Dr. Bernard Amadei, Founder, Engineers Without Borders (EWB) and Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Colorado at Boulder, talks to GAIN about how adaptation is becoming central to the work of engineers around the world and the mission of EWB.
GAIN: How do you see adaptation being incorporated into the work of Engineers Without Borders moving forward?
Bernard Amadei: When we look at the developing world, we are looking at some of the most vulnerable people on the planet. Those people are going to be affected most from the consequences of climate change. It is very important that we identify the capacity to respond and the vulnerability of those communities to various types of adverse events, including climate change – which will affect the livelihoods of poor people in the world and their access to water, sanitation, energy and transportation. EWB is looking at these issues for the future.
If you cannot measure something, you cannot manage it. The GAIN Index is a unique tool that measures how communities and countries are progressing as they are adapting to changing conditions.
GAIN: Where do you see the role of the private sector in adaptation?
Amadei: Adaptation will require innovation. It is likely that the tools we will be using five years from now to help communities adapt to change have not been invented yet. I think there are huge opportunities for the private sector to develop those tools — analytic, policy or technological. It is wide open.
GAIN: Why is now the time to address adaptation?
Amadei: It takes a certain amount of time before anything has any impact. We are training young people today who will be, 10 years from now, in a position to make a difference. In 2020 with a global population of nine billion, who knows what climate change will have in store for us. But, today we already see on a daily basis, droughts, flooding, food price increases and the disruption of livelihoods — so we need to act now!
GAIN: How can EWB work with GAIN to further adaptation?
Amadei: The GAIN Index model is unique. Currently, it is limited to the country level; but because of its internal structure, it can be used for a variety of conditions at different scales.
The GAIN Index can be adjusted to address many adverse events, whether it be a flood, a drought, an earthquake or a delay in the rainy season. It can also be adjusted to communities at different scales. This is where there is a huge convergence between the GAIN Index and EWB’s work, which is in the field and can provide the data that can make the Index more useful on a wider range of conditions – a perfect win-win.
Year after year, we can help identify what the “community” GAIN Index is for community x, y or z. I think there is a unique synergy between your framework and EWB activities.