What Is Climate Adaptation?

MYD 2016





Climate adaptation is considered a response to the effects of climate change that seeks to reduce the vulnerability of various social and biological systems thus offsetting the changes. The UNFCCC defines it as actions taken to help communities and ecosystems cope with changing climate condition. It is a process by which strategies to moderate, cope with and take advantage of the consequences of climatic events are enhanced, developed, and implemented. Even if emissions are stabilised, the effects of climate change will last much longer and adaptation is required to respond to the impacts of climate change that is already happening, while at the same time prepare for future impacts.

Climate Adaption under the UNFCCC. Image was taken from: http://unfccc.int/timeline/

Climate Adaption under the UNFCCC. Image was taken from: http://unfccc.int/timeline/

Adaptation is especially important in developing countries since those countries are predicted to suffer the most severe consequences of climate change. The adaptive capacity is also unevenly distributed across different regions and populations and developing countries are generally the ones that are least capable of doing so. Adaptive capacity is closely linked to social and economic development (IPCC, 2007). The economic costs of adaptation to climate change are likely to cost billions of dollars annually for the next several decades and the degree of adaptation correlates to the situational focus on environmental issues. The challenge grows with the magnitude and the rate of climate change. A team of science policy experts claim that adapting to climate change would be a more effective means of dealing with global warming than reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The IPCC working group II suggested that mitigation and adaptation should be complementary components of a response strategy to global warming. The report mentioned that adaptation, sustainable development, and enhancement of equity can be mutually reinforcing.

There are several principles that need to be considered when designing the adaptation policy:

  1. Effect of climate change varies with regions and demographics;
  2. Climate change poses both risks and opportunities;
  3. Adaptation comes with a cost;
  4. The response has varying effectivenes;
  5. The systemic nature of climate change complicates the adaptation; and,
  6. Maladaptation can result in negative effects that are as serious as the climate-induced effects that are being avoided.

As mentioned, enhanced adaptive capacity can reduce vulnerability to climate change. These activities are essentially equivalent to activities that promote sustainable development such as reducing poverty, improving education, improve access to basic resources, lowering inequality and wealth gaps and building infrastructure. Another adaptation method is through agricultural production as changes in rainfall patterns have a direct impact on crops. The strategies include drought tolerant crops, investing in irrigation and rainwater storage. Other initiatives like weather control, geo-engineering and damning of glacial lakes Strengthening the resilience and adaptive capacity of more vulnerable regions must go hand in hand with efforts to raise awareness and integrate measures into national policies and strategies.

Written by: Khoo Nee Zhen
Edited by: Choy Moon Moon

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