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Climate change and sediment disaster

Following the previous message, this is again about "International Sabo Symposium 2015 in Sendai" (18 March 2015). Under the theme: "Challenges to Reduce the Risk of Sediment Disasters Caused by Climate Change and Urbanization", the Symposium will address issues on urbanization and disasters, climate change and disasters, risk assessment, early warning, disaster education, investment for DRR (disaster risk reduction), information sharing and so on.

By this message I would like to share with ISN members as well as panelists and participants of the Symposium some basic information on "climate change and sediment disasters" together with my personal views on the climate change related risks and approaches to address them.

"Extreme heavy rains" which cause sediment disaster is one of positive impacts of climate change (Figure.1: attached). Sediment disasters are occurring increasingly in the world including Japan. Besides, a series of IPCC reports1) have been completed recently which gave a full account of climate change-related risks and made recommendation on approaches appropriate for climate change DRR. Thus, the discussion on "climate change and sediment disaster" at the Symposium is particularly important and timely.

Continuous increase in the level of risks and uncertainties in the range of risks in the future are, in my view, the essential characteristics of climate change-related risks according to Figure.2 (attached); Accordingly, resilience to hazards exceeding the design magnitude assumed at the time of planning and flexibility to the changing climate conditions should be the basic principles for approaches for climate change DRR.

Climate change has been a global issue especially since 2007 when IPCC stated for the first time that warming due to GHGs (greenhouse gases) emission was unequivocal. Since then many documents on climate change have been prepared by various organizations, which do not directly deal with sediment disasters but contain suggestions useful for sediment disaster DRR. Some focused on technical aspects on planning procedures and others made recommendation on options of approaches, all pursuing, in principle, resilient and flexible approach to address climate change risks2).

It should be noted that INTERPRAEVENT Symposium (28 November 2014 Nara, Japan) made recommendations relating to climate change as follows:

  • Technology on DRR planning in the combination of structural and non-structural approaches so that damage by disasters exceeding the design magnitude due to climate change and others may be minimized;
  • Similarly, technology on design and construction of Sabo facilities which can maintain their function against disasters exceeding the design magnitude

It should also be noted that Sustainable Development Goals (draft) include a goal relating to climate change as follows:

Goal 13 Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts:

strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate related hazards and natural disasters in all countries,
integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies,
and planning
improve education, awareness raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction, and early warning
Promote mechanisms for raising capacities for effective climate change related planning and management, in LDGs, including focusing on women, youth, local and marginalized communities

At the Symposium, many suggestions will be made by panelists and other participants on how to consider the climate change risks in sediment disaster DRR, based on their experience in each country, and in reference to the relevant documents, recommendations of INTERPRAEVENT and Sustainable Development Goals as mentioned above. For those suggestions to be effective especially in developing countries, it is advised to prepare practical guidelines for sediment disasters, like those for floods by MLIT and for water resources by JICA.

Finally, let us expect that the outcomes of the Symposium will contribute to advancing sediment disaster risk reduction in each country under concerted effort at international level in "an era of climate change" which has already started and will continue for generations and generations in the future.

-Attached figures and tables (PDF: 151KB)

March 2015

Hidetomi Oi

President of International Sabo Association

Foot notes

IPCC Assessment Report 5 (AR5) was completed in 2014 which consisted of a series of reports with specific subjects: Working Group1 Report on "Physical Science Basis" (September 2013), WG2 Report on "Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability" (March 2014), WG3 Report on "Mitigation of Climate Change" (April 2014) and Synthesis Report (November 2014)
Some reference materials
- "Practical Guidelines on Strategic Climate Change Adaptation Planning for Flood Disasters" (MLIT Japan 2010)
- Mid-term report of "Climate Change Adaptation Strategies to Cope with Water-related Disasters due to GlobalWarming (5.3)" (River Sector Committee of Panel on Infrastructure Development Subcommittee on Climate Change Adaptation for Flood Control, MLIT 2015)
- Handbook on Climate Change Adaptation in the Water Sector (JICA 2011)
- IPCC reports (especially AR5 Working Group 2 (C), and others)
- 2009 Global Assessment Report on DRR-Risk and Poverty in a Changing Climate (1.5 and 4.4)" (UNISDR 2009)
- Learning from Mega Disasters-Knowledge Note (World Bank 2012)
- Guidance on Water and Adaptation to Climate Change (Economic Commission for Europe 2009)