CLIMsystems Blog

Hazards Without Disasters

Author: Yinpeng Li

An editorial article written by Marcia McNutt published Science journal 14 July 2016 said:

‘’A natural hazard need not become a human disaster if society learns and applies lessons in preparation and resilience. ‘’ Marcia McNutt is president of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and is a former editor-in chief of Science.

‘’Earthquake history speaks well to this—engineered structures need to stand up to strong shaking. Chile learned this lesson before its 2010 earthquake of magnitude 8.8. Because it had already enforced seismic provisions of building codes, there was little loss of life due to damage to buildings. Engineered structures also performed very well during the giant 2011 Tohoku earthquake in northeast Japan; however, approximately 20,000 lives were lost to the ensuing tsunami. What survival strategies are available for communities at risk for tsunamis?’’ (McNutt 2016)

Climate change is already impacting facilities, communities, and the environment throughout the world. In response, the people are clamouring for climate preparedness and resilience-related guidance and security planning considerations. Agencies have developed and continue to refine climate adaptation plans to identify their vulnerabilities and prioritize activities that reduce climate risks and impacts, in order to more effectively manage these risks to life, property, assets and overall national security.

Breakwaters to reduce the storm surge hazards along the Qingdao coast.

From an international implementation perspective, disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation (CCA) science promotes an all-hazard, holistic approach to risk reduction. The need to develop the connection between science, policy and practice is considered by some to be a priority for implementing the Sendai Framework ( As in many areas of policy, the relationship between science and policy/practice is hampered by a number of factors including differences in language, timelines, incentive structures and values. However, steps can be taken to strengthen the interface between scientific knowledge and pragmatic decision-making. By bringing together multiple disciplines, sectors, and stakeholders to jointly produce the knowledge needed to understand and manage a complex system, knowledge coproduction approaches offer an effective avenue for the improved integration of ecosystem services into decision making.

The Paris Agreement adopted in December 2015 provides the building blocks for action to address climate change. Considerable effort is needed to bring to life the provisions and commitments of the Agreement so as to realise the vision to limit temperature rise, build the ability to adapt to climate impacts and, mainstream financial flows toward zero carbon and climate-resilient development.

The Paris Agreement clearly sets a goal to enhance countries’ capacity to adapt to climate change, strengthen their resilience, and reduce vulnerability. All countries are expected to undertake adaptation planning and to communicate their actions to the UNFCCC to inform the global stocktake. The development of methodologies, reporting requirements, and modalities for the recognition of adaptation efforts should be aligned, through effective coordination among the various bodies mandated to draft these guidelines. Parties, guided by the Adaptation Committee, now need to provide additional clarity concerning an effective adaptation cycle of improvement, including the way in which the UNFCCC will draw on countries’ adaptation communications to assess adaptation needs and determine the support needed to facilitate resilience.

International DRR and CCA trends:

  • Developing the connection between science and policy and practice; Promoting an all-hazard, holistic approach to risk reduction;
  • Structured and systematic processes and procedures for examining risks and for making decisions based on them.
  • Integrated risk governance: promoting systemic methodologies and socio-ecological system (SES), resilience climate change adaptation framework and tools.

A case study is represented by the farmers in Inner Mongolia, China who are more resilient to winter snow hazards through building warm winter shelters and forage storage. Snow hazards used to become the most severe disaster for livestock sector. Now the severe storms can be seen more positively as future spring melt water that will improve soil moisture and spur early spring pasture growth for the livestock that was able to overwinter in this harsh climate.

CLIMsystems and the International Global Change Institute (IGCI) working together, has developed DRR and CCA tools and services for application around the world. Their most recent advance is the Risk Informed Decision Support system (RIDS).

RIDS is an evolving product that is a hybrid derived from experience developing SimCLIM, FAWSIM, and UrbanCLIM, of the International Global Change Institute, New Zealand, funded by APN, IFIs, and international development agencies. RIDS is being tested by supporting the Adaptation to Climate Change China in ACCCII project, and Southeast Asia health sector planning project. Please download the full documentation here

RIDS Support System’s Modelling Strategy

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