UNU-EHS: Pioneering study shows evidence of loss and damage

For the world’s most vulnerable communities, loss and damage related to climate change is a reality today. A new study draws evidence of loss and damage from five case studies conducted in Bangladesh, Bhutan, The  Gambia, Kenya and Micronesia. The findings provide empirical insights into the limits of adaptation and the costs of  unmitigated climate change. The study reveals that, in all five countries, affected communities suffered from loss and damage despite undertaking coping and adaptation measures. The report is presented by UNU-EHS as a part of the Climate Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) Loss and Damage in Vulnerable Countries Initiative.

“Our findings reveal how communities cope with and adapt to climate change impacts. Above all we see that Loss and Damage is a reality today and the numbers are alarming. It is happening even though adaption measures are taken: In Micronesia 92% of respondents were still experiencing adverse impacts, followed by 87% in Bhutan, 72% in Kenya, 70% in Bangladesh and 66% in The Gambia”, stated Dr. Koko Warner, Scientific director, CDKN Loss and Damage in Vulnerable Countries Initiative, UN University in Bonn. “The study also shows how highly sensitive to climatic disturbance these people are: 98.3 per cent base their livelihoods on farming and 83% on livestock keeping (both median values). For 85% of households surveyed, the main purpose of cultivating crops was for their own consumption. Only a median value of 10.9% of surveyed HHs primarily engaged in cultivating crops for the purpose of selling. These bare figures are telling us that people are already at the margins of their survival”, Dr. Warner further explained.

Dr. Saleemul Huq, Director, International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCAD) and Senior Fellow, International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), elaborated further on Bangladesh, “81% of the survey respondents reported high salinity levels in their soils, compared to only two per cent 20 years ago. Rice farmers have learned to adapt to increasing salinity in their soils until 2009 when cyclone Aila hit Bangladesh. In the two subsequent years, salinity levels were so high that rice yields were decimated. The total loss of rice harvest amounted to US$1.9  million  for  just  the  four villages surveyed.” In this context Mr. Huq underscored that, “not all losses are quantifiable in dollars. For example in the case of Bangladesh, women have reported reproductive health problems and incidences of miscarriage. It is crucial that these non monetary costs are identified if they are to be considered by policymakers in climate negotiations”, he added.

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