Dr. Doreen Stabinsky.Dr. Doreen Stabinsky.Developing countries are demanding that the Paris climate agreement include provisions on loss and damage. Those provisions would establish a permanent mechanism on loss and damage to address impacts of climate change that cannot be prevented, either because there is a delay or a lack of resources for adaptation actions or because the impacts are beyond the limits of adaptation, such as impacts from sea level rise or desertification.

Loss and damage is often pictured as what happens during an extreme event like a hurricane/cyclone — homes and infrastructure are destroyed, lives are lost. Under the UNFCCC, negotiators also consider as part of the loss and damage agenda how to address the impacts from another type of “event” called “slow onset events”: sea level rise, increasing temperatures, ocean acidification, glacial retreat and related impacts, salinization, land and forest degradation, loss of biodiversity and desertification. These types of impacts are more insidious, difficult to attribute with certainty to climate change, and will affect many more people over the next decades than extreme events, and much more profoundly.

Slow onset events will be catastrophic for food security/sovereignty and those whose livelihoods are based on food production. For example, fish populations in the tropics are predicted to move to cooler waters as ocean temperatures rise. Billions of people in developing countries in tropical regions depend on fish as their main source of protein, and hundreds of millions are dependent on fishing for their livelihoods. A similar story can be told of the growing negative impacts of temperature rise and desertification on food production in many regions of the developing world, and on the farming and pastoralist communities responsible for feeding billions. Losses of agricultural and fishing livelihoods will lead to massive displacement and migration of people.

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