the effects of a global warming can have a lot to do with those boundaries. Some countries are climate-fit while others are climate-weak, argues a new piece by Gaia Vance in Yale Environment 360. Now, a number of factors determine how climate-fit or climate-weak a place is, which Vance elaborates, but this is the gist of it:1. Resilience & Ingenuity -- There are obvious advantages to not living in a place not threatened by sea level rise or likely to experience more droughts, but how people cope with their geography can lead to much different results.

Vance cites two villages in Gujarat, India. Both experience the same drought conditions. One is starving, relying on water tankers for half the year and getting only one crop in. The other built barriers to slow runoff from the monsoon, so the water seeps into the soil better, and established a sustainable irrigation system -- it is thriving, getting three crops per year.

2. Flexibility -- How flexible and adaptable a society also plays a critical factor, Vance says. Whether this is emotional, in the sense of being mentally prepared for migration or other effects of climate change, or practical, in the sense of being able to switch crops when one becomes unsuitable, both are important.

3. Good Governance -- Vance cites effective governance as a crucial part of a climate-fitness regime. But even then otherwise good governments can make decisions that reduce climate-fitness.

Vance cites the case of Laos, which is a largely climate-fit place -- though quite poor it is also very self-sufficient and flexible -- the government plans large hydropower projects which will reduce that self-sufficiency by threatening fish populations, and protein availability.

4. Smart Development Policy -- Here we're talking about things like encouraging more drought resistant crops (such as millet over rice in parts of India), encouraging sustainable industry, and not providing subsidies for electricity that only encourage unsustainable irrigation.

5. Environmental Guardianship -- Compare Costa Rica to Indonesia, China or Madagascar. In the former case there is a great deal of environmental conservation, as Costa Rica has such a large eco-tourism industry. While in the latter cases, the government actively aids and abets widespread deforestation.

Read the whole original: Coping With Climate Change: Which Societies Will Do Best?
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