The planet is experiencing a climate crisis of catastrophic proportions. Extreme weather events – from the severe floods in Pakistan and Russia to super typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines – have vividly shown how these can bring entire countries and communities to a virtual standstill. Volatile weather extremes have severely damaged the environment and with it the destruction of lives and livelihoods—especially of the poorest and most vulnerable.
While there is scientific consensus that climate change is caused by human activity, the reality is that climate change has been caused by the historical exploitation of the world’s resources and carbon by the wealthiest nations and individuals. Yet developing countries are said to bear some 75-80% of the cost of damage caused by the changing climate. The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC AR5) already warns of “the irrevocable warming of the climate system”, and yet climate negotiations have brought the world nowhere near the important goals of stabilising the climate and addressing the increasing impacts of climate extremes. Even worse is the fact that the crisis is seen as an opportunity to prop up the very production and consumption system that has brought the world to social, economic, political, and environmental crises.
Climate change expresses, on a world-scale, the fundamental contradiction between capitalist development and ecological sustainability, which has now critically undermined the foundation for human survival. While the last centuries have been heralded for great strides in technology, production, and human progress, these advances have precipitated global ecological disasters. On the one hand, a privileged global elite engages in reckless profit-driven production and grossly excessive consumption. On the other hand, the mass of humanity is mired in underdevelopment and poverty, with merely survival and subsistence production, or even less.
Building climate-resilient communities is a pro-active response to the increasing threats that climate change brings. And it is important to underscore that resilience is more than just adapting to the impacts of climate change. Resilience entails people and communities defending their lives and livelihoods and meaningfully participating, reshaping, and taking ownership of development policies and programs, among others. Building climate resilient communities encompasses disaster risk reduction and management, relief and rehabilitation, and humanitarian response, but also includes people’s participation and engagement in challenging and transforming systems founded on the exploitation of people and planet.