Natural disaster and climate change

Paul J. Govind, Robert R M Verchick

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


1. Introduction In the twenty-first century, it is nearly impossible to talk about the environment without also talking about climate change, while in turn it is nearly impossible to talk about climate change without also talking about natural disasters. Global warming, rising seas, and recurring drought are all part of the same unfolding story. One can hardly read an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment or government white paper without finding themselves browsing through page after glossy page showing swamped fishing villages, collapsed favelas, and withering maize. What saves the photo spreads from fetish is that the hazards they depict are real and ongoing. Despite this increasing evidence, policy-makers have been slow to align the legal mechanisms confronting climate change and natural disaster. This is especially true at the international level, where attempts to bridge the gap between climate change adaptation (CCA) and disaster risk reduction (DRR) have reopened old debates between the global North and global South, and where ideas hatched in sparkling banquet rooms never make it to the eroding banks of the riverside slum. In this chapter, we examine the relationship between international adaptation efforts with regard to climate change on the one hand, and disaster management policy on the other. Reviewing the respective United Nations (UN) frameworks for both climate and natural disasters, we find many shared interests and opportunities for collaboration. In particular, we think that notions of causation and group responsibility – both found in international climate policy – can provide a necessary context for imagining disaster resilience on a warming planet. Similarly, we believe the emphasis on local action and socioeconomic conditions – a trademark of disaster planning – can inspire the next wave of adaptation efforts. We will make these arguments by way of two very different case studies. The first examines the recent international negotiations over “loss and damage” under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which have now erupted into a major debate about the North's responsibility to the South. The second case study examines a relatively small climate resilience project, funded by a private foundation, in the Indian city of Surat, a global center for textile manufacturing and diamond polishing, which is also prone to enormous coastal floods.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Environmental Law and the Global South
EditorsShawkat Alam, Sumudu Atapattu, Carmen G. Gonzalez, Jona Razzaque
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherCambridge University Press (CUP)
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781107295414
ISBN (Print)9781107055698
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015


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