Strategies of Communication on Climate Change

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The important thing is to do something

A post by Max Iacono, inspired by the post by Ugo Bardi on the meeting on climate change held in the town of Fiesole

by Max Iacono

A meeting such as the one whichtook place in Fiesole easily could be viewed as the first in a longer series of stakeholder meetings convened as part of a participatory local economic and social development program lasting several years.   Two “development” paradigms or models come to mind here.  One is “community development” and the other is “local economic development” or more generally “local development”.  “Local development” is a more encompassing term which can include local economic, social, political/ governance, cultural and environmental kinds of development; and an adequate local response to climate change can be viewed as engaging in a particular type of “local environmental development” program; in reality the various “dimensional” types of local development mentioned above all are inter-related and mutually supportive or constraining.

Without going further into the distinctions between community development and local economic or other kinds of local development each pursued in different ways  -since the international experience is wide and diverse- it is useful to note that often participatory local development initiatives begin with an assessment of the current situation in which the locality finds itself;  the local stakeholders look at both problems and opportunities which the community faces and then try to identify strategies and programs to self-develop the locality or community to which they belong.  If the meeting in Fiesole -or in the countless other localities throughout the world where it might have taken place- is viewed in this way, then the meeting might be seen as only the first in a series of many geared to assessing local problems and needs, developing strategies and then implementing an appropriate set of practical measures and actions. 

It is of course very difficult -in fact impossible- to know in advance what practical measures eventually should or could be implemented by local stakeholders at the community or local levels in the millions of communities and localities existing throughout the world  to mitigate against climate change and its many diverse effects in each particular place.   These measures by necessity will vary enormously from place to place and context to context.

One fairly obvious general effect of climate change however is that the weather is getting “wilder” in various ways.  So there are  -and there will continue to be- more droughts, more fires, more very heavy rainfall or snowfall, more floods, more hurricanes,  more tornados, and seasons that are ever more out of kilter -e.g. longer or shorter and more intense summers or winters- thereby also affecting agriculture in various and differing ways,  as well as plants, trees, animals, insects, pollinators, vector-borne diseases and etc.

It would seem that the first thing any community or locality would need or wish to do is to understand:  i) how exactly it is being affected already in some of the ways above or in other ways over any single calendar year period;  and ii) how  is it most likely going to be affected in let’s say another five years based on current trends in the worsening of climate change.  Since this is the most probable scenario because parts per million of CO2 continue to increase by about 3 ppm per year and increasing quantities of methane also are being released and more ice melt also is occurring.   But it also can be useful to look at the history of severe weather events in the locality and around its general area over the past 50 to 100 years, if it is available.   This is because a flood that before might have occurred only once in every 100 years now might occur on average once per decade.  

Once this first general assessment is done it will be easier for local stakeholders to discuss sensibly what might be done and what could be planned and done by the local community,  or by the province or the region or the country within which it is set. 

The other aspect which I think any local stakeholders probably need to understand is the difference between various kinds of actions and measures which are possible and namely those which belong in four categories:  i) prevention ii) mitigation iii) adaptation and iv) reversal.  Measures implemented in one category may have effects in some of the other categories too but generally speaking there are different measures for different objectives.
For instance although Fiesole may wish to focus on preparing better for any fires which may occur, nothing prevents its residents from also being aware of what is involved in the Keystone pipeline decision in the United States which will affect prevention probably more than any other single development at this time. And although I wouldn’t necessarily advocate it because I think it would be mostly ineffective, they also could write a letter about it to president Obama so that he at least might know that people all over the world are watching what he does or fails to do.  Doing something about preparing for fires  (mitigation locally) while writing such a letter (prevention internationally) would help to synergize and further activate the concern and action for climate change by those involved.  The important thing is to actually do something and to remember that it is mostly by doing –and often by trial and error- that we learn ever more about what to do and how to do it and develop further both our capacities and our confidence and motivation for taking further action.

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