“Climate change is triggering a migrant crisis in Vietnam” now published on The Conversation

by Alex Chapman, University of Southampton

DECCMA and ESPA Deltas researcher Dr Alex Chapman’s piece “Climate change is triggering a migrant crisis in Vietnam” has just been published on The Conversation UK. The article outlines how net out-migration of one million people from the delta – over double the national average – relates to a reduction in agricultural productivity and the effects of repeated exposure to cyclones that cause erosion of land and infrastructure.

Courtesy of The Conversation

Crucially, the article highlights that the creation of embankments, intended by the government to support in situ adaptation, actually often have the opposite effect. This is because in protecting the land, the embankments prevent “normal” flooding that replenishes soil nutrients and supports fishery-based livelihoods. Dr Chapman concludes by highlighting the importance of ensuring economic growth and adaptation supports all groups of the population to reduce a potential migrant crisis.


What does a 1.5⁰C increase in global temperature mean for deltas?

by Robert Nicholls

Deltas are a climate change hotspot, where the effects of climate change coincide with large numbers of people. Sea level rise is a major threat to deltas, bringing risks of flooding and erosion. As the world tries to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5⁰C, the DEltas, vulnerability and Climate Change: Migration and Adaptation (DECCMA) project has been looking at how deltas will be affected by increases in temperature of 1.5⁰C, 2⁰C or 3⁰C.

Volta delta mangroves (photo by Klaus Wohlmann)

Following the historic Paris Agreement, 1.5 ⁰C has become a hot topic.  The Paris Agreement commits developed and developing countries to global temperature increase to 2⁰C, with the aspiration to limit to 1.5⁰C.  These numbers are widely believed to be critical thresholds beyond which significant changes in the natural environment would be experienced (known as planetary boundaries).

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The issue of 1.5⁰C has recently been high on the political agenda again, as the 23rd Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC met in Bonn to discuss a framework for reporting climate action to monitor the commitments made under the agreement.  Knowing the implications of a 1.5⁰C increase informs the “ambition mechanism”, whereby stocktakes of progress are due to be taken every 5 years, with a view to then revising and updating mitigation and adaptation commitments.  Improvements in science play a key input to ensuring that these commitments remain ambitious and on target to limit the damaging effects of climate change.

Deltas are home to 500 million people worldwide, as well as being natural environments that generate livelihoods, income and essential ecosystem services.  DECCMA has been investigating the effects of climate change in four study sites across three deltas across Africa and Asia: the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna (GBM) megadelta in Bangladesh and the Indian Bengal component in India; and the smaller deltas of Mahanadi in India and Volta in Ghana.

Given the interest in 1.5⁰C, we have used our customised integrated assessment model –the Delta Dynamic Integrated Emulator Model – to look at the likely changes in flooding (in terms of depth of flood and area affected) and the impacts on population in the GBM in Bangladesh under three different scales of temperature increase: 1.5°C, 2.0°C and 3.0°C.

If we continue with relatively high rates of greenhouse gas emissions, models show that a 1.5°C increase could occur from 2011 to 2033.  Rates of temperature increase have already been significant and rapid.  Observed changes in temperature over the 20th century showed an increase in 0.7⁰C.  In comparison, in the readjustment period since the last ice age global temperatures have only increased by between 4-7c over 5000 years.

Sea level rise of 5-14cm is associated with an increase in global temperature of 1.5⁰C.  This may not seem a lot, and it is particularly difficult to find a reference period because sea levels have varied significantly over the last 20,000 years, reflecting glacial periods and the readjustment of land masses.  But, as an indication, sea levels rose by less than 2mm over the 20th century, so the projected increase is over 20 times more than that.

Until 2040 the differences that are likely from a 1.5⁰C increase and a 2⁰C increase are indistinguishable largely due to the year on year variability that is already characteristic of deltas.

If the temperature increase reaches 3⁰C, some of consequences more than double.  The area flooded under 3⁰C is more than 2.5 times that under 1.5⁰C of such sea level rise, for example.  Those at greatest risk are in the central regions and northeast, where there are fewer polders to protect the land.

The good news is that there is still time to implement adaptation – if we act now.  Our team has investigated adaptation and found 93 documented examples in our study deltas spanning agriculture, water management and disaster risk reduction.  We are now in the process of developing an integrated assessment model that will give us insights into adaptation needs and options under various future scenarios.

For more information, see:

Brown Sally, Nicholls Robert J, Lázár Attila, Hazra Sugata, Appeaning Addo Kwasi, Hornby Duncan D, Hill Chris, Haque Anisul, Caesar John and Tompkins Emma, What are the implications of sea-level rise for a 1.5°C, 2°C and 3°C rise in global mean temperatures in vulnerable deltas? Submitted to Regional Environmental Change.

(This blog is also published in the December edition of the CARIAA newsletter)

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Prizegiving for the enumerators of Bangladesh’s 1500 household survey

Certificates were awarded to 18 young researchers who acted as enumerators in DECCMA’s survey of migration and adaptation in 1500 households in Dhaka and Chittagong – two of the most influential cities in Bangladesh and the destination of many migrants.

The certificate award ceremony took place at the end of October at the Institute for Water and Flood Management at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology. It coincided with a Bangladesh Country Team meeting, that brought together more than 80 researchers from the various partner organisations, including RMMRU, BIDS, TARA, CEGIS and SANEM.

Certificates were awarded at the Bangladesh Country Team meeting

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There were different categories of prize. One was for best supervisor of the DECCMA receiving area survey, two were available for best enumerators (one each for Dhaka and Chittagong) and  two for the best photography. Mr Md. Masum Ebne Haque and Muhammad Sehab Uddin got the prize for their valuable photos. Mr Md. Ataur Rahman and Ms Nahida Akter was selected as the best enumerators and Mr Robi Ray was selected for the best field supervisor. Congratulations to all!

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DECCMA team participates in FAO Regional Meeting in Ghana

by Prosper Adiku

DECCMA was invited to make a presentation at the Food and Agriculture Organisation Regional Meeting held in Akosombo, Ghana from November 20-24, 2017; and hosted a field visit to the Volta delta.

FAO’s is committed to promoting rural agricultural development. Migration currently has a negative impact on agriculture by taking away economically-active adults, and so the intention is to make agriculture attractive.

Dr Mumuni Abu presents migration findings from the Volta delta

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Lead of the migration work in Ghana, Dr Mumuni Abu, was invited to share DECCMA’s findings on climate change and migration in the Volta delta, as well as to discuss how to leverage the opportunities presented by FAO in collaborating for further studies. He shared information on who migrants in the delta are, reasons for migrating, where the migrants go to, the duration of migration and the general perception of people about migration.

As part of the meeting programme, the DECCMA team hosted a visit to the Keta Municipality to learn about the interactions between climate change, migration and agriculture in the delta. The team interacted with officials of the District Assembly through presentations and discussions on climate change and agriculture-related issues in the Municipality and how these are impacting on the lives of the people. Officials from the planning department, Community development workers and the Information Services Department of the Assembly as well as DECCMA representatives were present during the interactions.

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Gender and the Paris Agreement to the UNFCCC

By Katharine Vincent

Climate change does not affect men and women in the same way.  DECCMA recognises this and, through its research, aims to “deliver policy support to create the conditions for sustainable, gender-sensitive adaptation”.  How is DECCMA in line with the gender dimensions of climate change in international policy?

African Working Group on Gender and Climate Change side event at COP22 in Marrakech

The Paris Agreement is the latest legally-binding outcome under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – the global policy framework for addressing climate change.  The Paris Agreement has been in the spotlight again after the recent 23rd Meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP) to the UNFCCC, hosted by Fiji and held in Bonn.

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Despite the existing UNFCCC commitments to gender, the Paris Agreement is, outside of the Preamble, largely gender-blind.  A set of recent papers, commissioned by the African Working Group on Gender and Climate Change with the support of IDRC, show that the term “gender” features only three times throughout the whole Paris Agreement: once in the Preamble; once in Article 7 (adaptation-focused); and once in Article 1 (capacity building-focused).  Neither the articles on mitigation nor technology transfer mention gender.

By not explicitly referencing gender there is a risk that Parties do not apply a gender-responsive approach in implementing the Agreement, and thus existing gender inequalities are reinforced.   Women typically have less control over land, lower education levels, more restricted mobility (due to their home-based roles), and poorer levels of participation in decision-making compared to men.  However gender differences are context-specific and unpacking them is essential to develop gender-responsive adaptation.

Within its household survey DECCMA has been investigating the different ways that men and women adapt to climate change in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna, Indian Bengal, Mahanadi and Volta deltas.  It is our intention to use this to support gender-responsive adaptation, as outlined in Article 7 of the Paris Agreement.  Gender-responsive adaptations are better targeted to the different needs of men and women, and thus more effective and efficient.  We are also gender-sensitive in our capacity building attempts, and thus consistent with Article 11 of the Paris Agreement.

For a detailed gender analysis of the Paris Agreement, see this background paper produced by the African Working Group on Gender and Climate Change (with support of IDRC), and an accompanying gender-responsive implementation framework.

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DECCMA team discusses the forthcoming Bangladesh Delta Plan with the country’s Planning Commission

by Saiful Alam

The Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 (BDP) takes an adaptive management approach and the strategy is based on eight hotspots in the country, one of which is covered within the DECCMA study area. In a meeting with Professor Shamsul Alam, Member Secretary of the Global Economic Department in the Planning commission, the DECCMA Bangladesh team highlighted how project findings can inform the plan.

DECCMA Bangladesh PI Professor Munsur Rahman presents Professor Shamsul of the Planning Commission with the latest project publications

DECCMA’s research is helping to build deeper understanding of the cross sectoral adaptation that will be required in future. Dr Michele Leone, who oversees DECCMA for the International Development Research Centre, outlined the inventory of adaptations and findings of autonomous adaptations in the household survey would inform the implementation the Bangladesh Delta Plan.

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DECCMA Bangladesh Deputy PI, Dr Mashfiqus Salehin, added that the focus of DECCMA on migration has created significant insights who migrates, where, and with what consequences, and that the findings will be integrated into a model that will project changes in the delta in the context of climate change.

Referring to the linkages between adaptation and economic growth, Professor Alam said that the  Bangladesh Delta Plan makes significant progress compared to earlier water sector plans, by forging linkages between adaptation and economic development and growth in the country.  Professor Alam reiterated that for improved adaptation we need improved knowledge through multi-disciplinary research and innovations, and welcomed a Ganges Brahmaputra Meghna Delta Brief from the team, which summarises research findings to date.

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Should we unpack “community-based adaptation”?

by Natalie Suckall                           

Despite many examples of successful community-based adaptation, DECCMA’s extensive household survey  across four deltas found very little evidence of collective action. Rather than being activities in addition to those of the household, instead community-level effects are only observed when there is an aggregation of household-based activities. Does this mean that we need to better interrogate “community-based adaptation”?

Natalie Suckall presents at the Development Studies Association 2017 annual conference

Interest in this topic emerged at the recent Development Studies Association 2017 annual conference, held at the University of Bradford. Five DECCMA researchers led a panel on sustainable deltas. From varied presentations on observed adaptation, adaptation governance, migration and remittances, and migration and adaptation, a common theme emerged – that of scale. In particular, how does DECCMA understand events that take place at the community level, as opposed to the household or national level?

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One of the issues faced by DECCMA researchers was that no examples of collective action and very few examples of community based adaptation were found during our initial literature review of observable adaptation in the deltas.

Although some adaptation interventions were characterised as CBA, their impact was often felt at the household level where different households within the community were affected in different ways. For example, polders (land reclaimed from the sea) in Bangladesh are often described as a community adaptation as they aim to protect entire communities from flooding as well as providing land for farmers and fishers. Sometimes communities are involved in their construction.

Whilst communities may be involved in the construction of polders, this does not mean that the benefits are equally spread.  Within each polder there exist multiple competing interests between government, farmers, pond owners, and the landless.  Larger and better off households are more likely to be successful farmers and fishers, with profit and yield unlikely to be distributed to the landless poor. What this really means is that each household is affected by the polder in a different way – and thus to talk of it as a community-based adaptation hides these differences.

Our survey of 6000 households in the four study sites provided an opportunity to search for examples of collective action. We found that in all four locations less than a quarter of households were involved in a cooperative group.  The highest membership was in the Indian Mahandi at 25%, whilst it was 14% in Ghana, 8% in Bangladesh, and only 6% in the Indian Bengal delta.

In light of these findings, DECCMA’s integrated assessment model considers only national and household-level adaptations. Our survey evidence shows that community-based adaptation is far less important than household level, and is captured by aggregating household-level benefits. Since findings show that community-based adaptation can have variable effects, we should perhaps interrogate it before promoting as an appropriation adaptation to climate change.

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DECCMA and ASSAR present at UNU-WIDER Development Conference in Ghana

by Prosper Adiku, DECCMA Ghana RiU focal point

On October 6th, Kwasi Appeaning-Addo participated at the UNU-WIDER Development Conference held in Accra.

The UNU-WIDER Conference, held under the theme ‘Migration and mobility- new frontiers for research and policy’ was jointly organised by the UNU-WIDER and the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA). The 2-day conference comprised plenary, parallel sessions with contributed papers, and a poster session. The conference explored the relationships between migration, mobility, and development, with a focus on South-South movements and the African region. It aimed to bring together new and innovative research from economics and other disciplines that can inform broader policy-relevant debate and action.

UNU WIDER conference

Profs. Chris Gordon (2nd L) and Appeaning-Addo (2nd R) at the Environment and Natural Resources parallel session of the Conference (Photograph credit: Wendy Boakye)

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Presenting on DECCMA’s findings on migration and mobility across deltas, Professor Appeaning-Addo was part of the “Environment and Natural Resources” parallel session chaired by Linguère Mously Mbaye. The Collaborative Adaptation Research in Africa and Asia programme was also represented by Professor Chris Gordon of Adaptation at Scale in Arid and Semi-arid land (ASSAR). Drawing together their findings on deltas and semi-arid lands in Ghana, DECCMA and ASSAR jointly developed a research brief ‘Migration: An Opportunity or Threat to Adaptation?’ which was available at the conference.

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DECCMA participates in webinar on gender roles in water scarcity-induced migration

by Katharine Vincent

Creating evidence to contribute to policy support for gender-sensitive adaptation in deltas requires significant sex-disaggregated data and investigation of gender implications of migration. DECCMA has, so far, surveyed 6000 households across four deltas in migrant-sending areas, and is in the process of surveying a further 6000 households in migrant-receiving areas.

Where possible in the survey, the household head and an adult of the other sex have been separately surveyed, giving rise to a significant data set. This illuminates gender differences in the causes, patterns and consequences of migration, and was highlighted by DECCMA during a webinar on “Gender roles in water scarcity-induced migration.”

The webinar took place as part of the GEF International Waters: LEARN project (gender sub-component), undertaken by UNESCO’s World Water Assessment Programme and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The aim of this project is to raise awareness of the importance of gender mainstreaming and how to do it in international waters project. They recently published a report on “Migration and its interdependencies with water scarcity, gender and youth“.