Climate change adaptation
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Climate change adaptation is a response to global warming (also known as "climate change" or "anthropogenic climate change"), that seeks to reduce the vulnerability of social and biological systems to relatively sudden change and thus offset the effects of global warming. Even if emissions are stabilized relatively soon, global warming and its effects should last many years, and adaptation would be necessary to the resulting changes in climate. Adaptation is especially important in developing countries since those countries are predicted to bear the brunt of the effects of global warming. That is, the capacity and potential for humans to adapt (called adaptive capacity) is unevenly distributed across different regions and populations, and developing countries generally have less capacity to adapt. Furthermore, the degree of adaptation correlates to the situational focus on environmental issues. Therefore, adaptation requires the situational assessment of sensitivity and vulnerability to environmental impacts.
Adaptive capacity is closely linked to social and economic development. The economic costs of adaptation to climate change are likely to cost billions of dollars annually for the next several decades, though the amount of money needed is unknown. Donor countries promised an annual $100 billion by 2020 through the Green Climate Fund for developing countries to adapt to climate change. However, while the fund was set up during COP16 in Cancún, concrete pledges by developed countries have not been forthcoming. The adaptation challenge grows with the magnitude and the rate of climate change.
Another response to climate change is known as climate change mitigation. It advocates to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions or enhance the removal of these gases from the atmosphere (through carbon sinks). Even the most effective reductions in emissions, however, would not prevent further climate change impacts, making the need for adaptation unavoidable. A study has concluded, with very high confidence, that in the absence of mitigation efforts, the effects of climate change would reach such a magnitude as to make adaptation impossible for some natural ecosystems. Others are concerned that climate adaptation programs might interfere with the existing development programs and thus lead to unintended consequences for vulnerable groups. For human systems, the economic and social costs of unmitigated climate change would be very high.
- 1 Effects of global warming
- 2 Complementary to mitigation
- 3 Costs and international funding
- 4 Considerations and general recommendations
- 5 Methods of adaptation
- 6 Adaptation measures by region
- 7 Opposition to adaptation
- 8 Conflict-sensitive adaptation
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
Effects of global warming
The projected effects for the environment and for civilization are numerous and varied. The main effect is an increasing global average temperature. The average surface temperature could increase by 3 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit (approximately 1.67 to 5.56 degrees Celsius) by the end of the century if carbon emissions aren't reduced. This causes a variety of secondary effects, namely, changes in patterns of precipitation, rising sea levels, altered patterns of agriculture, increased extreme weather events, the expansion of the range of tropical diseases, and the opening of new marine trade routes.
Potential effects include sea level rise of 110 to 770 mm (0.36 to 2.5 feet) between 1990 and 2100, repercussions to agriculture, possible slowing of the thermohaline circulation, reductions in the ozone layer, increased intensity and frequency of extreme weather events, lowering of ocean pH, and the spread of tropical diseases such as malaria and dengue fever.
A summary of probable effects and recent understanding can be found in the report made for the IPCC Third Assessment Report by Working Group II. The 2007 contribution of Working Group II detailing the impacts of global warming for the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report has been summarized for policymakers.
Adaptation is handicapped by uncertainty over the effects of global warming on specific locations such as the Southwestern United States or phenomena such as the Indian monsoon predicted to increase in frequency and intensity.
Complementary to mitigation
IPCC Working Group II, the United States National Academy of Sciences, the United Nations Disaster Risk Reduction Office, and other science policy experts agree that while mitigating the emission of greenhouse gases is important, adaptation to the effects of global warming will still be necessary. Some, like the UK Institution of Mechanical Engineers, worry that mitigation efforts will largely fail. The IPCC group points out that the world's ability to mitigate global warming is an economic and political challenge. Given that greenhouse gas levels are already elevated, the lag of decades between emissions and some impacts, and the significant economic and political challenges of success, the IPCC group points out that it is uncertain how much climate change will be mitigated.
Developing countries are the least able to adapt to climate change. Doing so depends on such factors as wealth, technology, education, infrastructure, access to resources, management capabilities, acceptance of the existence of climate change and the consequent need for action, and sociopolitical will.
After assessing the literature on sustainability and climate change scientists concluded with high confidence that up to the year 2050, an effort to cap GHG emissions at 550 ppm would benefit developing countries significantly. This was judged to be especially the case when combined with enhanced adaptation. By 2100, however, it was still judged likely that there would be significant climate change impacts. This was judged to be the case even with aggressive mitigation and significantly enhanced adaptive capacity.
Costs and international funding
This article may be too long to read and navigate comfortably. (August 2016)
Cost of adaptation vs. mitigation
Adaptation and mitigation can be viewed as two competing policy responses, with tradeoffs between the two. The other tradeoff is with climate change impacts. In practice, however, the actual tradeoffs are debatable. This is because the people who bear emission reduction costs or benefits are often different from those who pay or benefit from adaptation measures.
Economists, using cost-benefit analysis, have attempted to calculate an "optimal" balance of the costs and benefits between climate change impacts, adaptation, and mitigation. There are difficulties in doing this calculation, for example, future climate change damages are uncertain, as are the future costs of adaptation.
Also, deciding what "optimal" is depends on value judgements made by the economist doing the study (Azar, 1998). For example, how to value impacts occurring in different regions and different times, and "non-market" impacts, e.g., damages to ecosystems. Economics cannot provide definitive answers to these questions over valuation, and some valuations may be viewed as being controversial (Banuri et al., 1996, pp. 87, 99).
Some reviews indicate that policymakers are uncomfortable with using the results of this type of economic analysis. This is due to the uncertainties surrounding cost estimates for climate change damages, adaptation, and mitigation. Another type of analysis is based on a risk-based approach to the problem. It has been argued that adaptation could play an important role in climate policy, but not in an explicit trade-off against mitigation.
Cost estimates and international aid
Many scientists, policy makers, and the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report have agreed that disadvantaged nations need to do more to adapt to climate change, especially highly populated regions of developing countries with low adaptive capacity.
According to UNFCCC estimates in 2007, costs of adaptation to climate change would cost $49–171 billion per year globally by 2030, of which a significant share of the additional investment and financial flows, USD $28–67 billion would be needed in 2030 in non-Annex I Parties. This represents a doubling of current official development assistance (ODA).
This estimate has been critiqued by some scientists who argues that the UNFCCC estimate underestimates the cost of adaptation to climate change by a factor of 2 or 3. Moreover, sectors such as tourism, mining, energy, and retail were not included in the UNFCCC estimate.
The more recent World Bank Study, "Economics of Adaptation to Climate Change", found that the costs of adaptation would be in the range of $75–100 billion per year between 2010 and 2050; with higher estimates under the wetter global scenario than the drier scenario, assuming that warming will be about 2 degrees by 2050.
new and additional resources...approaching USD $30 billion for the period 2010- 2012 with balanced allocation between adaptation and mitigation... [and] in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation, developed countries commit to a goal of mobilizing jointly USD$100 billion a year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries.
However, a key point of contention between states at the UNFCC Copenhagen Climate Summit was who was to foot the bill and if aid is to be given, how is it to affect other levels of development aid. The concept of additionality has thus arisen and the EU has asked its member states to come up with definitions of what they understand additionality to mean, the four main definitions are:
- Climate finance classified as aid, but additional to (over and above) the 0.7% ODA target;
- Increase on previous year's Official Development Assistance (ODA) spent on climate change mitigation;
- Rising ODA levels that include climate change finance but where it is limited to a specified percentage; and
- Increase in climate finance not connected to ODA.
There is a conflict between the OECD states budget deficit cuts, the need to help developing countries adapt to develop sustainably and the need to ensure that funding does not come from cutting aid to other important Millennium Development Goals.
International aid mechanisms
As of 2010[update], the aggregate of current climate change adaptation programs will not raise enough money to fund adaptation to climate change. There are, however, several programs and proposals to finance adaptation to climate change in developing countries. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) runs a program called the Global Environmental Facility, which provides some funding for adaptation to least developed countries and small island states. Under the GEF umbrella, the GEF Trust Fund, the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF), and the Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF) operate to carry out the climate change adaptation financing goals of the GEF.
Another UNFCCC mechanism is The Adaptation Fund, as a result of negotiations during COP15 and COP16, which provides funds for projects that prove to have additional benefits for adaptation to climate change. The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), set up as part of the Kyoto Protocol to the Framework Convention, is the main source of income for the UNFCCC Adaptation Fund. This fund was established in 2007. The CDM is subject to a 2% levy, which could raise between $300 million and $600 million over the 2008-12 period. The actual amount raised will depend on the carbon price. As of August 2010[update], The Adaptation Fund has not yet disbursed any funding;[needs update] a call for proposals was issued in April 2010. UNFCCC funding for Least Developed Countries includes development of a National Adaptation Programme of Action, which prioritizes requests to fund specific adaptation projects.
There are several other climate change adaptation finance proposals, most of which employ official development assistance or ODA. These proposals range from a World Bank program, to proposals involving auctioning of carbon allowances, to a global carbon or transportation tax, to compensation-based funding. Other proposals suggest using market-based mechanisms, rather than ODA, such as the Higher Ground Foundation's vulnerability reduction credit (VRC™) or a program similar to the Clean Development Mechanism, to raise private money for climate change adaptation. The Copenhagen Accord, the most recent global climate change agreement, commits developed countries to goal of sending $100 billion per year to developing countries in assistance for climate change mitigation and adaptation through 2020. This agreement, while not binding, would dwarf current amounts dedicated to adaptation in developing countries. This climate change fund is called the Green Climate Fund from the 2010 United Nations Climate Change Conference.
Integration with development aid
Many developing countries prioritize economic development over addressing the issue of climate change, as they are more concerned about pre-existing problems such as poverty, malnutrition, food insecurity, availability of drinking water, indebtedness, illiteracy, unemployment, local resource conflicts, and lower technological development. On the other hand, climate change threatens to exacerbate or stall progress on fixing some of these pre-existing problems. Advocates have thus proposed integrating climate change adaptation into poverty reduction programs.
Considerations and general recommendations
This article may be too long to read and navigate comfortably. (August 2016)
Principles for effective policy
Adaptive policy can occur at the global, national, or local scale, with outcomes dependent on the political will in that area. Scheraga and Grambsch identify 9 fundamental principles to be considered when designing adaptation policy.
- The effects of climate change vary by region.
- The effects of climate change may vary across demographic groups.
- Climate change poses both risks and opportunities.
- The effects of climate change must be considered in the context of multiple stressors and factors, which may be as important to the design of adaptive responses as the sensitivity of the change.
- Adaptation comes at a cost.
- Adaptive responses vary in effectiveness, as demonstrated by current efforts to cope with climate variability.
- The systemic nature of climate impacts complicates the development of adaptation policy.
- Maladaptation can result in negative effects that are as serious as the climate-induced effects that are being avoided.
- Many opportunities for adaptation make sense whether or not the effects of climate change are realized.
Scheraga and Grambsch make it clear that climate change policy is impeded by the high level of variance surrounding climate change impacts as well as the diverse nature of the problems they face.
Adaptation can mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change, but it will incur costs and will not prevent all damage. The IPCC points out that many adverse effects of climate change are not changes in the average conditions, but changes in the variation or the extremes of conditions. For example, the average sea level in a port might not be as important as the height of water during a storm surge (which causes flooding); the average rainfall in an area might not be as important as how frequent and severe droughts and extreme precipitation events become. Additionally, effective adaptive policy can be difficult to implement because policymakers are rewarded more for enacting short-term change, rather than long-term planning. Since the impacts of climate change are generally not seen in the short-term, this means that policymakers have less incentive to act upon those potential outcomes. Furthermore, these problems (both the causes and effects of climate change) are occurring on a global scale, which has caused the United Nations to lead global policy efforts such as the Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement, in addition to creating a body of research through the IPCC, in order to create a global framework for adapting to and combatting climate change. However, the vast majority of climate change adaptation and mitigation policies are being implemented on a more local scale due to the fact that different regions must adapt differently to climate change and because national and global policies are often more challenging to enact.
Criteria for assessing responses
James Titus, project manager for sea level rise at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, identifies the following criteria that policy makers should use in assessing responses to global warming:
- Economic Efficiency: Will the initiative yield benefits substantially greater than if the resources were applied elsewhere?
- Flexibility: Is the strategy reasonable for the entire range of possible changes in temperatures, precipitation, and sea level?
- Urgency: Would the strategy be successful if implementation were delayed ten or twenty years?
- Low Cost: Does the strategy require minimal resources?
- Equity: Does the strategy unfairly benefit some at the expense of other regions, generations, or economic classes?
- Institutional feasibility: Is the strategy acceptable to the public? Can it be implemented with existing institutions under existing laws?
- Unique or Critical Resources: Would the strategy decrease the risk of losing unique environmental or cultural resources?
- Health and Safety: Would the proposed strategy increase or decrease the risk of disease or injury?
- Consistency: Does the policy support other national state, community, or private goals?
- Private v. Public Sector: Does the strategy minimize governmental interference with decisions best made by the private sector?
Differing time scales
Adaptation can either occur in anticipation of change (anticipatory adaptation), or be a response to those changes (reactive adaptation). Most adaptation being implemented at present is responding to current climate trends and variability, for example increased use of artificial snow-making in the European Alps. Some adaptation measures, however, are anticipating future climate change, such as the construction of the Confederation Bridge in Canada at a higher elevation to take into account the effect of future sea-level rise on ship clearance under the bridge.
Much adaptation takes place in relation to short-term climate variability, however this may cause maladaptation to longer-term climatic trends. For example, the expansion of irrigation in Egypt into the Western Sinai desert due to a period of higher river flows is a maladaptation when viewed in relation to the longer term projections of drying in the region). Adaptations at one scale can also create externalities at another by reducing the adaptive capacity of other actors. This is often the case when broad assessments of the costs and benefits of adaptation are examined at smaller scales and it is possible to see that whilst the adaptation may benefit some actors, it has a negative effect on others.
Traditional coping strategies
People have always adapted to climatic changes and some community coping strategies already exist, for example changing sowing times or adopting new water-saving techniques. Traditional knowledge and coping strategies must be maintained and strengthened, otherwise adaptive capacity may be weakened as local knowledge of the environment is lost. Strengthening these local techniques and building upon them also makes it more likely that adaptation strategies will be adopted, as it creates more community ownership and involvement in the process. In many cases however this will not be enough to adapt to new conditions which are outside the range of those previously experienced, and new techniques will be needed. The incremental adaptations which were being implemented are now insufficient as the vulnerabilities and risks of climate change have increased, this causes a need for transformational adaptations which are much larger and costlier. Current development efforts are increasingly focusing on community-based climate change adaptation, seeking to enhance local knowledge, participation and ownership of adaptation strategies.
Methods of adaptation
Local adaptation efforts
Cities, states, and provinces often have considerable responsibility in land use planning, public health, and disaster management. Some have begun to take steps to adapt to threats intensified by climate change, such as flooding, bushfires, heatwaves, and rising sea levels.
- Installing protective and/ or resilient technologies and materials in properties that are prone to flooding
- Changing to heat tolerant tree varieties (Chicago)
- Rainwater storage to deal with more frequent flooding rainfall – Changing to water permeable pavements, adding water-buffering vegetation, adding underground storage tanks, subsidizing household rain barrels (Chicago)
- Reducing paved areas to deal with rainwater and heat (Chicago, Seoul)
- Adding green roofs to deal with rainwater and heat (Chicago)
- Adding air conditioning in public schools (Chicago)
- Requiring waterfront properties to have higher foundations (Chula Vista, California)
- Raising pumps at wastewater treatment plants (New York City)
- Surveying local vulnerabilities, raising public awareness, and making climate change-specific planning tools like future flood maps (Seattle, Chicago, Norfolk, many others)
- Incentivizing lighter-colored roofs to reduce the heat island effect (Chula Vista, California)
- Installing devices to prevent seawater from backflowing into storm drains (San Francisco)
- Installing better flood defenses, such as sea walls and increased pumping capacity (Miami Beach)
- Buying out homeowners in flood-prone areas (New Jersey)
- Raising street level to prevent flooding (Miami Beach)
Dealing with more frequent drenching rains may required increasing the capacity of stormwater systems, and separating stormwater from blackwater, so that overflows in peak periods do not contaminate rivers. One example is the SMART Tunnel in Kuala Lumpur.
According to English Nature, gardeners can help mitigate the effects of climate change by providing habitats for the most threatened species, and/or saving water by changing gardens to use plants which require less.
New York City produced a comprehensive report for its Rebuilding and Resiliency initiative after Hurricane Sandy. Its efforts include not only making buildings less prone to flooding, but taking steps to reduce the future recurrence of specific problems encountered during and after the storm: weeks-long fuel shortages even in unaffected areas due to legal and transportation problems, flooded health care facilities, insurance premium increases, damage to electricity and steam generation in addition to distribution networks, and flooding of subway and roadway tunnels.
Enhancing adaptive capacity
Adaptation can be defined as adjustments of a system to reduce vulnerability and to increase the resilience of a system to change, also known as adaptive capacity. Those societies that can respond to change quickly and successfully have a high adaptive capacity. High adaptive capacity does not necessarily translate into successful adaptation. For example, the adaptive capacity in Western Europe is high, and the risks of warmer winters increasing the range of livestock diseases was well documented, but many parts of Europe were still badly affected by outbreaks of the Bluetongue virus in livestock in 2007.
Adaptive capacity is the ability of a system (human, natural or managed) to adjust to climate change (including climate variability and extremes) to moderate potential damages, to take advantage of opportunities, or to cope with consequences. Unmitigated climate change (i.e., future climate change without efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions) would, in the long term, be likely to exceed the capacity of natural, managed and human systems to adapt.
It has been found that enhanced adaptive capacity would reduce vulnerability to climate change. Activities that enhance adaptive capacity are essentially equivalent to activities that promote sustainable development. These activities include:
- Improving access to resources
- Reducing poverty
- Lowering inequities of resources and wealth among groups
- Improving education and information
- Improving infrastructure
- Improving institutional capacity and efficiency
- Promoting local indigenous practices, knowledge, and experiences
Others have suggested that certain forms of gender inequity should be addressed at the same time; for example women may have participation in decision-making, or be constrained by lower levels of education.
Researchers at the Overseas Development Institute found that development interventions to increase adaptive capacity have tended not to result in increased agency for local people. They argue that this should play a more prominent part in future intervention planning because agency is a central factor in all other aspects of adaptive capacity. Asset holdings and the ability to convert these resources through institutional and market processes are central to agency.
A significant effect of global climate change is the altering of global rainfall patterns, with certain effects on agriculture. Rainfed agriculture constitutes 80% of global agriculture. Many of the 852 million poor people in the world live in parts of Asia and Africa that depend on rainfall to cultivate food crops. Climate change will modify rainfall, evaporation, runoff, and soil moisture storage. Extended drought can cause the failure of small and marginal farms with resultant economic, political and social disruption, more so than this currently occurs.
Agriculture of any kind is strongly influenced by the availability of water. Changes in total seasonal precipitation or in its pattern of variability are both important. The occurrence of moisture stress during flowering, pollination, and grain-filling is harmful to most crops and particularly so to corn, soybeans, and wheat. Increased evaporation from the soil and accelerated transpiration in the plants themselves will cause moisture stress.
Adaptive ideas include:
- Taking advantage of global transportation systems to delivering surplus food to where it is needed (though this does not help subsistence farmers unless aid is given).
- Developing crop varieties with greater drought tolerance.
- Rainwater storage. For example, according to the International Water Management Institute, using small planting basins to 'harvest' water in Zimbabwe has been shown to boost maize yields, whether rainfall is abundant or scarce. And in Niger, they have led to three or fourfold increases in millet yields.
- Falling back from crops to wild edible fruits, roots and leaves. Promoting the growth of forests can provide these backup food supplies, and also provide watershed conservation, carbon sequestration, and aesthetic value.
More spending on irrigation
The demand for water for irrigation is projected to rise in a warmer climate, bringing increased competition between agriculture—already the largest consumer of water resources in semi-arid regions—and urban as well as industrial users. Falling water tables and the resulting increase in the energy needed to pump water will make the practice of irrigation more expensive, particularly when with drier conditions more water will be required per acre. Other strategies will be needed to make the most efficient use of water resources. For example, the International Water Management Institute has suggested five strategies that could help Asia feed its growing population in light of climate change. These are:
- Modernising existing irrigation schemes to suit modern methods of farming
- Supporting farmers' efforts to find their own water supplies, by tapping into groundwater in a sustainable way
- Looking beyond conventional "Participatory Irrigation Management" schemes, by engaging the private sector
- Expanding capacity and knowledge
- Investing outside the irrigation sector
Russian and American scientists have in the past tried to control the weather, for example by seeding clouds with chemicals to try to produce rain when and where it is needed. A new method being developed involves replicating the urban heat island effect, where cities are slightly hotter than the countryside because they are darker and absorb more heat. This creates 28% more rain 20–40 miles downwind from cities compared to upwind. On the timescale of several decades, new weather control techniques may become feasible which would allow control of extreme weather such as hurricanes.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) through its Commission for Atmospheric Sciences (CAS) opined in 2007: "Purposeful augmentation of precipitation, reduction of hail damage, dispersion of fog and other types of cloud and storm modifications by cloud seeding are developing technologies which are still striving to achieve a sound scientific foundation and which have to be adapted to enormously varied natural conditions."
Damming glacial lakes
Glacial lake outburst floods may become a bigger concern due to the retreat of glaciers, leaving behind numerous lakes that are impounded by often weak terminal moraine dams. In the past, the sudden failure of these dams has resulted in localized property damage, injury and deaths. Glacial lakes in danger of bursting can have their moraines replaced with concrete dams (which may also provide hydroelectric power).
IPCC (2007) concluded that geoengineering options, such as ocean fertilization to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, remained largely unproven. It was judged that reliable cost estimates for geoengineering had not been published.
The Royal Society (2009) published the findings of a study into geoengineering. The authors of the study defined geoengineering as a "deliberate large-scale intervention in the Earth's climate system, in order to moderate global warming". According to the study, the safest and most predictable method of moderating climate change is early action to reduce GHG emissions.
- Solar radiation management may be seen as an adaptation to global warming.[according to whom?] Techniques such as space sunshade, creating stratospheric sulfur aerosols and painting roofing and paving materials white all fall into this category.
- Hydrological geoengineering - typically seeking to preserve sea ice or adjust thermohaline circulation by using methods such as diverting rivers to keep warm water away from sea ice, or tethering icebergs to prevent them drifting into warmer waters and melting. Though this is an adaptation technique, if it prevents Arctic methane release it would also be classified as mitigation.
Migration frequently requires would-be migrants to have access to social and financial capital, such as support networks in the chosen destination, and the funds or physical resources to be able to move. It is frequently the last adaptive response households will take when confronted with environmental factors that threaten their livelihoods, and mostly resorted to when other mechanisms to cope have proven unsuccessful.
The rhetoric of migration being related to climate change is complex and disputed. However, It is widely accepted that the results of migration events are multi-causal, with the environment being just a factor amongst many. Outside of policy, human rights organizations, expert demographers and environmental climate scientists dominate this debate. Many discussions are based on projections and less with current migration data. While many migration events can be attributed to sudden environmental change, most migration events are a result of long term environmental changes and do not cause sudden migration. Some scholars attribute these events to sudden environmental changes, like natural disasters. Some choose to label it "climate change", which reflects a more long term onset of change, and the human impact element.
It is helpful to provide an intersectional approach to this discussion and understand that focusing on climate change as the issue frames the debate in terms of projections, causing the research to be speculative. Migration as tool for climate change adaptation is projected to be a more pressing issue in the decade to come. It is often framed in terms of human rights issues and national security. Migration events are often seen as a failure of the governments or policy making bodies that could not contain or effectively manage environmental changes. For example, extreme drought events in the Caribbean proliferate movement of peoples because of the lack of water. This is often seen as a failure on the local governments to provide structural and independent resources. These adaptation failures that have been the topic of concern for many scholars researching this area. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has been viewed as one of the highest authorities to help those displaced.
Insurance spreads the financial impact of flooding and other extreme weather events. Although it can be preferable to take a proactive approach to eliminate the cause of the risk, reactive post-harm compensation can be used as a last resort. Access to reinsurance may be a form of increasing the resiliency of cities. Where there are failures in the private insurance market, the public sector can subsidize premiums. A study identified key equity issues for policy considerations:
- transferring risk to the public purse does not reduce overall risk
- governments can spread the cost of losses across time rather than space
- governments can force home-owners in low risk areas to cross-subsidize the insurance premiums of those in high risk areas
- cross-subsidization is increasingly difficult for private sector insurers operating in a competitive market
- governments can tax people to pay for tomorrow's disaster
Government-subsidized insurance, such as the U.S. National Flood Insurance Program, is criticized for providing a perverse incentive to develop properties in hazardous areas, thereby increasing overall risk. It is also suggested that insurance can undermine other efforts to increase adaptation, for instance through property level protection and resilience. This behavioral effect may be countered with appropriate land-use policies that limit new construction where current or future climate risks are perceived and/or encourage the adoption of resilient building codes to mitigate potential damages.
Adaptation measures by region
Numerous countries, including Australia, have held inquiries into and have planned or started adaptation measures.
The state of California has also issued a document titled "2009 California Climate Adaptation Strategy Discussion Draft" that summarizes the best known science on climate change impacts in seven specific sectors and provides recommendations on how to manage against those threats. Within the state of Florida four counties (Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Palm Beach) have created the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact in order to coordinate adaptation and mitigation strategies to cope with the impact of climate change on the region. Poorer communities have gotten help with climate adaptation in places like Bangladesh as well. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has issued grants to coastal cities and towns for adaptation activities such as fortification against flooding and preventing coastal erosion.
New York State is requiring climate change be taken into account in certain infrastructure permitting, zoning, and open space programs; and is mapping sea level rise along its coast. After Hurricane Sandy, New York and New Jersey accelerated voluntary government buy-back of homes in flood-prone areas. New York City announced in 2013 it planned to spend between $10 and $20 billion on local flood protection, reduction of the heat island effect with reflective and green roofs, flood-hardening of hospitals and public housing, resiliency in food supply, and beach enhancement; rezoned to allow private property owners to move critical features to upper stories; and required electrical utilities to harden infrastructure against flooding. Study of a large storm barrier spanning the entire harbor was previously proposed by the Governor of New York, but was dismissed in the City's plans.
In 2019, a 19.1 billion dollars "disaster relief bill" was approved by the senate. The bill should help the victims of extreme weather that was partly fueled by climate change.
In 2008, the German Federal Cabinet adopted the 'German Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change' that sets out a framework for adaptation in Germany. Priorities are to collaborate with the Federal States of Germany in assessing the risks of climate change, identifying action areas and defining appropriate goals and measures. In 2011, the Federal Cabinet adopted the 'Adaptation Action Plan' that is accompanied by other items such as research programs, adaptation assessments and systematic observations.
In 2018, the New York WILD film festival gave the "Best Short Film" award to a 12-minute documentary, titled Adaptation Bangladesh: Sea Level Rise. The film explores the way in which Bangladeshi farmers are preventing their farms from flooding by building floating gardens made of water hyacinth and bamboo.
In Mesoamerica today, climate change is one of the main threats to rural Central American farmers, as the region is plagued with frequent droughts, cyclones and the El Niño- Southern-Oscillation. Although there is a wide variety of adaption strategies, these can vary dramatically from country to country. Many of the adjustments that have been made are primarily agricultural or related to water supply. Some of these adaptive strategies include restoration of degraded lands, rearrangement of land uses across territories, livelihood diversification, changes to sowing dates or water harvest, and even migration. The lack of available resources in Mesoamerica continues to pose as a barrier to more substantial adaptations, so the changes made today are much more incremental.
Sub Saharan Africa
Reforestation is one of the ways to stop desertification fueled by anthropogenic climate change and non sustainable land use. One of the most important projects is the Great Green Wall that should stop the expansion of Sahara desert to the south. By 2018 only 15% of it is accomplished, but there are already many positive effects, which include: "Over 12 million acres (5 million hectares) of degraded land has been restored in Nigeria; roughly 30 million acres of drought-resistant trees have been planted across Senegal; and a whopping 37 million acres of land has been restored in Ethiopia – just to name a few of the states involved." "many groundwater wells refilled with drinking water, rural towns with additional food supplies, and new sources of work and income for villagers, thanks to the need for tree maintenance"
Opposition to adaptation
According to Al Gore, writing in 1992 in Earth in the Balance, adaptation represented a "kind of laziness, an arrogant faith in our ability to react in time to save our skins". Climate commentator David Roberts has written that "(b)oth mitigation and adaption are necessary at this point. But for every day mitigation is delayed, the need for adaptation grows," which is problematic because "adaptation is more expensive and requires bigger government than mitigation."
Climate adaptation denial
According to a report released by Greenpeace USA in September 2013, climate change denial and the campaigns designed to block adaptation measures grew mainly out of the 1990s negotiations slated to develop a global agreement. During these talks, a number of lobby groups were established with an objective of developing doubt within policymakers and the media through the use of publications in the guise of true science. This tactic, similar to those of large tobacco companies, was utilized by the lobby groups in the hopes of delaying action and blurring the lines between the valid scientific efforts to challenge climate change findings and those designed to merely undermine the credibility of the scientific community. This strategy feeds into the "uncertainty argument" and develops an impression of debate through references to the uncertainty of scientific findings that exist in any research model. Additional tactics that the lobbyist groups have used include releasing non-stories manufactured from stolen emails and communications plans to develop more media coverage of the uncertainty argument.
A book by the Berliner Wissenschafts-Verlag on 'conflict-sensitive adaptation' sheds light on unintended damaging effects of climate adaptation measures. For example, when disadvantaged groups are left out of the planning process, adaptation methods such as agricultural or water programmes may increase vulnerabilities. The book draws on findings from Africa and outlines how conflict-sensitive adaptation activities should look that are cognizant of the conflict-effects adaptation may have. The authors provide a "Memorandum for Action on Adaptation for Peace and Stability" that outlines principles to support processes for adaptation and peace such as the establishment of peace and conflict assessments for adaptation programmes, mainstreaming climate change adaptation in conflict-prone contexts, applying conflict sensitive approaches or provisions to ensure participatory processes to design and implement adaptation measures.
- Climate bond
- Climate change denial
- Climate Vulnerability Monitor
- Effects of climate change on humans
- ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability
- Large Cities Climate Leadership Group
- Climate resilience
- "UNFCCC Glossary of Climate Change Acronyms" Archived 29 April 2010 at the Wayback Machine. Accessed 24 October 2010
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Relevant IPCC reports
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) produced two separate reports: Climate Change 2001: Mitigation and Climate Change 2001: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability
Relevant United States sources
- US Global Change Research Program
- US National Assessment—Preparing for a Changing Climate report
- California Regional Assessment: Preparing for Climate Change: The Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change for California (not on Federal site) 2002
- The US Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) published two reports containing detailed assessments of mitigation and adaptation strategies
- "Changing by Degrees" investigates options for controlling emissions of carbon dioxide, the most troublesome anthropogenic greenhouse gas (OTA 1991).
- "Preparing for an Uncertain Climate" examines how managed natural resource systems—such as water, agriculture, and forests—might adapt to changing environmental conditions brought about by global warming (OTA 1993).
- Adaptation Clearinghouse of the Georgetown Climate Center
Other government sources
Several countries have taken a lead in climate vulnerability assessment and adaptation planning. Their web sites contain reports, strategies, and tools which other countries can customize to their own situation.
- The United Kingdom's Climate Impacts Programme (UKCIP)
- The Canadian National Assessment: From Impacts to Adaptation: Canada in a Changing Climate 2007 discusses current and future risks and opportunities that climate change presents to Canada, with a focus on human and managed systems.
Other relevant sources
In addition to government and United Nations reports, an extensive research literature assesses options for response to global warming. Much of this literature addresses the potential economic costs associated with different strategies.
- The World Bank has worked with developing countries to support adaptation planning since 1999. It has also analyzed how to mainstream adaptation planning into its loan and grant programs. This page has publications to download
- The Asian Development Bank has a series of studies on the Economics of Climate Change in the Asia-Pacific region. The studies provide cost analysis of both adaptation and mitigation measures.
- Indigo Development has a page of links to government and research web sites on climate adaptation
- Oxfam has issued a report detailing the need for high emissions countries to support adaptation in developing countries: Adapting to climate change, What's needed in poor countries, and who should pay Oxfam Briefing Paper 104
- The Eldis platform, run by the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex has literature on adaptation and sustainable development
- The WEAP (Water Evaluation And Planning system) assists water resources researchers and planners in assessing impacts of and adaptations to climate change.
- The weADAPT platform encourages the collaborative development of tools for adaptation and sharing experiences from adaptation projects
- The UNDP runs the adaptation learning mechanism which provides country case studies of adaptation.
- The UN-CECAR research and development of courses on climate change and adaptation
- The UNFCCC has a database on local adaptation measures and information on the international climate negotiations
- "Economic Approaches to Greenhouse Warming" provides a summary of Yale economist William Nordhaus' ideas (1991). Nordhaus questions the motivation for countries to pursue relatively costly measures for responding to global warming given current scientific uncertainty about the problem's magnitude and estimates potential economic impacts may not be that high, particularly for developed economies.
- Economist William R. Cline offers an opposing view, arguing potential economic costs of unabated global warming could be very high. In the monograph, "Global Warming: The Economic Stakes", Cline (1992) assesses the potential cost of damages from global warming and the cost of efforts to control greenhouse gas emissions.
- "Coping with Global Climate Change: The Role of Adaptation in the United States" Pew Center on Global Climate Change, June 2004.
- National Center for Policy Analysis "Living with Global Warming". Archived from the original on 14 September 2005.
- "Adaptation to Global Warming" James Titus[who?]
- "Climate's Long-Lost Twin" Richard Monastersky[who?]
- Heintz Foundation, 2007 A Survey of Climate Change Adaptation Planning pdf
- "Adapt or Die: The Science, Politics and Economics of Climate Change" Profile Books, December 2003 ISBN 1-86197-795-6
- USDA Economic Research Service Economics of Sequestering Carbon in the U.S. Agricultural Sector
- USDA Economic Research Service Agricultural Adaptation to Climate Change: Issues of Longrun Sustainability
- USDA Economic Research Service World Agriculture and Climate Change: Economic Adaptations
- "Policy Implications of Greenhouse Warming." United States National Academy of Sciences, 1991.
- "Water Allocation in a Changing Climate: Institutions and Adaptation" Springer Netherlands, ISSN 0165-0009 (Paper) 1573-1480 (Online) Volume 35, Number 2, February 1997. pp. 157 – 177.
- Risks, opportunities, and adaptation to climate change Joel D. Scheraga, Anne E. Grambsch, United States Environmental Protection Agency.
- McMichael et al. (2003). Climate Change and Human Health – Risk and Responses. WHO, UNEP, WMO, Geneva. ISBN 92-4-159081-5.
- Müller, B. (2002) Equity in Climate Change. The Great Divide. Oxford Institute for Energy Studies . Oxford, UK
- House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs, 2nd Report of Session 2005-6 The Economics of Climate Change. Volume I: Report pdf
- Rivington M, Matthews KB, Buchan K and Miller D (2005) "An integrated assessment approach to investigate options for mitigation and adaptation to climate change at the farm-scale", NJF Seminar 380, Odense, Denmark, 7–8 November 2005, via Macaulay Institute's Land Allocation Decision Support System.
- Ludwig, Fulco, Pavel Kabat, Henk van Schaik and Michael van der Valk (2009) Climate Change Adaptation in the Water Sector, Earthscan, London, 320 pp, ISBN 978-1-84407-652-9.
- Amy Seidl Finding Higher Ground: Adaptation in the Age of Warming Beacon Press (7 June 2011) ISBN 978-0-8070-8598-1
- Publications by the Co-operative Programme on Water and Climate (CPWC)
- Henfrey, T. & G. Penha-Lopes, 2015. Permaculture and Climate Change Adaptation. Permanent Publications, East Meon.