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Extreme-event attribution UPSC NOTE

 Historical Perspective:

  • A couple of decades ago, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) maintained that individual weather events couldn't be attributed to climate change.

  • Over time, scientific understanding has evolved, allowing researchers to attribute some extreme events to climate change despite inherent uncertainties.

Current Challenges and Usage:

  • Scientific and data challenges persist in the attribution of extreme events to climate change.

  • Attribution outcomes are used to estimate richer countries' historical liability for climate-related 'loss and damage' (L&D) and assess legal liability for adverse events like floods and droughts.

  • Various methods are used for attribution, raising questions about the maturity of this science for use in legal and multilateral contexts.

Value of Extreme-Event Attribution

  • Importance for 'Loss and Damage':

  • No formal cost-benefit analysis of attribution exercises exists, but experts argue they are critical for the L&D process.

  • L&D lacks a unique definition but has gained importance in climate talks under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

  • Demands from Developing Countries:

  • Economically developing countries, especially those 'particularly vulnerable', demand L&D funds to compensate for climate change-induced damage.

  • The criteria for identifying 'particularly vulnerable' countries are crucial.

  • Case of India:

  • As a developing country highly vulnerable to climate change, India is unlikely to qualify for L&D funding.

  • This raises the question of whether climate finance should focus solely on adaptation and mitigation or also include L&D funds.

  • Legal Accountability Concerns:

  • Developed countries oppose legal accountability for extreme events to avoid potential lawsuits.

  • Understanding whether attribution reports can be used as evidence of culpability in court is essential.

Attribution of Asian Heatwaves

  • Recent Attribution Report:

  • A recent report by World Weather Attribution (WWA) found that climate change made heatwaves across Asia nearly 45 times more likely.

  • The process involves comparing conditions during the heatwaves with a counterfactual world without climate change.

  • Methodology:

  • The counterfactual world is modeled based on available data, running climate models without increased greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Data insufficiency, especially for rainfall, poses a significant challenge, while models are better at capturing temperature-related events at regional scales.

Implications and Future Actions

  • Hyperlocal Attribution Challenges:

  • Reliable hyperlocal attribution remains a future goal, but moral questions about subsequent actions persist.

  • Attribution exercises need to be integrated with governments' adaptation and mitigation strategies.

  • Impact on Population and Businesses:

  • Identifying hotspots of extreme events could influence people and businesses to relocate.

  • Governments must respond to such decisions, and attribution science needs to be reliable.

Selection of Extreme Events for Attribution

  • Event Selection Challenges:

  • Scientists face challenges in selecting which extreme events to attribute.

  • The WWA used regional scales and varying definitions, considering daily, three-day, or monthly average temperatures.

  • Natural and Human Factors:

  • Heatwaves can be influenced by natural factors (e.g., El Niño) and human activities (e.g., urbanization, deforestation).

  • Weather events are unique, making reliable attribution easier on a subcontinent scale than on a local scale.

  • Scientific Questions:

  • Different scientific questions can yield different answers from the same analysis (e.g., intensity vs. frequency of heatwaves).

  • The WWA report used multiple approaches to answer attribution questions, but the materiality of differences in a legal context remains unclear.

Human Action and Extreme Events

  • The impacts of extreme events depend on the hazard and the vulnerability and exposure of the affected population.

  • Financial consequences are also influenced by various factors, raising the question of whether attribution should consider impacts.

  • Reliable attribution is vital for L&D negotiations.

  • Governments should agree on historical responsibilities to fund developing countries, build adaptation capacity, and finance mitigation efforts.

  • In a resource-constrained world, a cost-benefit analysis of attribution exercises is necessary.

  • Clear roles for attribution in the overall climate action landscape must be established.



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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Extreme-event attribution UPSC NOTE
Extreme-event attribution UPSC NOTE
Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam
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