Day 1: The State of Climate Change

Written by: Florencia Mitchell

Visiting WMO (World Meteorological Organization) and hear a lecture about Climate Change from the WCRP (World Climate Research Programme) can be a frustrating if focusing just on the facts this community of scientist can present.

WCRP is coordinating climate research around the world to favor a more complete and deep understanding of Earth system (atmosphere, oceans, land and ice) and the main factors driving its change. The evidence of to which extend this change is taking place, the fast pace it acquired and how important is the effect of human activities it is sometimes overwhelming.

Air, land and ocean temperatures are rising, the atmospheric CO2 concentrations increased this year more than before, every pattern seems not only to be changing but also doing it drastically. But the planet has gone through many profound and fast climate changes in the past, the difference is that this time we are living on it and we have to face its direct consequences and the social impacts they will have on or human systems.

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Bad news is that even when it sounds pretty complicated up to here, there are some positive feedback mechanisms that add more complexity to the system and, though they are not yet fully understand by the scientific community, would lead to a deeper change on the Earth dynamics.

That being said, we have to bear in mind that the so called environmental issues are actually alterations within the ecosystem, and it is for us humans that it becomes a problem, not for the planet that will most certainly find new steady state. So under the name of CLIMATE CHANGE we are “hiding” very powerful and complex social problems that should be of everybody interest. Using the label “Climate Change”, may have given the chance to group many environmental and social problems under the same title, addressing it from a more holistic approach and favoring the convergence of a lot of actors and interest around one big issue. Nevertheless, it has covered under two words (that for those not very involved in the subject sounds quite innocuous) several threatens to life as we know it.

Since it’s human systems which proved to be sensitive to climate change[1], it is there where mayor changes must be done. Production, governance, economic and financial system (among others) should be reviewed and rethought to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) defined by United Nations, taking them as a measure of humankind wellbeing. Those changes involve paradigm changes, which are not easy to address.   

WCRP is focused on the comprehension and analysis of the earth system, and the climate as a part of it. A better understanding of it will lead to better predictions of its variability allowing them to support the definition of mitigation and adaptation strategies that must be implemented specially to fulfill goal number 13: climate action, but also to analyze the impact of other actions taken on the climate.

Probably, another step towards transition could be can be Social Impact Investment Models, promoted by OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) as a way to integrate private capital into the financial efforts to achieve SDGs. Due to the important role finances play in or current world, a change into the mindset of this system, if achieved, would lead to deep transformations of society. These models recognize incorporation of social and development aspects to the very essence of the enterprises. In this way they represent and improvement from corporative social responsibility that added those topics as complementary to the core activity of businesses.

These initiatives bring social impact as a new variable into traditional frameworks: demand (projects applying for economical resources) and supply (investors) interacting in a financial market where intermediaries do play a significant role. A positive aspect from the investors’ point of view is that it broadens their choices of investment since projects themselves will have to come up with new business models to be both profitable and with measurable impact to get into those markets. On the other hand for those institutions doing social work these strategies could increase substantially the flows of financial resources needed to do their job and to enlarge it building new partnerships among the three sectors: public, private and civil society.

What is the best way to use those new funds that could be available is yet to be studied, but some things must be discussed. The aim of these new mechanisms is to scale up and accelerate the implementation of programmes, projects, business, etc. that can improve social well-being. That can be reached through the scalability of successful projects or by incentivizing the rise of many smaller projects. I believe that networking among projects with specific goals working for specific needs of specific groups tend to better deliver the needs for development of communities. Besides, in a context of uncertainty and try/failure, smaller diverse actions would reduce risk and enhance the learning process. Big scale programmes and projects will be still necessary, but I find interesting the opportunity that these models gives to involve smaller players into the game of finding long term solutions, from both sides: smaller projects and smaller investors. That would bring diversity to the table, enriching the decision making processes and favoring more innovative, effective and efficient solutions.

This kind of coworking between civil society and public and private sector it is one of the things goals 17 stands for. But it has to be said that the incorporation of new partners should not relax the efforts done by the government, in fact they keep the traditional tasks and in addition they have to set the regulative framework and environment for these models to develop.    

Both research and funding go across most of the goals defined within the SDGs. It`s probably not a surprise since they lay at the very beginning and end of the process. Research and the scientific community like WCRP because their findings should be the basis to discuss and define the goals adopted, the actions to be taken and the metrics to use to monitor their progress. On the other hand funding it`s a fundamental part for de implementation of those actions.

[1] Climate Change 2014, Synthesis Report, Summary for Policymakers; IPCC; 2015.

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