Monitoring of Climate Change Impacts: slow-onset events

A 2012 UNFCCC technical paper stated that “there are synergistic interactions between rapid-onset and slow-onset events that increase the risk of loss and damage” highlighting the importance of addressing both in order to build climate resilience. The paper also states that slow-onset events were already impacting developing countries negatively.

Most types of slow-onset events identified in the Cancun Agreement have important implications for development. All of them can be monitored using EO. Given their slow evolution, monitoring slowonset events and building long-term time series showing the otherwise very subtle changes can be an impactful tool for decision making.

Often, these events are interconnected. For example, recent reports suggest that the rate at which land ice is melting is increasing faster than expected because the Arctic is experiencing disproportionate warming compared to the rest of the globe (AMAP, 2017). This will inevitably contribute to an increase in sea level rise and affect vulnerable island and coastal communities. Long before the sea inundates that land it can cause a number of issues from erosion and salt-water intrusion (which threatens potable water and arable land) to high tides that lead to frequent flooding.

On the other hand, climate change can also impact natural habitats that plants and animals depend upon. Shifts in climatic conditions can lead to habitat changes (including the complete loss of a habitat) and potentially go beyond the migrational capabilities of species. This can alter competitive relationships in an ecosystem, threaten whole species and severely degradate habitat quality.