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climate change adaptation

The “plastic bridge”: a low-cost, high-impact solution to address climate risk

Oliver Whalley's picture
Also available in: Français
Photo: Anthony Doudt/Flickr
Bridges are critical links in the transport network. In their position across waterways, they are exposed to the full effects of flooding and landslides, and are often the first pieces of infrastructure to be damaged in the event of a disaster. They also typically take weeks or months to repair.  Besides causing expensive damage to the infrastructure itself, disruptions in connectivity also have a much broader impact on economic productivity and people’s ability to access essential services. As many places are expected to witness more intense and frequent rainfall as a result of climate change, the risk to bridges will only worsen: more rainfall will lead to bigger river flows and more damage to bridges, especially those designed to handle smaller storms.

At each end of a bridges is a structure which supports the weight of the deck. These are known as abutments, and they are often the first part of the bridge to fail. Blockage of the main channel by debris can cause water to look for the path of least resistance around the sides of the bridges, thus placing the abutments at risk.

Traditional bridge construction requires the installation of piles for the foundations of abutments—a lengthy and expensive process that involves specialist materials, skills and equipment.

But there is another promising solution: Geosynthetic Reinforced Soil (GRS) abutments. These allow for rapid and resilient construction of bridge abutments using locally available materials, without specialized equipment. With GRS, bridges can be constructed in as little as five days (Von Handorf, 2013) and at a cost 30-50% lower than traditional approaches (Tonkin and Taylor, 2016) .

GRS abutments are based on ‘geogrids,’ a high density mesh made out of polyethylene (plastic). Layers of soil and geogrid are combined to create a solid foundation for the bridge deck. Construction can be completed with basic earthmoving and compaction equipment, and a range of local fill materials can be used with guidance from geotechnical specialists.

The challenge to be climate smart with the world’s agriculture

Juergen Voegele's picture

Also available in: Spanish - French - Arabic

The West Africa Agriculture Productivity Program (WAAPP). Photo Credits: Dasan Bobo/The World Bank

Here’s something you may not be aware of: agriculture and changes in land use already contribute 25 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. It’s a statistic that matters in the face of two unrelenting challenges now facing the globe –how to turn the promises of last December’s historic Paris climate change agreement into reality and how to feed a growing global population.

Using technology to stay ahead of disaster risk

John Roome's picture
Hurricane Patricia. Photo credit: NASA Earth Observatory

We’re witnessing an unprecedented uptick in record-breaking storms. In October last year, Hurricane Patricia came ashore in Mexico with record breaking 200 miles per hour winds. A few months later on the other side of the world, Cyclone Winston broke records for Pacific basin wind speeds, destroying parts of mainland Fiji with 180 miles per hour winds. More recently, Cyclone Fantala became the most powerful storm in the Indian Ocean ever recorded.
 
Experts agree that its activities by people which are increasing the severity of storms like these. Climate change isn’t just projected to increase the intensity of hurricanes and cyclones, but a whole other range of other natural hazards, like droughts, floods, storms, and heat waves.

How can small island states become more resilient to natural disasters and climate risk?

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Small Island States are particularly vulnerable to the impact of climate change and natural disasters. In fact, 2/3 of the countries that have been most severely impacted by disasters are small island nations, which have lost between 1 and 9% of GDP annually due to weather extremes and other catastrophes. The severity and recurrence of disasters makes it hard for those countries to recover, and seriously undermines ongoing development efforts.
 
The World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) are actively working with small island states to mitigate the impact of natural disasters and climate risk, including through their joint Small Island States Resilience Initiative. World Bank Senior Director Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez and GFDRR's Sofia Bettencourt tell us more.

Building safer cities for a volatile climate

John Roome's picture
Photo credit: Diego Charlón Sánche


Just consider some statistics. It’s estimated some one point four million people move to cities every week. And by 2050, we will add nearly 2.5 billion people to the planet, with 90 percent of the urban growth in that time taking place in developing countries.

Yet living in cities can be risky business. Many large cities are coastal, in deltas or on rivers and at risk from of flooding from powerful storms or rising sea levels. Globally 80 percent of the world’s largest cities are vulnerable to severe earthquakes and 60 percent are at risk from tsunamis and storm surges.

Unlocking climate finance for more renewable energy in South Asia

Keisuke Iyadomi's picture
Indian woman cleaning up solar panels in the province of Orissa, India
Indian woman cleaning up solar panels in the province of Odisha, India. 
Credit: Abbie Trayler-Smith / Panos Pictures / Department for International Development

With only 43% of its households with access to electricity, Odisha’s economic development lags behind that of other states in India. However, it is home to rich water reserves, wildlife, forest, minerals, and renewable energy sources, which together can help boost the state’s economy.
 
Let’s take the example of solar energy.
 
In recent years, Odisha and its international partners have set out to boost the development of renewable energy in the state and now aim to identify and scale up potential solar power sites.  
 
Yet, challenges remain.
 
Despite 300 clear sunny days every year representing a huge solar potential (Odisha receives an average solar radiation of 5.5 kWh/ Sq. m area), only 1.29 percent of Odisha’s total energy capacity stems from renewable sources.
 
Considering that Odisha is planning to increase its solar capacity from 31.5 Megawatts (MW) to 2,300 MW in the next five years, the state must step up its efforts and enact relevant policies to meet its solar energy goals. This, in turn, could benefit local businesses and spur economic growth.
 

Time for financial institutions to mainstream climate

Jane Ebinger's picture



Today, a group of 26 financial institutions from across the globe, including the World Bank Group, launched five voluntary Principles for Mainstreaming Climate Action within Financial Institution. The Principles are meant to support and guide financial institutions moving forward in adapting to and promoting climate-smart development, and have been developed based on practices implemented by financial institutions worldwide over the last two decades. 

Climate services - Saving lives and livelihoods

Mafalda Duarte's picture
Copyright: Conect4Climate/World Bank

Climate change is affecting us all, but its impacts are hitting the poorest and those in poor countries hardest. That means developing countries vulnerable to sudden and slow-onset impacts of climate change need reliable and accurate weather and climate data and information to help them know when and how to protect their economies and communities.

Marching forward: China is creating the world’s largest market-based carbon pricing system

Vikram Widge's picture
China – the world largest emitter of greenhouse gases – is implementing a national carbon market in 2017

During his visit to Washington last week, China’s President Xi Jinping confirmed that the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, which has pledged to reduce its carbon intensity and reach a peak of overall emissions by 2030, will use a cap-and-trade market approach to help realize this. 
 
China already has 7 pilot markets in cities and provinces in place that cover 1 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually. Under the national scheme, now to go live in 2017, this could increase to 4 billion tons according to Chinese researchers - making it the world’s largest national emissions trading system.

It’s an exciting step and demonstration of China’s commitment to achieve its low carbon goals. 

Liability insurance for climate change

Connor Spreng's picture


Our response to climate change at the global level clearly needs improving. While some governments are managing to set and enforce limits on the emission of greenhouse gases, an international agreement that is both enforceable and meaningful remains elusive. Measures undertaken by private individuals and organizations, though plentiful, largely fail to connect to the political process and continue to fall short in aggregate. Is there a way to combine these public and private efforts? We think there is, as we’ve explored in a recent NZZ article and ETH blog post: a new type of liability insurance.

Looking to the insurance industry for addressing climate change is not new (see, for example, Nobel Laureate Robert Shiller’s column; the Geneva Association’s statement; and the climate change and insurance links discussed at the World Bank’s recent Understanding Risk conference). What has been lacking, however, are ideas for employing insurance instruments at scale, across national boundaries, and in a way that maximizes existing capacities and market mechanisms.


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