By: George Kurzom
slow rise of sea water flow to the land in northern Gaza Strip
Exclusive to Environment and Development Horizons:
There has been much Palestinian official and public talk in recent years around the need to make decisions and formulate policies to confront the worsening climate conditions. Yet no real steps have been taken so far in this direction due to inappropriate prioritization and strategic decisions in the field of development and environment and other reasons related to confusion of authorities and budgeting.
Although the Israeli occupation bears the largest share of responsibility for the imbalance in the Palestinian climate system, the ongoing indifference by Palestinian officials and grassroots towards climate change may prove very costly for the Palestinian environment and economy. The lack of required preventive action may cause economic losses reaching hundreds of millions of dollars by 2020. The main reasons for these projected losses are the potential aggravation of the water crisis that will be further compounded by the continuing Israeli looting of water sources, as well as the floods, events related to Gaza sea and coast and deterioration of agriculture.
Climate adaptation, vulnerability and resilience have become the most important approaches to decision-making and policy formulation with regard to climate change at the level of NGOs, international organizations and governments. However, climate change poses unique challenges for policymakers, including uncertainty and broad planning perspectives, where the above listed approaches address these issues in different and distinctive ways.
The vulnerability approach, in particular, responds to today’s needs (immediate needs) and often assumes that reducing social vulnerability will automatically lead to an equal increase in the capacity to manage future disturbances. The adaptation approach takes the issue of future uncertainty out of discussion by focusing on risks that we basically are aware of and can predict with a degree of certainty.
Although the adaptation approach is based on assessing the cost and benefit by private sector agents, it does not provide any guarantees of sustainable results (for the affected system) in the long term. In the vulnerability approach, the public sector addresses the immediate needs of small population segments whenever such needs ensue. But the approach may overlook signs indicating that the sustainability of the whole system that supports these and other population segments is at risk.
The ability to adapt to climate changes is often treated as a function of wealth, technology, educational attainment, information, skills, infrastructure, access to resources, stability and management capacity. Accordingly, one may conclude that advanced western countries (such as Norway) who are classified at a high level in terms of all the above-listed aspects will theoretically possess high ability to adapt with the changing climatic structure. Yet experimental studies indicate that this ability does not always translate into successful adaptive processes. Hence there is increased recognition of the fact that obstacles to such adaptation exist in both advanced and developing economies.
On the other hand, the resilience approach was designed with the aim of building the system’s capacity to manage the change by maintaining its resiliency. Nevertheless, due to the tradeoff between competency and resiliency, the resilience approach acknowledges that fragility and vulnerability are inherent in any system.
Furthermore, the resilience approach is designed to manage sudden events. Timmerman, for example, makes distinction between negative and positive sudden events, using for them the terms “catastrophes” and “epiphanies,” and argues that a resilient system is one that avoids catastrophes and reinforces epiphanies.
The concept of resilience, and consequently the capacity to restore vigor, deals in more depth with the concept of adaptation to climate change and may constitute a useful tool for action in a society living under a colonial eradicative occupation that aims to exterminate all what remains from the agricultural and farming structure.
In general, in order to mitigate the effects of global warming and to cope with climate changes in the Palestinian agriculture at an individual and collective levels, we will summarize (in future articles) major environmental practices and policies aimed at reinforcing resilience to current and expected climate changes, as well as resilience to the occupation’s measures that undermine the Palestinian agricultural structure and also to pressures resulting from some Palestinian official policies and practices that frustrate and hinder the self-reliant and resistant production’s liberation process .
But first we should note that the affiliation to a strong social network, which includes having local friends and participating in group activities, may have a preventive impact against heat strikes, while social isolation would play as an additional risk.
Critical reviews of the social capital reveal that in the presence of social networks (links between groups) or linkages (relations between individuals), this capital may enhance resilience of societies (but not necessarily). Networks and linkages are also associated with survival and recovery from natural disasters. Ultimately, vulnerability and injury may be reduced.