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INATE Focus: Responding to evolving risks due to global change

Transdisciplinary Education for responding to evolving risks from rapid global change will be the initial focus of INATE. Disaster Risk Reduction and Building Resilience to Climate Change are the two core educational and research programmes of the INATE under this focus.

Building Resilience to Climate Change (BRCC)

The current and future impacts of climate change are considered among the most important issues faced by humanity. Countries, regions, economic sectors and social groups differ in their degree of vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. People in least developed and developing countries are among the most vulnerable yet have the least capacity to cope and adapt. Rapid and holistic actions based on mutual understanding and international cooperation are required to address the vulnerability of these groups. Such actions should focus on building the adaptive capacity and resilience of the most vulnerable, while mitigating the effects of climate change. This necessarily requires knowledge generation, capacity development and knowledge transfer on climate change and adaptation strategies.

Adaptation to climate change is very much a localized activity as the impacts of climate change vary from one area to another depending on local conditions. As such, adaptation strategies have to be developed locally, supported by global knowledge and experiences. For these strategies to evolve locally, local capacity development is essential, especially in the developing countries, to customize available global knowledge to local conditions. Climate change and adaptation is therefore one area where transdisciplinary approaches is most necessary.

Based on a number of studies on climate change and adaptation, some key areas emerge where additional research and/or and capacity development is needed. These include: (1) downscaling of climate change forecasts to local scale (GCM outputs); (2) assessment of climate change impacts on different sectors (impact models); (3) development of different response strategies; and (4) assessment of the appropriateness of these strategies by analyzing the consequences of their application. Many countries, especially developing countries, face difficulty in addressing these since most require the use of emerging knowledge and methodologies to which these countries have no access. Additionally, there are the problems of the lack of qualified professionals and faculties in the required fields, lack of dialog between researchers and the implementing communities and thereby absence of feedback loop, and inadequacy of the higher education sector to take on research programs that will allow customization of global knowledge and adjustment of future projections to local conditions.

INATE’s transdisciplinary education and research programs on BRCC shall therefore be designed to address these prob- lems. In particular, these programs should be based on the needs and current development stage of the target coun- tries/communities. They should aim to increase the number of technically competent persons who can use advanced envi- ronmental observations and global climate/weather forecasts. Finally, they should facilitate the customization of knowledge to meet local conditions and constraints. 

Disaster Risk Reduction

Trends in natural disasters show that they are increasing steadily in most regions of the world. Rapid global changes are modifying the frequency as well as the magnitude of weather related extremes, rendering current safety measures and standards obsolete. At the same time, there is increasing concentration of population and assets in urban and vulnerable areas. These, coupled with globalizing processes that have made world population very much interdependent, are triggering unprecedented losses from natural disasters. We are therefore urged to look into these problems with a deeper perspective and search for new approaches that will more reliably bring about desired results.

During the past two decades, there has been a shift from a reactionary to proactive, preventive approach to address disasters, and the focus has changed from hazard mitigation to the more appropriate risk reduction. Also, as mentioned earlier, there has been a move from mono-disciplinary to multi-disciplinary and then to inter-disciplinary approaches to addressing issues and concerns, including disaster management. Today, as we increasingly recognize that disaster risks are primarily local in the sense that they are modulated by the local geo-biophysical and social conditions and their impacts are most felt at the local level, there is realization of the necessity to tailor mitigation and adaptation strategies to local needs and conditions. Moreover, given the complexity, future uncertainty and evolving nature of the problems we are facing, continuous monitoring and updating of strategies are necessary, which require rapid transfer of knowledge and experience and efficient feedback mechanism. All these are possible only through transdisciplinary approaches that engage and encourage the widest participation of all stakeholders especially those at the local levels.

In INATE’s Transdisciplinary Education on Disaster Risk Reduction (TeDrr), the aim is to create DRR knowledge jointly through project-based DRR programs at the local level that shall involve a broad coalition of universities, local governments, NGOs and communities. These projects should focus not only on disaster risk reduction, but also how these measures are incorporated in to the improvement of daily lives. This shall serve as our commitment to the post-2015 framework for disaster risk reduction and shall be rooted in sustainability science supporting post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals. TeDrr is expected to strengthen the priority area Knowledge and Education of the Hyogo Framework of Actions and contribute to the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction to be held in 2015 in Sendai. 

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