24 ENVIRONMENT VOLUME 49 NUMBER 5
Since the late 1990s, the knowledgebase about implications of climate changefor cities in industrialized countries hasbeen growing, although the number of comprehensive case studies is still lim-ited.
Equivalent information about possi-ble impacts on cities in developing coun-tries is much more limited, at least partlybecause of a perceived shortage of datato support sound assessments, includinga lack of relatively small-scale regionalclimate change forecasts for developingcountries and a lack of relatively detaileddata about urban systems and projectedchanges in those systems.Rather than accepting that judgmentas an insurmountable obstacle—espe-cially given that vulnerabilities to cli-mate change impacts are probably moreserious in developing countries than inindustrialized countries—an assessmentwas undertaken with the support of theU.S. Agency for International Develop-ment (USAID) as an experiment, withthree generic aims:• to learn about potentials and limita-tions of climate change impact assess-ments in developing country cities, basedon currently available data;• to evaluate whether reductions inclimate change impact vulnerability canbe related to other, more current urbandevelopment needs in developing coun-tries; and• to take a first step toward establishingassessment approaches and tools that canbe used by developing countries world-wide to assess their own vulnerabilitiesand response options.The assessment, conducted fromDecember 2001 to June 2003 through apartnership between the Cochin Univer-sity of Science and Technology (CUSAT)and the Oak Ridge National Labora-tory (ORNL) in Tennessee,
was built ontwo underlying philosophies about howclimate change might be of interest toa developing country city already strug-gling to cope with a host of sustainabledevelopment challenges. First, impactsof global climate change on develop-ing country cities are likely to focus noton climate changes in isolation but oninteractions between climate change andother stresses on the city’s growth anddevelopment, such as waterlogging orwaste disposal. Second, because climatechange is a long-term issue surroundedby uncertainties, it is not generally appro-priate to take actions now to reduce pos-sible climate change impacts unless thoseactions also contribute to addressing cur-rent urban sustainability problems.
The Cochin Case
Cochin, which was officially renamedKochi in 1996 but is still widely referredto by the former name, is a historic portcity in the state of Kerala on the south-west coast of India (see Figure 1 on thispage). It was selected for assessmentpartly because city leaders offered theircooperation—but also partly becauseCochin would appear to be less vulner-able to impacts of climate change thanmany other developing country cities.In fact, if a person were to select anIndian city relatively unlikely to be nega-tively impacted by global climate change,that city might be Cochin. For instance,the immediate proximity of Cochin tothe ocean would be expected to moder-
SOURCE: Adapted from
, CD-ROM, Cartesia Software.
Figure 1. Cochin, Kerala, India