Improving governance is key for adaptive capacity

October 28, 2019

Governance in climate vulnerable countries will take decades to improve, substantially impeding the ability of nations to adapt to climate change and affecting billions of people globally, according to new research published in Nature Sustainability.

Weak governance is one of the key obstacles to sustainable development, and while there is no doubt that improving governance comes with a broad range of co-benefits including the ability to respond to pressing global challenges like climate change, there is a shortage of quantitative data around possible future pathways in this regard. The new study aims to address this gap by for the first time quantifying different governance pathways at the national level over the 21th century, using scenarios of socioeconomic development - the so-called Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs) - which are widely used in climate change research. The authors also draw on the World Governance Indicators provided by the World Bank, which take into account multiple dimensions of governance such as political stability, government effectiveness, regulatory quality, the rule of law, and measures to control corruption.

"Since the climate of tomorrow will not meet the society of today, we need to include sociodemographic and economic components in forecasting future societies' adaptive capacity. While much work has been done on climate scenarios, the work that quantifies and offers a future outlook on a society like ours is scarce," explains IIASA World Population researcher Raya Muttarak, one of the study authors.

Even under the most optimistic development scenarios, the results indicate that it will take until around 2050 to overcome weak governance globally. Under pessimistic scenarios characterized by regional rivalry, more than three billion people would still be living in countries with weak governance conditions well beyond mid-century.

"Governance is a key ingredient of a country's capacity to adapt to climate change," elaborates study lead author Marina Andrijevic from Climate Analytics, a non-profit institute working on climate science and policy in relation to the 1.5°C limit in the Paris Agreement. "For example, good governance is important for long-term planning, guidelines and regulations, and can be crucial for governments in successfully leveraging investments in adaptation projects. Conversely, a lack of transparency, high corruption or political instability could deprive a government of that much-needed finance."

The numerous interventions a government can make to adapt to climate change - such as prioritizing policies, mobilizing resources, coordinating efforts, and decision-making - are processes often contingent on the efficacy of institutional mechanisms. The level of corruption within a government, for instance, will impact its ability to deal with a climate-related disaster.

The results not only have far-reaching implications for sustainable development, but they also link directly to the immediate need to adapt to the impacts of climate change, particularly in the most vulnerable countries. According to the authors, this new understanding of the possible pathways of governance and the resulting adaptive capacity will contribute to more realistic assessments of how the world may be able to cope with the impacts of climate change in the future.

"We tend to treat climate change adaptation as something that we can just switch on and then we're fine, but our study shows that it is more complicated than that and that building adaptive capacity in many regions of the world will take a long time," adds study coauthor Carl-Friedrich Schleussner of Climate Analytics and Humboldt University.

On the upside, the study shows that countries characterized by very weak governance have a near-term rate of improvement of up to five times faster under the most optimistic scenarios than they do under the worst.

"There is a window of opportunity to eradicate the lowest levels of governance in the near term and get the world on a pathway towards achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals," says study coauthor Jesus Crespo Cuaresma, a researcher in the IIASA World Population Program and professor of economics at the Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU). "This is of paramount importance also to enable those nations, many of which are located in climate vulnerable regions, to adapt to climate change."

Andrijevic M, Crespo Cuaresma J, Muttarak R, Schleussner C-F (2019). Governance in socioeconomic pathways and its role for future adaptive capacity. Nature Sustainability DOI: 10.1038/s41893-019-0405-0

More info/Links


Researcher contact

Jesus Crespo Cuaresma
Research Scholar
World Population Program
Tel: +43 2236 807 513

Press Officer

Ansa Heyl
IIASA Press Office
Tel: +43 2236 807 574
Mob: +43 676 83 807 574

About IIASA:

The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) is an international scientific institute that conducts research into the critical issues of global environmental, economic, technological, and social change that we face in the twenty-first century. Our findings provide valuable options to policymakers to shape the future of our changing world. IIASA is independent and funded by prestigious research funding agencies in Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe.

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis

Related Climate Change Articles from Brightsurf:

Are climate scientists being too cautious when linking extreme weather to climate change?
Climate science has focused on avoiding false alarms when linking extreme events to climate change.

Mysterious climate change
New research findings underline the crucial role that sea ice throughout the Southern Ocean played for atmospheric CO2 in times of rapid climate change in the past.

Mapping the path of climate change
Predicting a major transition, such as climate change, is extremely difficult, but the probabilistic framework developed by the authors is the first step in identifying the path between a shift in two environmental states.

Small change for climate change: Time to increase research funding to save the world
A new study shows that there is a huge disproportion in the level of funding for social science research into the greatest challenge in combating global warming -- how to get individuals and societies to overcome ingrained human habits to make the changes necessary to mitigate climate change.

Sub-national 'climate clubs' could offer key to combating climate change
'Climate clubs' offering membership for sub-national states, in addition to just countries, could speed up progress towards a globally harmonized climate change policy, which in turn offers a way to achieve stronger climate policies in all countries.

Review of Chinese atmospheric science research over the past 70 years: Climate and climate change
Over the past 70 years since the foundation of the People's Republic of China, Chinese scientists have made great contributions to various fields in the research of atmospheric sciences, which attracted worldwide attention.

A CERN for climate change
In a Perspective article appearing in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Tim Palmer (Oxford University), and Bjorn Stevens (Max Planck Society), critically reflect on the present state of Earth system modelling.

Fairy-wrens change breeding habits to cope with climate change
Warmer temperatures linked to climate change are having a big impact on the breeding habits of one of Australia's most recognisable bird species, according to researchers at The Australian National University (ANU).

Believing in climate change doesn't mean you are preparing for climate change, study finds
Notre Dame researchers found that although coastal homeowners may perceive a worsening of climate change-related hazards, these attitudes are largely unrelated to a homeowner's expectations of actual home damage.

Older forests resist change -- climate change, that is
Older forests in eastern North America are less vulnerable to climate change than younger forests, particularly for carbon storage, timber production, and biodiversity, new research finds.

Read More: Climate Change News and Climate Change Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to