Climatic Change

, Volume 133, Issue 3, pp 453–467 | Cite as

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
Article

Abstract

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.

References

  1. Alexander LV, Arblaster JM (2009) Assessing trends in observed and modelled climate extremes over Australia in relation to future projections. Int J Climatol 29:417–435. doi:10.1002/joc.1730 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alexander LV, Hope P, Collins D et al (2007) Trends in Australia’s climate means and extremes: a global context. Aust Meteorol Mag 56:1–18Google Scholar
  3. Álvarez-Berríos NL, Parés-Ramos IK, Aide TM (2013) Contrasting patterns of urban expansion in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia between 1992 and 2009. AMBIO 42:29–40. doi:10.1007/s13280-012-0344-8 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barnhart KR, Anderson RS, Overeem I et al (2014) Modeling erosion of ice-rich permafrost bluffs along the Alaskan Beaufort Sea coast. J Geophys Res Earth Surf 119:1155–1179. doi:10.1002/2013JF002845 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bindoff NL, Stott PA, AchutaRao KM, Allen MR, Gillett N, Gutzler D, Hansingo K, Hegerl G, Hu Y, Jain S, Mokhov II, Overland J, Perlwitz J, Sebbari R, Zhang X (2013) Detection and attribution of climate change: from global to regional. In: Stocker TF, Qin D, Plattner G-K, Tignor M, Allen SK, Boschung J, Nauels A, Xia Y, Bex V, Midgley PM (eds) Climate change 2013: the physical science basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 867–952Google Scholar
  6. Bouwer LM (2011) Have disaster losses increased due to anthropogenic climate change? Bull Am Meteorol Soc 92:39–46. doi:10.1175/2010BAMS3092.1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Buxton M, Haynes R, Mercer D, Butt A (2011) Vulnerability to bushfire risk at Melbourne’s urban fringe: the failure of regulatory land use planning. Geogr Res 49:1–12. doi:10.1111/j.1745-5871.2010.00670.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chapin FS III, Trainor SF, Cochran P et al (2014) Ch. 22: Alaska. Climate change impacts in the United States: the third national climate assessment. In: Melillo JM, Richmond TC, Yohe GW (eds) U.S. global change research program. pp 514–536Google Scholar
  9. Christensen JH, Krishna Kumar K, Aldrian E, An S-I, Cavalcanti IFA, de Castro M, Dong W, Goswami P, Hall A, Kanyanga JK, Kitoh A, Kossin J, Lau N-C, Renwick J, Stephenson DB, Xie S-P, Zhou T (2013) Climate phenomena and their relevance for future regional climate change. In: Stocker TF, Qin D, Plattner G-K, Tignor M, Allen SK, Boschung J, Nauels A, Xia Y, Bex V, Midgley PM (eds) Climate change 2013: the physical science basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 1217–1308Google Scholar
  10. Clarke H, Lucas C, Smith P (2013) Changes in Australian fire weather between 1973 and 2010. Int J Climatol 33:931–944. doi:10.1002/joc.3480 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cramer W, Yohe G, Auffhammer M et al (2014) Detection and attribution of observed impacts. In: Field CB, Barros V, Dokken DJ, Mastrandrea MD, Mach KJ (eds) Climate change 2014: impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability. Part A: Global and Sectoral Aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 979–1037Google Scholar
  12. Crompton RP, McAneney KJ, Chen K et al (2010) Influence of location, population, and climate on building damage and fatalities due to Australian bushfire: 1925–2009. Weather Clim Soc 2:300–310. doi:10.1175/2010WCAS1063.1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Crompton RP, McAneney KJ, Chen K et al (2011) Reply. Weather Clim Soc 3:63–66. doi:10.1175/WCAS-D-11-00002.1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. David M (2014) Oral testimony of Mary David, Executive Vice President Kawerak, Inc. U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Testimony 30 July 2014, 13 ppGoogle Scholar
  15. Eicken H, Mahoney AR (2015) In: Ellis J, Sherman D, Ellis J, Sherman D (eds) Coastal and marine hazards, risks and disasters. Elsevier, Oxford, pp 381–401Google Scholar
  16. Fouillet A, Rey G, Laurent F et al (2006) Excess mortality related to the August 2003 heat wave in France. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 80:16–24. doi:10.1007/s00420-006-0089-4 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. GAO (Government Accountability Office) (2009) Alaska native villages: limited progress has been made on relocating villages threatened by flooding and erosion. U.S. Government Accountability Office, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  18. Grossman DA (2003) Warming up to a not-so-radical idea: tort-based climate change litigation. Columbia J Environ Law 28:1Google Scholar
  19. Hansen G, Stone D, Auffhammer M et al (2015) Linking local impacts to changes in climate—a guide to attribution. Reg Environ Change. doi:10.1007/s10113-015-0760-y
  20. Hasson A, Mills G, Timbal B, Walsh K (2009) Assessing the impact of climate change on extreme fire weather events over southeastern Australia. Clim Res 39:159–172. doi:10.3354/cr00817 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hollander Z, Kelly D (2013) Storm leaves trail of damage in western Alaska coastal villages. Anchorage Daily News, 11 Nov 2013. Anchorage Daily NewsGoogle Scholar
  22. Hovenden MJ, Williams AL (2010) The impacts of rising CO2 concentrations on Australian terrestrial species and ecosystems. Austral Ecol 35:665–684. doi:10.1111/j.1442-9993.2009.02074.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hoyos N, Escobar J, Restrepo JC et al (2013) Impact of the 2010–2011 La Niña phenomenon in Colombia, South America: the human toll of an extreme weather event. Appl Geogr 39:16–25. doi:10.1016/j.apgeog.2012.11.018 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Huggel C, Stone D, Auffhammer M, Hansen G (2013) Loss and damage attribution. Nat Clim Chang 3:694–696. doi:10.1038/nclimate1961 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hulme M (2014) Attributing weather extremes to “climate change” a review. Prog Phys Geogr 38:499–511. doi:10.1177/0309133314538644 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hulme M, O’Neill SJ, Dessai S (2011) Is weather event attribution necessary for adaptation funding? Science 334:764–765. doi:10.1126/science.1211740 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. IPCC (2014) Climate change 2014: impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability. Part A: global and sectoral aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  28. James R, Otto F, Parker H et al (2014) Characterizing loss and damage from climate change. Nat Clim Chang 4:938–939. doi:10.1038/nclimate2411 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Jones BM, Arp CD, Beck RA et al (2009) Erosional history of Cape Halkett and contemporary monitoring of bluff retreat, Beaufort Sea coast, Alaska. Polar Geogr 32:129–142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Karoly D (2009) The recent bushfires and extreme heat wave in southeast Australia. Bull Aust Meteorol Oceanogr Soc 22:10–13Google Scholar
  31. Kay JE, Holland MM, Jahn A (2011) Inter-annual to multi-decadal Arctic sea ice extent trends in a warming world. Geophys Res Lett 38, L15708. doi:10.1029/2011GL048008 Google Scholar
  32. Krupnik I, Aporta C, Gearheard S et al (2010) SIKU: knowing our ice—documenting Inuit sea ice knowledge and use. Springer, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Maldonado JK, Shearer C, Bronen R et al (2013) The impact of climate change on tribal communities in the US: displacement, relocation, and human rights. Clim Chang 120:601–614. doi:10.1007/s10584-013-0746-z CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. McInerney-Lankford S, Darrow M, Rajamani L (2011) Human rights and climate change: a review of the international legal dimensions. World Bank Publications, Washington D.C.Google Scholar
  35. Nicholls N (2011) Comments on “influence of location, population, and climate on building damage and fatalities due to Australian bushfire: 1925–2009.”. Weather Clim Soc 3:61–62. doi:10.1175/WCAS-D-10-05001.1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. NOAA (2014) Multivariate ENSO Index (MEI). National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Earth System Research Laboratory, BoulderGoogle Scholar
  37. Notz D, Marotzke J (2012) Observations reveal external driver for Arctic sea-ice retreat. Geophys Res Lett 39, L08502. doi:10.1029/2012GL051094 Google Scholar
  38. Okereke C, Baral P, Dagnet Y (2014) Options for adaptation and loss & damage in a 2015 climate agreement. Working Paper. Agreement for Climate Transformation 2015 (ACT15), Washington D.C., p 19 ppGoogle Scholar
  39. Pall P, Aina T, Stone DA et al (2011) Anthropogenic greenhouse gas contribution to flood risk in England and Wales in autumn 2000. Nature 470:382–385. doi:10.1038/nature09762 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Posner EA (2007) Climate change and international human rights litigation: a critical appraisal. Social Science Research Network, RochesterGoogle Scholar
  41. Poveda G, Álvarez DM, Rueda ÓA (2011) Hydro-climatic variability over the Andes of Colombia associated with ENSO: a review of climatic processes and their impact on one of the Earth’s most important biodiversity hotspots. Clim Dyn 36:2233–2249. doi:10.1007/s00382-010-0931-y CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Reisinger A, Kitching RL, Chiew F et al (2014) Australasia. In: Barros VR, Field CB, Dokken DJ et al (eds) Climate change 2014: impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability. Part B: Regional Aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 1371–1438Google Scholar
  43. Restrepo JD, Kjerfve B (2004) The Pacific and Caribbean Rivers of Colombia: water discharge, sediment transport and dissolved loads. In: Lacerda PLD, de Santelli PRE, Duursma PEK, Abrão PJJ (eds) Environmental geochemistry in tropical and subtropical environments. Springer, Berlin, pp 169–187CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Roberts E, van der Geest K, Warner K, Andrei S (2014) Loss and damage: when adaptation is not enough. Environ Dev 11:219–227. doi:10.1016/j.envdev.2014.05.001 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Sander J, Eichner JF, Faust E, Steuer M (2013) Rising variability in thunderstorm-related U.S. losses as a reflection of changes in large-scale thunderstorm forcing. Weather, Climate, and Society 130409112301007. doi:10.1175/WCAS-D-12-00023.1
  46. Schlenker W, Roberts MJ (2009) Nonlinear temperature effects indicate severe damages to U.S. crop yields under climate change. PNAS 106:15594–15598. doi:10.1073/pnas.0906865106 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Serreze MC, Barry RG (2011) Processes and impacts of Arctic amplification: a research synthesis. Glob Planet Chang 77:85–96. doi:10.1016/J.Gloplacha.2011.03.004 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Shearer C (2011) Kivalina: a climate change story. Haymarket Books, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  49. Skansi MM, Brunet M, Sigró J et al (2013) Warming and wetting signals emerging from analysis of changes in climate extreme indices over South America. Glob Planet Chang 100:295–307. doi:10.1016/j.gloplacha.2012.11.004 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Smith SL, Romanovsky VE, Lewkowicz AG et al (2010) Thermal state of Permafrost in North America: a contribution to the international polar year. Permafr Periglac 21:117–135. doi:10.1002/Ppp.690 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Stone D, Auffhammer M, Carey M et al (2013) The challenge to detect and attribute effects of climate change on human and natural systems. Clim Chang 121:381–395. doi:10.1007/s10584-013-0873-6 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Strömberg D (2007) Natural disasters, economic development, and humanitarian aid. J Econ Perspect 21:199–222CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Surminski S, Lopez A (2014) Concept of loss and damage of climate change—a new challenge for climate decision-making? A climate science perspective. Clim Dev 1–11. doi:10.1080/17565529.2014.934770
  54. U.S. Superior Court (2012) Opinion No. 09-17490 (Native Village of Kivalina; City of Kivalina v. ExxonMobil Corporation et al.). U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, San FranciscoGoogle Scholar
  55. UNFCCC (2012) A literature review on the topics in the context of thematic area 2 of the work programme on loss and damage: A range of approaches to address loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI), FCCC/SBI/2012/INF.14Google Scholar
  56. UNFCCC (2014) Report of the Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage associated with Climate Change Impacts. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI), FCCC/SB/2014/4Google Scholar
  57. UNISDR (2013) La ruralidad, la fragilidad urbana y el fenómeno La Niña en Colombia, 1970–2011. Background Paper prepared for the Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction 2013. Corporación OSSO, CaliGoogle Scholar
  58. VBRC (Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission) (2009) Final Report. Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission. Parliament of Victoria, Victoria, AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  59. Verheyen R (2012) Tackling Loss & Damage—A New Role for the Climate RegimeGoogle Scholar
  60. Verheyen R, Roderick P (2008) Beyond Adaptation—The legal duty to pay compensation for climate change damage. WWF-UK, Panda House, Weyside Park Godalming, Surrey GU7 1XRGoogle Scholar
  61. Vermaire JC, Pisaric MFJ, Thienpont JR et al (2013) Arctic climate warming and sea ice declines lead to increased storm surge activity. Geophys Res Lett. doi:10.1002/Grl.50191 Google Scholar
  62. Wang MY, Overland JE (2012) A sea ice free summer Arctic within 30 years: an update from CMIP5 models. Geophys Res Lett. doi:10.1029/2012gl052868 Google Scholar
  63. Warner K, van der Geest K (2013) Loss and damage from climate change: local-level evidence from nine vulnerable countries. Int J Glob Warm 5:367–386. doi:10.1504/IJGW.2013.057289 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Weisbach DA (2012) Negligence, strict liability, and responsibility for climate change. Iowa Law Rev 97:521–565Google Scholar
  65. Whittaker J, Handmer J (2010) Community bushfire safety: a review of post-black saturday research. Aust J Emerg Manag 25:7–13Google Scholar
  66. Whittaker J, Haynes K, Handmer J, McLennan J (2013) Community safety during the 2009 Australian “Black Saturday” bushfires: an analysis of household preparedness and response. Int J Wildland Fire 22:841–849CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Willett KM, Gillett NP, Jones PD, Thorne PW (2007) Attribution of observed surface humidity changes to human influence. Nature 449:710–712CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Willett KM, Jones PD, Gillett NP, Thorne PW (2008) Recent changes in surface humidity: development of the HadCRUH dataset. J Clim 21:5364–5383. doi:10.1175/2008JCLI2274.1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Williams RJ, Bradstock RA, Cary GJ et al (2009) Interactions between climate change, fire regimes and biodiversity in Australia. Department of Climate Change and Department of the Environment, Heritage and Arts, CanberraGoogle Scholar

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