Great weather disasters (drought, floods, heat waves, tropical storms) have always posed significant risks to lives and assets (farms, roads, buildings), but as society continues to put more people and assets in the path of destructive weather, it must proceed with development intelligently. And if scientists’ projections about climate change come to pass, causing more frequent and severe weather events, the need to incorporate adaptation measures into economic development strategies only becomes greater. Not surprisingly, less developed countries have not adapted to the climate as well as their more highly developed counterparts, leaving them at heightened risk of devastating loss.
The good news is that many effective adaptation measures already exist. But developing countries’ governments must overcome two challenges: (1) Understanding how to get and use data on weather patterns to help determine which adaptation measures are most applicable to the risks they face; and (2) How to choose among the admittedly many options.
This article describes some basic decision-making tools that can help governments conduct the analysis necessary to allow them to take action. Specifically, it discusses how to identify and quantify specific, local climate risks and then design a portfolio of cost-effective adaptation measures that often largely pay for themselves and, in some cases, even aid economic growth. The government of a developing country can then integrate these measures into a comprehensive economic development plan. Once the national government has developed a high-level plan for addressing the significant climate risks, it can begin to involve the many stakeholders at the country, regional, and local levels who will be needed to execute it.