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Getting Ahead of the Curve: Supporting Adaptation to Long-term Climate Change and Short-term Climate Variability Alike

Alexis Saba, Michela Biasutti, Michael Gerrard, David Lobell


The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has been meeting since 1995, and in recent years, it has increasingly focused on facilitating and funding climate change adaptation in developing countries. Other sources of financing, from multilateral development banks to bilateral and multilateral agreements among countries, are also providing resources for adaptation. Simultaneously, climate scientists around the world are updating their forecasts on the nature of future climate change. This article seeks to examine the scope of funding available for climate change adaptation and how climate change forecasts are used to plan for and evaluate climate change adaptation. We narrow our focus to sources and examples relevant for the African Sahel. After surveying recent UNFCCC negotiations, the financing frameworks of numerous funding sources, and an adaptation project in Ethiopia, we find that most adaptation projects in this region address vulnerabilities to current climate, without considering where climate change will bring new or increased risks. Therefore, today’s adaptation projects, while effective in enhancing climate resilience in the short run, may well fail to adequately prepare the people of the Sahel for long-term climate change. Recognizing the need of many countries to cope with current climate variability as well as to prepare for future climate change, this paper concludes with recommendations for how climate adaptation funds could strike a better balance between the two in a way that helps the people of the Sahel and other developing countries get ahead of the curve and prepare for the emerging new climate.


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