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Urban and rural environments pose challenges to climate-change resilience

As the effects of climate change lead to severe weather patterns around the globe, urban and rural areas have ongoing, interconnected challenges to confront. Many leaders are beginning to look to resilience solutions to combat these challenges, which must be tailored to the divergent problems faced by different regions. The effects of climate change have been especially severe around the equator. A report produced by James Cook University in Australia estimated that half of the world’s population will live in tropical climates by 2050, as populations and economies around the equator grow rapidly, and the tropics expand.

Flooding in Trinidad, Bolivia
Flooding in Trinidad, Bolivia in 2007 – US Air Force

The last few years have showed the disastrous effects of severe storms around the globe. In April of 2017 a mudslide and flooding in Mocoa, Columbia killed an estimated 400 people and left hundreds more injured and displaced, a disaster which the President of Colombia attributed to climate change. A month later, flooding and landslides in Sri Lanka displaced 600,000 people and killed over 200, leading to an outpouring of international aid, including funds to handle the growth of mosquito-borne illness which often accompany flooding. The disastrous effects of both events were linked to the deforestation of natural plants to be replaced by cash crops that do not stabilize soil very well and heighten the risk of mudslides. These crops, when grown near urban areas and informal housing in precarious locations, increase vulnerabilities as urban populations grow.

Bolivia has also been contending with these problems in recent years – 43% of the population lives in high-flood risk areas, including the city of Trinidad. Other cities such as La Paz are heavily at risk due to landslides. As the urban population doubles in some areas, the challenges of climate change are compounded by urbanization, which leads, among other things, to problems such as a lack of water and sanitation. Consequently, the Bolivian government in partnership with international organizations is developing a comprehensive program to build urban resilience to work towards the smart growth of cities.

Other regions have been struggling with a lack of water; drought led to a food shortage and consequent deadly stampede during an aid dispersal in Morocco in November 2017, as well as the looming crisis in Cape Town as the city runs out of water, due in part to the increase in temperature causing water to evaporate faster from reservoirs. In Gambia, where 26% of the GDP is agricultural, the effects of climate change, including severe drought, has had huge impacts on agricultural production and residents’ livelihood. Gambia’s Minister Dibba of Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources said, “The livelihoods of [the] majority of rural Gambians are eroding as a result of the degrading environment and the country’s dwindling natural resource base, on which most of these communities depend for their survival”. Consequently, UN Environment in partnership with Green Climate Fund and the Government of Gambia are beginning a project to build resilience in Gambia, including reforestation, animal conservation, and restoration of agricultural land. The project will operate in four regions and impact as many as 11,550 household directly – half of the beneficiaries will be women.

The effects of climate change will continue to grow, especially in areas in which populations are currently expanding and have to contend with urbanization and existing vulnerabilities. Resilient solutions, adapted to the challenges of each area and acknowledging the ties between urban and rural resilience, can mitigate the future impacts of severe weather patterns.

 

Sources and Further Reading:

Bolivia’s path to urban resilienceThe World Bank

In the Gambia, building resilience to a changing climateUN Environment

Deadly flooding, mudslide in Mocoa ColombiaThe Global Resilience Institute

Flooding and mudslides cause high casualties in Sri LankaThe Global Resilience Institute

Global Catastrophe Recap, April 2017Aon Benfield

Expanding tropics will play greater global role, report predictsScience Mag

As reservoirs run dry, Cape Town races to improve its climate resilienceThe Global Resilience Institute

Fatal stampede for food aid follows drought in rural MoroccoThe Global Resilience Institute