Aggravating factors: climate change

Climate change ranks amongst the greatest global problems of the 21st century and the scientific evidence on climate change is stronger than ever: the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Fourth Assessment Report in early 2007, saying that climate change is now unequivocal. It confirms that extremes are on the rise and that the most vulnerable people, particularly in developing countries, face the brunt of impacts.

The gradual expected temperature rise may seem limited (with a likely range from 2 to 4 degrees Celsius predicted for the coming century), however a slightly higher temperature is only an indicatore that much more is awry. Along with the rising temperature, known as global warming we experience:

  • An increase in both frequency and intensity of extreme weather events: more prolonged droughts, floods, landslides, heat waves, and more intense storms;
  • The spreading of insect-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue to new places where people are less immune to them;
  • A decrease in crop yields in some areas due to extreme droughts or downpours and changes in timing and reliability of rainy seasons;
  • Global sea level rise of several cm per decade, which will affect coastal flooding, water supplies, tourism, fisheries etc. Tens of millions of people will be forced to move inland;
  • Metling Glaciers, leading to water supply shortages.

Climate change is here to stay and will accelerate. Although climate change is a global issue with impacts all over the world, those people with the least resources have the least capacity to adapt and therefore are the most vulnerable. Developing countries, more particularly its poorest inhabitants, do not have the means to fend off floods and other natural disasters; to make matters worse, their economies tend to be based on climate/weather-sensitive sectors such as agriculture and fishery, which makes them all the more vulnerable.

The Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre

A bridge between climate change and disaster risk reduction

In 2002 the Netherlands Red Cross together with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has established the Red Cross / Red Crescent Climate Centre. In short: the Climate Centre.

The Climate Centre supports National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in their work to reduce loss of life and damage to the livelihoods from climate change and extreme-weather events, and cooperates closely with the wider Red Cross Red Crescent Movement.

The centre connects the scientific and humanitarian communities to help apply scientific knowledge about climate change to early warning of disasters, health programmes and general grass-roots awareness of the issues involved. The Red Cross Red Crescent has repeatedly proved itself to be well placed to facilitate such cooperation between environmental, scientific and humanitarian actors who would not normally meet. Though climate change risks are primarily defined on a global and regional scale, the main challenge is to make climate knowledge relevant at the national and local level. In turn, national and international policy needs to be informed by the realities on the ground.

The Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre is based in the Netherlands but serves the whole Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement, in particular in developing countries.

The activities of the centre are based on the ‘triple A’ principle:

  • Awareness: Implementing information and education activities about climate change and extreme weather events within the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement and among the general public;
  • Action: Supporting the development of concrete climate adaptation activities, within the existing context of disaster risk reduction programs;
  • Advocacy: Bringing concerns about the impacts of climate change on vulnerable people and experience with climate adaptation and disaster risk reduction programs to the places of policy development, both within the International Federation, as in other relevant international forums

In 2006 a ‘fourth A’ has been introduced:

  • Analyses: Analysing the climate change risk reduction issues at stake in the context of the Red Cross and Red Crescent and the first experiences. These analyses should lead to a stronger vision and positioning of the Red Cross / Red Crescent Climate Centre on climate change risk reduction approaches.

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Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre.

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