Research project will put science at heart of climate change response

Discussing multi-hazards during CAFOD regional exchange in Illigan-City,-Lanao-del-Norte, Philippines Credits: CAFOD

Discussing multi-hazards during CAFOD regional exchange in Illigan-City,-Lanao-del-Norte, Philippines
Credits: CAFOD


Caritas England and Wales (CAFOD) is working in partnership with University College London, one of the UK’s top universities to be able to better respond to climate change. They’re trying to see the threats climate change poses in the context of other hazards.

Melanie Duncan is leading the research at the university. Since commencing her work in April 2009, Melanie has carried out an analysis of the current tools developed or adopted by many of the London-based international NGOs for aiding climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction.

She has so far highlighted that these tools require greater integration of scientific methods, models, knowledge and data. Her work shows the interaction between hazards is largely missed, as currently most tools recognise multiple hazards, but only assess them individually at a point in time.

She travelled to the Philippines in September 2010 as part of the programme to carry out field work. A key aim of her project is to ensure a more rigorous scientific approach into the hazard assessments used by aid agencies like Caritas and to trial it in an environment such as the Philippines. The Philippines is exposed to a variety of natural hazards, with the incidence and impacts of disasters being exacerbated by the compounding effect of resource mismanagement.

The tools for climate change adaptation focus heavily on climate change, potentially at the expense of other hazards. What is required is much more integrated approach to assessing the relative threats of multiple hazards (including climate change) in different environments.

Melanie worked in Manila, the Province of Albay and northwest Mindanao. She demonstrated the concept of multi-hazard assessment at a regional workshop in Mindanao. Throughout her trip, she met with key people involved in disaster risk management in the government and non-government, academic and private sectors. She was also able to meet with some victims of a typhoon that hit the province of Albay in 2006.

Melanie said, “The trip helped me to understand not only the context of disaster risk management in the Philippines, but how organisations are assessing and understanding the multitude of hazards (including climate change) in their areas of work.”

“The meetings with stakeholders helped me understand the types of risk reduction policies and practices that exist in the Philippines and the complex natural, political, economic and social systems in which these policies and practices are embedded,” she said. “Discussions with stakeholders show how policies around the exploitation of natural resources can either increase or decrease resilience to a range of natural hazards.”

Melanie is currently developing a method for multi-hazard assessments and she plans to apply this method to one of the areas she visited on her recent trip.

Melanie Duncan (UCL) works with Stephen Edwards, Chris Kilburn, Tiziana Rossetto and John Twigg at UCL, Mike Edwards at CAFOD and Jessica Mercer (formally of CAFOD). You can read more about Melanie Duncan’s research project here

The report accompanying this initial study into the tools used by NGOs for CCA and DRR will be made available to the Caritas network on its completion.

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