Climatic Change

, Volume 133, Issue 3, pp 453–467

Potential and limitations of the attribution of climate change impacts for informing loss and damage discussions and policies

  • Christian Huggel
  • Dáithí Stone
  • Hajo Eicken
  • Gerrit Hansen

DOI: 10.1007/s10584-015-1441-z

Cite this article as:
Huggel, C., Stone, D., Eicken, H. et al. Climatic Change (2015) 133: 453. doi:10.1007/s10584-015-1441-z


The issue of climate related loss and damage (L&D) has re-emerged and gained significant traction in international climate policy in recent years. However, many aspects remain unclear, including how aspects of liability and compensation in relation with L&D will be treated under the UNFCCC, human rights and environmental law. Furthermore, the type of scientific evidence required to link climate change impacts for each of these L&D mechanisms needs to be clarified. Here we analyze to which degree different types of scientific evidence can inform L&D discussions and policies. We distinguish between (i) L&D observation, (ii) understanding causation, and (iii) linking L&D to anthropogenic emissions through attribution studies. We draw on three case studies from Australia, Colombia and Alaska to demonstrate the relevance of the different types of evidence. We then discuss the potential and limitations of these types of scientific evidence, in particular attribution, for informing current L&D discussions and policies. Attribution (iii) sets the highest bar, but also provides the most complete set of information to support adaptation, risk reduction and L&D policies. However, rather than suggesting that attribution is a necessary requirement for L&D policies we want to highlight its potential for facilitating a more thematically structured, and thus hopefully a more constructive, policy and justice discussion.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christian Huggel
    • 1
  • Dáithí Stone
    • 2
  • Hajo Eicken
    • 3
  • Gerrit Hansen
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  2. 2.Lawrence Berkeley National LaboratoryBerkeleyUSA
  3. 3.International Arctic Research CenterUniversity of AlaskaFairbanksUSA
  4. 4.Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact ResearchPotsdamGermany

Personalised recommendations