8 Ways We Can Strengthen Development and Increase Climate Resilience

Today, President Obama announced a new executive order that will help vulnerable nations around the world be more resilient to climate and disasters.  Climate variability and change pose a set of serious risks and challenges, but as the President highlighted, we can be better equipped to overcome them. For nearly two decades, the International Research Institute for Climate and Society and its partners around the world have been using our best science to develop and provide data, tools and services to reduce vulnerability to drought, extreme weather, disease outbreaks and other impacts of climate.

Here are 8 ways that illustrate how we have been developing science and technology that can help strengthen development programs and increase the resilience of developing nations:

1) Helping people, governments and humanitarian organizations take early action.  In storm and flood events, real time information can help people move out of harm’s way, and it can get responders and supplies in place as soon as they are needed.  Many places around the world still lack the information and communications systems to issue disaster warnings. Early action also saves money – with examples from the Red Cross that show for every $1 spent on disaster prevention, $4 is saved on disaster response and recovery.

2) Rolling out information services that help smallholder farmers make productive decisions. Throughout the developing world, the main sources of food are small rain-fed farms. These farmers depend on rainfall to water their crops, but have little or no access to kinds of weather and climate information farmers in the U.S. take for granted. Efforts such as the CGIAR’s Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security are helping bridge this gap and provide farmers the information they need when they need it, using technologies they can afford. Watch this video to learn more about climate-smart agriculture.

3) Anticipating and planning for epidemics of climate-sensitive diseases.  Diseases such as malaria, dengue, meningococcal meningitis and leishmaniasis continue to have devastating impacts throughout the world, claiming hundreds of thousands of lives and disrupting societies. Epidemics of these and many other diseases have a strong link to temperature, rainfall and other climate variables, which means we can use climate information to help prioritize and evaluate our public health intervention, as the World Health Organization has shown.

4) Insuring farmers against bad weather. Traditional crop insurance is too costly to work sustainably in most developing countries. Weather-based crop insurance, or index insurance, is affordable and already protecting millions of farmers in India, Ethiopia, Mexico and other countries from losing their investments because of droughts. It also enables them to access loans and other resources that increase their productivity and wealth. Oxfam America, the Syngenta Foundation, SwissRe, the World Bank Group’s Global Index Insurance Facility and the World Food Programme are among the organizations testing and implementing this innovation.

5) Balancing regional water needs, now and in the future. Rapid urbanization and growing demands for food production and hydroelectric energy are pushing water systems in many regions to their limits. A better understanding of the dynamics of water systems and the competing needs of households, farms, industry and other water users is strengthening the sustainable management of water supplies in places like Elqui, Chile and Angat, Philippines.

6) Preventing hunger by building resilience. Throughout the semi-arid regions of the world, food insecurity threatens the well-being of hundreds of millions of people. The World Food Programme leads the world’s largest effort to reduce food security risk and incorporates leading-edge climate science into its work to build resilience and prioritize major food security interventions.

7) Improving forest management policies and practices. Forests are an important natural resource.  Forests help improve water security, protect biodiversity and agriculture and can support tourism. In exceptionally dry years, many of the world’s forests are at risk of burning. The Center for International Forestry Research is working to understand how fire risk evolves in a drying climate and what policies can be used to help prevent unwanted and uncontrollable fires.

 8) Ending Data Poverty. In many parts of the developing world, where we need to implement the solutions highlighted above, we find major gaps in data and obstacles to its access and use. Data poverty has many causes, including conflict, lack of resources, limits in technical capacity and poor internet access. The IRI is working with a broad range partners to make data available, accessible and usable around the world. Download this fact sheet to learn more.

The International Research Institute for Climate and Society works with scientists, governments and organizations around the world to build resilience. IRI was created through a cooperative agreement between the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Columbia University. It has received continued support from NOAA, the U.S. Agency for International DevelopmentNASA and other  U.S. agencies as well as international development organizations, UN agencies and humanitarian organizations as part of a global effort to share knowledge, collaborate and prioritize problem-focused research that helps improve our understanding of what is happening in the physical world and how to better manage it.

To learn more, visit iri.columbia.edu/about-us.


Media contact:

Francesco Fiondella

Twitter: @climatesociety