Jon Barnett: Climate Adaptation Not Just Building Infrastructure, But Expanding OptionsJanuary 6, 2012 By Kayly Ober
“I think it’s appropriate to think about [climate change] adaptation or investments in adaptation as investments to open up the range of choices available to people to deal with an uncertain future,” said Jon Barnett, associate professor of geography at the University of Melbourne, in an interview with ECSP. “In some circumstances it might be appropriate to build infrastructure and hard options where we’re very certain about the nature of the risk…but in other cases, expanding the range of choices and freedoms and opportunities that people have to deal with climate change in the future is perhaps the better strategy.”
For example, providing education, especially for girls, would allow individuals to better negotiate the world and labor markets; installing renewable energy systems in areas lacking electricity would greatly expand the choices for remote households; and altering immigration laws would allow more fluid movements of people.
“Communities and families where people are able to move have higher levels of consumption through remittances that people send back, they have greater connections through the world through the information that migrants send back, [and] they have very reliable forms of income,” he pointed out.
Barnett cited small-island states as positive examples of mobility as adaptation. On Tuvalu, remittances from young male seafarers on crewing missions for international shipping companies from North America and Europe account for three-quarters of the consumption of households, he said. They send home some $4 million a year in remittances or around 10 to 14 percent of Tuvalu’s entire Gross Domestic Product.
Kiribati has an innovative nursing program which provides a way towards “migration with dignity,” said Barnett. Australia’s foreign aid organization, AusAID, sponsors a special scholarship called the Kiribati Australia Nursing Initiative (KANI) which helps provide i-Kiribati people with marketable job skills and, unlike other job training programs, does not require the trained nurses to go back home – they are welcome to stay in Australia.
“Matching skills training with providing that to vulnerable populations in ways that matches gaps in labor markets is a smart strategy of improving capacity to adapt to climate change,” said Barnett. “And it’s a lot cheaper and likely to be much more effective than trying to pick winners in investing in significant infrastructure developments.”
Sources: Islands Business International.