2020 Focus 16 Brief 12
Climate change will bring with it increased frequency of two types of natural disasters that affect agriculture and rural households: droughts and floods. It will also alter rainfall patterns, thereby changing farming practices, household behavior, and welfare. Households all over the world use a variety of formal and informal mechanisms to manage risk and cope with unexpected events that negatively affect incomes, assets, or well-being. These mechanisms include both preparation for and responses to natural disasters.
In low-income settings, where formal insurance and government supports are limited, households tend to rely on informal coping strategies, such as transfers from friends and neighbors, remittances, or investments in a diverse range of assets, from livestock to human capital. When disaster-related shock affects only a few households at a time, informal mechanisms can be quite effective in dealing with the situation. However, if the shock affects large areas simultaneously, small-scale coping mechanisms become ineffective.
Research on several climate-related national disasters—the 1998 floods in Bangladesh, the 2001 drought in Ethiopia, and the 2001–02 failed maize harvest in Malawi—suggests that the upcoming negotiations in Copenhagen need to explicitly define, support, and expand policies that protect vulnerable populations from the expected increase in climate-change related weather events.