The Unseen Spheres of Climate Change: Shedding light on climate induced non-economic loss and damage

By Michiel Hermans, Climate Action Network (CAN) – Tanzania

The increasing intensity and frequency of extreme weather events, erratic rainfall patterns, sea level rise and other climate events are causing loss and damage to human and natural systems. The public discourse on climate change appears to centre around two main pillars; mitigation and adaptation, leaving climate induced loss and damage relatively unaddressed. However, the everyday reality is that loss and damage is occurring to vulnerable communities around the world, often in spheres unseen by the general public.

Non-Economic Loss and Damage
In academic discourse distinction is made between economic and non-economic loss and damage. Economic loss and damage is relatively well-known, albeit in differing terminology, and is comprised of those climate impacts that can be easily expressed in monetary terms. For example the loss of crops after a prolonged period of drought might be valuated through the present market value of said crop. Non-Economic Loss and Damage (NELD) is however not as easily valuated, and is often overlooked. The spheres pertaining to NELD include but are not limited to the loss of biodiversity, loss of cultural traditions, and a changed sense of identity.The reader might wonder; how does climate change affect identity or cultural traditions?

This link shows the traditional dance Ngoma, the practice of which is slowly disappearing

Imagine Imagine a drought stricken community of small holder farmers and pastoralists. There is barely enough food available for basic survival due to reducing crop yields and scarce pasture for grazing. The community used to practice indigenous rituals to celebrate the year’s harvest, or to initiate children’s coming of age. These rituals included plentiful food and drinks, and time allocated for these celebrations. However, with the onset of climate change, food and water is increasingly scarce, and time allocated for celebrations is spent in an attempt to manage said scarcity. The consequence is that these rituals are no longer practiced, and the younger generations are partially unaware of their traditional indigenous culture. This scenario is indeed already happening, and is further elaborated upon in research recently conducted by Climate Action Network (CAN) Tanzania, which will be presented at an official side-event during the Conference of Parties in Bonn, as part of an overarching research conducted by Bread for the World.

A family experiencing NELD in Msata, Tanzania

The way forward
The current and projected climate change impacts on the spheres of NELD in vulnerable communities necessitate the development of effective response mechanisms and a robust policy framework in order to identify, document, and address cases of NELD. The impacted communities have played no role whatsoever in the causal mechanisms behind climate change, yet they will feel the consequences. The very essence of indigenous communities around the world is at risk, due to the carbon emissions of developed countries. But it is not too late, strong action on mitigation, adaptation and addressing NELD can partially prevent these climate change impacts. Political leaders and the citizens of the world need to open their eyes, realize, and take responsibility for their actions.

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