Climate experts weigh in on loss and damage in special issue

  • 2015•10•02     Bonn

    In 2013 the re-insurance company Munich Re estimated that economic losses from natural disasters added up to nearly US$4 trillion over the past 30 years. Annual losses increased four-fold from around US$50 billion in the early 1980s to around US$200 billion in 2010. Natural hazards further claimed 2.5 million lives, 61% of which were caused by weather extremes. While not all of these losses can be directly attributed to climate change, there is already evidence that global warming increases the frequency and intensity of weather-related disasters.

    This month the International Journal of Global Warming has released a special issue on loss and damage edited by UNU-EHS senior experts Dr. Kees van der Geest and Dr. Koko Warner. For the first time this special issue will bring together multiple perspectives on climate-induced loss and damage from a variety of key experts, including contributions by a lawyer, climate change negotiators, agronomists, geographers, anthropologists, economists and more. The focus ranges from assessing loss and damage to addressing loss and damage; from local to national and global scales; and from measurable to less tangible losses.

    A few highlights:

    In the editorial introduction, Van der Geest and Warner (2015) provide a fit-for-purpose definition that links loss and damage to cutting-edge research on adaptation limits and constraints.

    Roberts and Huq (2015) chronicle the rise of loss and damage in the climate change negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

    Verheyen (2015) looks at loss and damage from a legal perspective. The article addresses some of loss and damage’s biggest questions, such as attribution of losses and damages to global warming and how liability and compensation fit in.

    Gall (2015) explores how suitable existing disaster loss databases are for documenting losses and damages associated with impacts of climate change and extremes such as floods, droughts and cyclones.

    Birkmann and Welle (2015) use the World Risk Index to show differences in the risk of loss and damage between low- and high-income countries, within countries, and between sudden onset and slow-onset hazards.

    Surminski and Eldridge (2015) focus on the role of the private sector in addressing loss and damage.

    Ahmed and Schmitz (2015) criticize models that fail to incorporate agricultural adaptations in estimations of future climate-induced crop losses in Pakistan.

    Roberts and Andrei (2015) zoom in on the special cases of Alaska and the small island state of Kiribati. Sea level rise, permafrost melt and coastal erosion are making these places uninhabitable. The article explores the loss and damage that results when people are forced to leave their homes, with special focus on non-economic loss and damage such as loss of identity.

    Wrathall et al. (2015) anticipate some of the challenges that they expect the Warsaw International Mechanism will encounter.

    Stabinsky and Hoffmeister (2015) provide an inside look at the evolution, foundations, and rationale for the establishment of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and