Policy & Law
Elements of the Climate Affairs Capacity Building Program
The Climate Science encompasses the various physical, chemical and meteorological processes involved in global and regional climate variability and change. Understanding the atmosphere and the ways that it is affected by biological changes in the marine and terrestrial environments and by anthropogenic activities is also a main focus of Climate Science. Current research has demonstrated that human activities are a key aspect of the physical climate system. Such discussion should recognize that climate varies on all time scales. Although the immediate focus is on variability from one year to the next and one decade to the next, yet the climate variations also take place on time frames ranging from centuries to millennia. In this context, global warming issues are also critically important in this context.
This element of Climate Affairs relates to the impacts of climate on ecosystems and society. Ecosystems can be subdivided into managed (e.g., agricultural and range lands) and unmanaged (some forests and wetlands) ecosystems. The impacts on society can also be subdivided into direct and indirect impacts on human activities. Impacts of climate and climate-related anomalies on society are of greatest concern to the general public and to their governments. Such impacts can negatively or positively affect food production, water resource availability, fishery abundance, public health and public welfare in general. Although, for example, a drought may occur over a few months during a growing season, its adverse impacts on a society can linger for years.
The severity of the impacts of climate and climate related anomalies, however, is not simply the result of the intensity of the adverse climatic conditions. It is also a function of the level of vulnerability of a society to climate-related hazards. For example, the time for recovery from the impacts of a tropical cyclone or a drought or an El Niņo-related bush or forest fire will also depend on the level of resilience of a society. The impacts of two similar extreme events in the same location but at different times will likely vary depending on what socio-economic factors are dominating the society at those particular times. In this context, developing countries are particularly vulnerable because of the lack of economic and human resources as well as an absence of the appropriate institutions and infrastructure to deal with these problems.
Today there is considerable interest and activity to develop a comprehensive body of regulations related to the climate system. An indicator of this interest is the fact that more than 180 countries have signed and ratified the UN Framework Convention for Climate Change. Additionally, there are other national and international laws dealing with air pollution, transboundary transport of pollutants (including acid rain) and ozone depletion. Thus, there is a myriad of institutional, political and policy aspects of the climate system at the domestic and international levels. Some government agencies have focused on identifying transboundary water resources as potential flashpoints for conflict, which indeed can be affected by the climate system. On the whole, there is a wide array of issues that can be explicitly discussed and explored under Climate Policy, Politics and Law.
Climate Ethics is a new phrase, coined specifically within the notion of Climate Affairs to capture an often tacit and neglected area of societal concern. Climate variability, climate change, and extreme events each has its own set of ethical aspects and considerations. They could include, but are not limited to, the following: intergenerational equity, environmental justice, discounting the future, valuation of regional climate, winners and losers in various climate change scenarios, 'polluter pays principle', and the 'precautionary principle'. Although these ethical aspects are extremely influential for action on climate issues, they are often overlooked in multidisciplinary and academic settings. This wide array of issues points to the need for making Climate Ethics an integral part of the training and capacity building process.
Climate Economics deals with various aspects of climate-related economic issues. These include impacts of severe climate events and global warming on societies and governments. It also particularly deals with the ongoing discussion of emission reductions in the context of international treaties, and their impact on local and global economies.
Climate Politics are closely related to climate policies being developed at the national and international level. However, the politics manifest them at local, national or international levels. The role played by various political actors - including political parties, NGO's, pressure groups, businesses and industries, and the general public - need to be fully understood in this respect.