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Risk management approaches to address adverse effects of climate change - Use of innovative technologies
The utilisation and development of environmentally sound technologies is seen as a means to combat the adverse affects of climate change, in both developing and developed countries.

The role of technologies in climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction
Countries have employed hard and soft technologies in order to mitigate the adverse affects of climate change.  Hard technologies can include seawalls and irrigation technology.  Soft technologies can include set-back zones, and providing information and knowledge. A successful adaptation strategy would typically combine both hard and soft technologies.  Within these two forms of technologies, there are four other sub-forms of technologies: (1) traditional technologies (technologies applied in traditional societies); (2) modern technologies (technologies that have been developed since the industrial revolution); (3) high technologies (newly developed technologies such as the use of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) for systematic observation) and future technologies (technologies that can be used for adaptation but have not been developed yet).

Sectors vulnerable to climate change

technologyThe use of innovative technologies is one of the ways to mitigate adverse climate change impacts in key economy sectors.

  • Coastal zones: More than 70% of the world population living near or around  coastal zones and are exposed to natural hazards, ranging from cyclones to widespread flooding and coastal erosion.  Coastal communities must apply adaptation technologies in order to mitigate the negative effects and reduce their vulnerability.
  • Agriculture: Agricultural systems are particularly vulnerable to climate variations and can deeply affect and worsen food security or agricultural productivity on a global scale.
  • Water resources:  Water resources are currently under threat due to increasing human population and agricultural consumption. The effects could be exacerbated by due to change in climatic patterns.
  • Public health:  Human health is extremely susceptible to a changing climate pattern.  Higher temperature as a result of global warming or the effect of natural disasters such as flooding may lead to the spread of water diseases causing human mortality.
  • Infrastructure: Rapid population growth, high levels of poverty and migration are putting a strain on water supply, waster disposal and transportation in many developing countries.  ‘All these strains are likely to interact with, and be exacerbated by, different aspects of climate change.’ 

This page provides examples and reviews specific country and project case studies that have had success in the developing and initiating technologies into these sectors.  The page also highlights major challenges faced by countries in the promotion of technology usage and examines gaps that may require further attention.

A. Coastal Zones

Technological solutions have been used as instruments for reducing the vulnerability of coastal communities to coastal hazards.  This is done in three basic ways: protect (decrease the probability of damage from a weather related calamity), retreat (limit potential effects) and accommodate (increase society’s ability to cope with the effects).

Protective strategies involve defensive measures taken to protect coastal zones against the impacts of natural calamities such as flooding, shore erosion and salinity intrusion. Protective strategies can include a combination of both hard and soft technologies.  These include the building of dikes & levees in the Netherlands (SIGMA programme)  and sea walls in Male Island, Maldives.  Measures have also been taken to protect coral reefs by adopting biorock, which has been successfully implemented in Indonesia, Maldives, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Seychelles and Thailand.  Early warning systems have been developed in many instances. Examples include the Indian Tsunami Early Warning System, an early warning system developed by the Central Committee for Flood and Storm Control (CCFSC) in Vietnam, forecasting cyclones in the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea in India, and early warning systems in Bangladesh which are described in the box below.

These strategies include the establishment of set-back zones or relocating threatened buildings from weather related calamities on the coast.  Many countries have purchased large areas on the coast and designated them as nature reserves.  India, Sri Lanka, Tonga, Fiji, Mauritius, Australia and the United States have constructed new buildings in  these set-back zones.  Regulations could be modified to consider the future impacts from a rising sea level, but most nations would require compensation for coastal property owners.

These strategies include increasing society’s ability to cope with the effects (e.g., emergency plans, insurance, modification of land use and agricultural practices).  Very little information has been provided on ‘accommodation strategies’.

Coastal early warning system in Bangladesh

Stakeholder engagement:
Centre for Environmental and Geographic Information Services (CEGIS), Riverside Technologies inc (RTi), Bangladesh Disaster Preparedness Centre (BDPC).
Background: Every year millions of people in Bangladesh are exposed to catastrophic flooding in coastal areas.  These floods result in thousands of deaths and could lead to epidemics, as well as seriously damage habitats, agricultural production, fisheries, and pastoral systems. 
Success so far and still on going: The Community Flood Information System (CFIS) was designed to enhance the capacity of Bangladeshi communities to adapt to the risks of floods and cyclones.  The CFIS was implemented in several coastal districts in partnership with local organizations and communities.  The goal was to build an interactive process of collecting and disseminating information on monsoon floods to communities to increase their capacity to adapt to adverse climate phenomena.
Lessons learnt: The CFIS project generated useful information during the devastating floods of 2004.  The timely and widespread delivery of flood warnings in the region was widely acknowledged, and prompted communities to take steps to protect their crops, habitats, livestock.  Given the successful outcome of the CFIS project, the Honourable Prime Minister of Bangladesh has recommended to replicate the model in other flood prone areas in the country.
However, prior to the CFIS project, most people in the project region obtained flood forecast information from a combination of sources such as word-of-mouth (neighbours, relatives, friends), traditional knowledge (wind, cloud, rain patterns), and local media (radio, television, newspapers). The first two are “hit-or-miss” and prone to inefficiencies.  Information from local media is ineffective as most people are unable to understand media reports easily and as a result they cannot take full advantage of warnings provided.

B. Agriculture

The adverse affects of climate change on agriculture have become a major concern for all countries.  One successful means of adaptation is transferring crop varieties between regions to increase agriculture yields.  Successful pilot projects include floating agriculture in Bangladesh and the New rice for Africa initiative (NERICA), which is further elaborated in the box below.

New rice for Africa
Stakeholder engagement: The West African Rice Development Association (WARDA), Africa Rice Center in Côte d’Ivoire, farmers.
Background: After much effort, breeders at the Africa Rice Center in Côte d’Ivoire were able to cross varieties of African rice (Oryza glaberrima, adapted to African conditions but prone to lodging and grain shattering) with varieties of Asian rice (Oryza sativa, high yielding, but susceptible to stresses) to produce early maturing, higher yielding, drought tolerant, pest resistant varieties able to thrive in saline soils. Known by the acronym NERICA, which stands for New Rice for Africa, these varieties could revolutionize rice farming in Sub-Saharan Africa because they produce a crop with minimal inputs even under stress, yet respond well, with bountiful crops, when farmers are able to apply additional inputs.  Varieties of NERICA are being planted on 100,000 hectares (including 60,000 hectares in Guinea and about 10,000 hectares in Uganda) and are helping countries cut crippling rice import bills.
Success so far and still ongoing: The West African Rice Development Association (the former name of the Africa Rice Center, which retains WARDA as its acronym) used participatory varietal selection (PVS), an impact-oriented and demand-driven technology generation and dissemination approach. In the first year of the typical three-year programme, WARDA and extension agents established a ‘rice garden’ in a target village, often in the field of a leading or innovative farmer.  The rice garden contained NERICA varieties; modern, improved Asian rice; popular local and regional varieties; and a few glaberrimas (African Rice).  Farmers from the host community and surrounding villages were encouraged to visit the garden as often as they liked to monitor progress.  WARDA also spread the news among its other 17 member countries, and workshops were held in 1998 and 1999 during which two-person teams from each country were trained in the PVS methodology.  The PVS approach has since been applied in all 17 countries, and a regional network was established whose participants meet annually to discuss progress.
Lessons learnt: Once the new varieties gained a level of acceptance among farmers, seed supply was identified as a bottleneck to wider distribution.  To overcome this problem, WARDA imported and adapted a community-based seed system (CBSS) developed in Senegal.  The system builds on farmers’ own seed-saving practices, with some training input on selecting panicles for seed harvest and methods of preparation, storage and maintenance.  With the adoption of CBSS, new varieties can be made available to farmers in four years, as opposed to seven years normally required with formal seed systems.  With initial success in Côte d’Ivoire, the system was adapted further and adopted in Guinea, and it is expected to spread to other areas soon.

C. Water resources

A number of technologies to mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change on water resources exist in many countries.  While many of these technologies fall under the category of hard technologies  such as increasing reservoir capacity, others can be categorized as soft.  These include flood warning systems such as the ALERT protocol in the United States of America and the MIKE project initiated by the Danish Hydraulic Institute and implemented in Bangladesh . Successful pilot projects also include the Water harvesting in North Darfur state, Sudan and The SWMnet regional network, Eastern and Central Africa, both of which are further elaborated in document- FCCC/TP/2006/2 P.86.  The case study of Burkina Faso’s seasonal forecasting initiative for water resources is presented below.

Seasonal forecasting in Burkina Faso
Stakeholder engagement: The project engaged farmers, including agriculturists and pastoralists, in collaboration with major institutional stakeholders, including the Direction de la Météorologie Nationale (forecast development and presentation), the National Agricultural Research Service (to determine the farming implications of the forecasts through crop modelling components), and Plan International, one of the largest development NGOs operating in Burkina Faso (to provide logistics and communication support).  Provincial level representatives of technical services (ministries of agriculture, livestock, environment) and other local level stakeholders (representatives of NGOs, farmers’ organizations, agribusiness, etc.) participated in the forecast dissemination workshops as well.
Background: Rural households in the Sudan–Sahel region that depend largely on rain-fed agriculture for food and income could substantially benefit from climate forecast information to improve agricultural productivity.  In 1997 the Climate Forecasting for Agricultural Resources (CFAR) Project, funded by the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, was initiated to assess how farmers (both agriculturists and pastoralists) in Burkina Faso could use climate forecasts to enhance agricultural sustainability and food security.  This two-phase initiative included a study of local forecasting
knowledge, adaptive strategies to climate variability, and farmers’ information networks through fieldwork, surveys, interviews and participatory exercises (1997–2001).  The second phase (2001–2004) involved the experimental dissemination of seasonal rainfall forecasts based on sea surface temperature in selected communities, monitoring of farmers' and pastoralists' responses, and the circulation of information among and beyond the communities.  The forecasts were presented as the probability of rainfall being in the higher, middle, or lower percentile of total historic seasonal rainfall for the region.
Success of the project but no longer active: Radio broadcasts and workshops were used to disseminate forecasts to farmers and herders.  These workshops were held at the village level in three project sites at the Sahel, Central Plateau, and southwest.  The workshops included presentation of the forecast, discussion of response strategies, the plan for dissemination at the village level, clarification by the project teams and discussion of issues with the farmers, and distribution of a leaflet summarizing the forecast in local languages.  The farmers who participated in the workshops explained to others what they learned when they got back to their villages.
Lessons learnt: The forecasts were often late, were for three months and three zones only, and were not specific to individual farm locations.  They provided only total seasonal rainfall, not rainfall distribution. Institutional barriers, such as village politics, ethnic identity and gender roles, contributed to exclusion of certain groups.  Social norms for appropriate social interaction occasionally hindered outreach.  Farmers’ perceptions and priorities affected how they understood, and what they remembered, of the information received from the forecast dissemination team or from radio broadcasts.  Finally, there were resource barriers as forecast dissemination ceased after completion of the CFAR project because the Burkina Faso government lacked the financial resources to continue or extend the project and feared the potential political liabilities stemming from the risk of forecast failure and subsequent economic losses and popular discontent.

D. Public health

Technological measures to address public health issues in climate change adaptation can be classified as legislative, technical, education or behavioural.  Successful pilot projects include SMARTNET, which is a public–private partnership to prevent malaria in Africa (elaborated in the box below), Information planning for SIDS  as well as the Áma Drum project for tackling the out-break of cholera in Eastern Cape town South Africa. 

SMARTNET: A public–private partnership to prevent malaria
Stakeholder engagement: SMARTNET is a public–private partnership between the Ministry of Health, Population Services International (Tanzania office), net manufacturers, insecticide suppliers, distributors, wholesalers, retailers, NGOs, research organizations, advertising and promotion companies, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland Department for International Development, and the Royal Netherlands Embassy.
Background: Insecticide treated bed nets (ITN), which kill adult mosquitoes, are one of the four main strategies of the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) global partnership to reduce illness and death associated with malaria. Although most malaria-endemic countries have adopted the RBM strategy, achieving sustainable universal coverage requires intensified financial and technical commitments to bed net distribution.  In Africa in 2000 there were as many as 213.5 million clinical episodes of P. falciparum malaria among 557 million people exposed to any risk of infection; children less than 5 years old experienced over 48 per cent of these episodes (Snow et al. 2003). Approximately 1.14 million people died as a result; 68 per cent of these were children less than 5 years old. In the United Republic of Tanzania, in a population of about 34 million, there are over 16 million cases of malaria annually, killing one person every five minutes and causing the death of 80,000 children under the age of five. The country’s annual malaria burden is 3.4 per cent (USD 1.2 million) of GDP.
Success so far and still ongoing:  In the United Republic of Tanzania, SMARTNET has provided support to manufacturers, distribution agents and retailers through transport subsidies, guaranteed payments for shipments, and support for marketing.
Lessons learnt: This programme was not designed and implemented in response to, or anticipation of, climate change. However, climate change is projected to increase the range and intensity of malaria transmission in some regions of Africa (e.g. Patz et al. 2005). Therefore, programmes such as this may need to be revised, reoriented and/or expanded just to maintain current levels of disease control.
A limitation of the project is that Malaria’s highest toll is in the rural areas of the country where accessing ITNs is more difficult and the ability to pay is less.  SMARTNET and other partners implemented strategies to reduce these barriers. For example, traders at weekly mixed goods and produce markets now sell ITNs along with other goods. A voucher programme was created that targets subsidies to the most vulnerable groups, pregnant women and children under the age of five. Pregnant women receive a voucher at antenatal visits and can use the voucher as a part payment of an ITN at a nearby retail outlet or shifting market.

E. Infrastructure

Infrastructure is under strain, as a result of population growth, rural-urban migration, high levels of poverty and the demand for more roads and vehicles.  All these strains are likely to interact with, and be exacerbated by different aspects of climate change.  Changes in temperatures or rainfall along with sea level rise or extreme weather events will have an immediate impact, as storms or hurricanes bring down power lines, wash away roads or bridges or overwhelm systems of drainage.  Three success initiatives have been implemented to address some of these impacts.  These projects include the local Agenda 21s and urban environmental management, the Smart Growth planning networks for urban cities and the urban transport reformation in Surabaya, Indonesia, which is further elaborated below.

Urban transport in Surabaya, Indonesia

Background: Like many large cities in developing countries, Surabaya, the second largest city in Indonesia, faces a number of transport challenges, including increasing motor vehicle use and resulting air quality reduction and increased urban congestion. Motor vehicle ownership in Surabaya in 1990 was higher than in Singapore and Jakarta and twice as high as in Manila, Seoul and Hong Kong and growth has continued, faster than population growth. As a result, Surabaya is now one of the most dangerous cities in the world by health and traffic safety indicators.  Such congestion problems are directly linked to the adaptation potential of individuals in communities such as Surabaya.  Therefore transport problems must be addressed to prevent further congestion and the various risks associated with congestion, which stand to increase with increased, unchecked urbanization. 

Success so far and still on going: Mechanisms to adapt Surabaya’s transport system included proposed projects to reform the public transport sector and employ economic instruments for adaptation, among several others. Suggested efforts to reform the public transport sector included:

  1. Establishing a programme for the use of less-polluting urban buses (running on compressed natural gas)
  2. Improving driver behavior by controlling licensing
  3. Introducing obligations for taxi operators relating to the level of pollution from their vehicles
  4. Physical improvements, including bus stops, pedestrian facilities, terminals and bus priority lanes in congested areas

Economic measures proposed in the adaptation process included the development of parking management schemes, taking into consideration tools such as:

  1. New parking policies and fees
  2. Reform of the annual vehicle taxation system, to reverse the current approach to high taxes on new vehicles, low taxes on old, heavily polluting vehicles
  3. Area licensing scheme
  4. Congestion road pricing mechanisms.

Lessons learnt:  The projects are still ongoing.

Further information
NWP work area on technologies for adaptation

Application of environmentally sound technologies for adaptation to climate change.  Technical Paper.  FCCC/TP/2006/2