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Climate change adaptation
Diagram explaining the relationships between risk, hazard mitigation, resilience, and adaptation
Climate change adaptation is a response to global warming (also known as "climate change" or "anthropogenic climate change"). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) defines adaptation as: 'the process of adjustment to actual or expected climate and its effects. In human systems, adaptation seeks to moderate or avoid harm or exploit beneficial opportunities. In some natural systems, human intervention may facilitate adjustment to expected climate and its effects'.
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 actions can be considered as either incremental adaptation (actions where the central aim is to maintain the essence and integrity of a system) or transformational adaptation (actions that change the fundamental attributes of a system in response to climate change and its impacts).
The need for adaptation varies from place to place, depending on the sensitivity and vulnerability to environmental impacts. Adaptation is especially important in developing countries since those countries are predicted to bear the brunt of the effects of global warming. 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.
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 exact amount of money needed is unknown.
The adaptation challenge grows with the magnitude and the rate of climate change. Even the most effective climate change mitigation through reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions or enhanced removal of these gases from the atmosphere (through carbon sinks) 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.
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.
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.
At the 15th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP15), held in Copenhagen in 2009, the Copenhagen Accord was agreed in order to commit to the goal of sending $100 billion per year to developing countries in assistance for climate change mitigation and adaptation through 2020. A new fund - the Green Climate Fund, was therefore created.
A key and defining feature of international adaptation finance is its premise on the concept of additionality. This reflects the linkages between adaptation finance and other levels of development aid. Many developing countries already provide international aid assistance to developing countries to address challenges such as poverty, malnutrition, food insecurity, availability of drinking water, indebtedness, illiteracy, unemployment, local resource conflicts, and lower technological development. Climate change threatens to exacerbate or stall progress on fixing some of these pre-existing problems, and creates new problems. To avoid existing aid being redirected, additionality refers to the extra costs of adaptation.
The four main definitions of additionality are:
Climate finance classified as aid, but additional to (over and above) the 0.7% ODA target;
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.
A criticism of additionality is that it encourages business as usual that does not account for the future risks of climate change. Some advocates have thus proposed integrating climate change adaptation into poverty reduction programs.
Other adaptation finance mechanisms
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.
Considerations and general recommendations
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.
Types 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.
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
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. As a property, adaptive capacity is distinct from adaptation itself. 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, adaptive capacity in Western Europe is generally considered to be high, and the risks of warmer winters increasing the range of livestock diseases is well documented, but many parts of Europe are still badly affected by outbreaks of the Bluetongue virus in livestock in 2007.
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 efforts to enhance adaptive capacity can help to reduce vulnerability to climate change. In many instances, activities to promote sustainable development can also act to enhance people's adaptive capacity to climate change. These activities can include:
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.
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.
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"
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
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.
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.
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[by whom?]. However, it is widely accepted[by whom?] 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[who?] attribute these events to sudden environmental changes, like natural disasters. Some[who?] 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[by whom?] 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[by whom?] 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[who?] researching this area. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has been viewed[by whom?] as one of the highest authorities to help those displaced.
In Africa, specifically, migrant social networks can help to build social capital to increase the social resilience in the communities of origin and trigger innovations across regions by the transfer of knowledge, technology, remittances and other resources. These could increase the flexibility, diversity and creativity of communities in addressing climate stress and open new pathways for co-development connecting the home and host communities.
In Africa, in particular, in terms of adaptation strategies Mozambique and Zimbabwe are clear examples of this because they have implemented relocation policies that have reduced the exposure of populations and migrants to disaster. In any case, it is important to build resilience in the long run. And for that, tools must be put in place that limit forced displacement after a disaster; promote employment programs, even if only temporary, for IDPs or establish funding plans to ensure their security; to minimize the vulnerability of populations from risk areas. This can limit the displacement caused by environmental shocks and better channel the positive spillovers (money transfers, experiences, etc.) from the migration to the origin countries/communities.
The figure of the "failed migrant", in most African countries, shows extreme heterogeneity. The causes associated with failure are most often from social and personal natures – feelings of personal failure for example– but can also be related to social isolation in the host countries. Although there has been some progress in the discussion of the causes of the pathos of failed migration, there are still many unresolved issues. Factors such as a low social level, a change of life plan, unemployment, or even environmental stress (drought, high temperature, water scarcity, etc.) are often associated with an increased risk of failure when we know that most African migrants live in difficult socio-economic and ecological conditions.
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.
According to Jonathan Franzen, writing in The New Yorker, U.S. people "need to accept high taxes and severe curtailment of their familiar life styles without revolting" to cope with the "climate apocalypse."
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. In 2019, after "red flag" warning about the possibility of wildfires was declared in some areas of California, the electricity company "Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E)" begun to shut down power, for preventing inflammation of trees that touch the electricity lines. Millions can be impacted. The climatic conditions that cause this warning, became more frequent because of climate change. If the temperatures keep rising, such power outage could become common
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 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.
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 2009 the Greenland Climate Research Centre was set up in the capital of Greenland, Nuuk. Traditional knowledge is important for weather and animal migration, as well as for adaptive capacity building in areas such as the recognition of approaching hazards and survival skills.
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.
Africa will be one of the regions most impacted by the adverse effects of climate change. Reasons for Africa's vulnerability are diverse and include low levels of adaptive capacity, poor diffusion of technologies and information relevant to supporting adaptation, and high dependence on agro-ecosystems for livelihoods. Many countries across Africa are classified as Least-Developed Countries (LDCs) with poor socio-economic conditions, and by implication are faced with particular challenges in responding to the impacts of climate change.
Pronounced risks identified for Africa in the IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report relate to ecosystems, water availability and agricultural systems, with implications for food security. In relation to agricultural systems, heavy reliance on rain-fed subsistence farming and low adoption of climate smart agricultural practices contribute to the sector's high levels of vulnerability. The situation is compounded by poor reliability of, and access to, climate data and information to support adaptation actions. Climate change is likely to further exacerbate water-stressed catchments across Africa - for example the Rufiji basin in Tanzania - owing to diversity of land uses, and complex sociopolitical challenges.
To reduce the impacts of climate change on African countries, adaption measures are required at multiple scales - ranging from local to national and regional levels. The first generation of adaptation projects in Africa can be largely characterised as small-scale in nature, focused on targeted investments in agriculture and diffusion of technologies to support adaptive decision-making. More recently, programming efforts have re-oriented towards larger and more coordinated efforts, tackling issues that spanning multiple sectors.
At the regional level, regional policies and actions in support of adaptation across Africa are still in their infancy. The IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) highlights examples of various regional climate change action plans, including those developed by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and Lake Victoria Basin Committee. At the national level, many early adaptation initiatives were coordinated through National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs) or National Climate Change Response Strategies (NCCRS). Implementation has been slow however, with mixed success in delivery. Integration of climate change with wider economic and development planning remains limited but growing.
At the subnational level, many provincial and municipal authorities are also developing their own strategies, for example the Western Cape Climate Change Response Strategy. Yet, levels of technical capacity and resources available to implement plans are generally low. There has been considerable attention across Africa given to implementing community-based adaptation projects. There is broad agreement that support to local-level adaptation is best achieved by starting with existing local adaptive capacity, and engaging with indigenous knowledge and practices.
The IPCC highlights a number of successful approaches to promote effective adaptation in Africa, outlining five common principles. These include:
(1) enhancing support for autonomous forms of adaptation;
(2) increasing attention to the cultural, ethical, and rights considerations of adaptation (especially through active participation of women, youth, and poor and vulnerable people in adaptation activities);
(3) combining “soft path” options and flexible and iterative learning approaches with technological and infrastructural approaches (including integration of scientific, local, and indigenous knowledge in developing adaptation strategies);
(4) focusing on enhancing resilience and implementing low-regrets adaptation options; and
(5) building adaptive management and encouraging process of social and institutional learning into adaptation activities.
Key adaptations in northern Africa relate to increased risk of water scarcity (resulting from a combination of climate change affecting water availability and increasing demand). Reduced water availability, in turn, interacts with increasing temperatures to create need for adaptation among rainfed wheat production and changing disease risk (for example from leishmaniasis. Most government actions for adaptation centre on water supply side, for example through desalination, inter-basin transfers and dam construction. Migration has also been observed to act as an adaptation for individuals and households in northern Africa. Like many regions, however, examples of adaptation action (as opposed to intentions to act, or vulnerability assessments) from north Africa are limited - a systematic review published in 2011 showed that only 1 out of 87 examples of reported adaptations came from North Africa.
Climate change is a reality in West Africa. Water availability is a particular risk, with extreme events such as drought related to humanitarian crises associated with periodic famines, food insecurity, population displacement, migration and conflict and insecurity. Adaptation strategies can be environmental, cultural/agronomic and economic.
Adaptation strategies are evident in the agriculture sector, some of which are developed or promoted by formal research or experimental stations. Indigenous agricultural adaptations observed in northern Ghana are crop-related, soil-related or involve cultural practices. Livestock-based agricultural adaptations include indigenous strategies such as adjusting quantities of feed to feed livestock, storing enough feed during the abundant period to be fed to livestock during the lean season, treating wounds with solution of certain barks of trees, and keeping local breeds which are already adapted to the climate of northern Ghana; and livestock production technologies to include breeding, health, feed/nutrition and housing.
The choice and adoption of adaptation strategies is variously contingent on demographic factors such as the household size, age, gender and education of the household head; economic factors such as income source; farm size; knowledge of adaptation options; and expectation of future prospects.
In Eastern Africa adaptation to climate change options are varied, including improving use of climate information, actions in the agriculture and livestock sector, and in the water sector.
Making better use of climate and weather data, weather forecasts, and other management tools enables timely information and preparedness of people in the sectors such as agriculture that depend on weather outcomes. This means mastering hydro-meteorological information and early warning systems. It has been argued that the indigenous communities possess knowledge on historical climate changes through environmental signs (e.g. appearance and migration of certain birds, butterflies etc.), and thus promoting of indigenous knowledge has been considered an important adaptation strategy.
Adaptation in the agricultural sector includes increased use of manure and crop-specific fertilizer, use of resistant varieties of crops and early maturing crops. Manure, and especially animal manure is thought to retain water and have essential microbes that breakdown nutrients making them available to plants, as compared to synthetic fertilizers that have compounds which when released to the environment due to over-use contribute to the green-house gases. One major vulnerability of the agriculture sector in Eastern Africa is the dependence on rain-fed agriculture. An adaptation solution is adoption of efficient irrigation mechanisms and efficient water storage and use. Drip irrigation has especially been identified as a water efficient option as it directs the water to the root of the plant with minimal wastage. Countries like Rwanda and Kenya, have prioritized developing irrigated areas by gravity water systems from perennial streams and rivers in zones often vulnerable to prolonged droughts. During heavy rains, many areas experience flooding resulting from bare grounds due to deforestation and little land cover. Adaptation strategies proposed for this is promoting conservation efforts on land protection, by planting indigenous trees, protecting water catchment areas and managing grazing lands through zoning.
For the livestock sector, adaptation options include managing production through sustainable land and pasture management in the ecosystems. This includes promoting hay and fodder production methods e.g. through irrigation and use of waste treated water, and focusing on investing in hay storage for use during dry seasons. Keeping livestock is considered a livelihood rather than an economic activity. Throughout Eastern Africa Countries especially in the ASALs regions, it is argued that promoting commercialization of livestock, is an adaptation option. This involves adopting economic models in livestock feed production, animal traceability, promoting demand for livestock products such as meat, milk and leather and linking to niche markets to enhance businesses and provide disposable income. To commercialize the extensive livestock sector, there is thus need to involve programs that match animal species and breeds to appropriate environments,develop appropriate livestock marketing infrastructure (markets, finishing lots, holding grounds, abattoirs, etc.) and link this to serve the growing rural and urban markets as well as to emerging export markets.
In the water sector, the adaptation options are both for efficient use of water for household, animals and industrial consumption and protection of water sources. Campaigns such as planting indigenous trees in water catchment areas, controlling human activities near catchment areas especially farming and settlement have been carried out to help protect water resources and avail access to water for communities especially during climatic shocks.
There have been several initiatives at local (site-specific), local, national and regional scales aimed at strengthening to climate change. Some of these are: The Regional Climate Change Programme (RCCP), SASSCAL, ASSAR, UNDP Climate Change Adaptation, RESILIM, FRACTAL. South Africa implemented the Long-Term Adaptation Scenarios Flagship Research Programme (LTAS) from April 2012 to June 2014. This research also produced factsheets and a technical report covering the SADC region entitled "Climate Change Adaptation: Perspectives for the Southern African Development Community (SADC)".
Adaptation policies by region
Policies have been identified as important tools for integrating issues of climate change adaptation. At national levels, adaptation strategies may be found in National Action Plans (NAPS) and National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA)(in developing countries), and/or in national policies and strategies on climate change. These are at different levels of development in different countries.
Regional - Some progress is being made in responding to climate change at the regional level. This includes the development and adoption of several regional climate change adaptation strategies e.g. SADC Policy Paper Climate Change, and the adaptation strategy for the water sector. In addition, there has been other efforts to enhance climate change adaptation, such as the tripatite Programme on Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation in Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA-EAC-SADC).
Angola - "The objective of the National Adaptation Programme of Action are to identify and communicate the urgent and immediate needs of the country regarding climate change adaptation, to increase Angola‘s resilience to climate variabilities and to climate change to ensure achievement of Poverty reduction programmes, sustainable development objectives and the Millennium Development Goals pursued by the Government."
Comoros - "NAPA is the operational extension of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP), as it includes among its adaptation priorities, agriculture, fishing, water, housing, health, but also tourism, in an indirect way, through the reconstitution of basin slopes and the fight against soils erosion, and therefore the protection of reefs by limiting the silting up by terrigen contributions."
Kenya gazetted the Climate Change Act, 2016 which establishes an authority to oversee development, management, implementation and regulation of mechanisms to enhance climate change resilience and low carbon development for sustainable development, by the National and County Governments, the private sector, civil society and other actors. Kenya has also developed the National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP 2018-2022) which aims to further the country's development goals by providing mechanisms and measures to achieve low carbon climate resilient development in a manner that prioritizes adaptation.
Lesotho - "The key objectives of the NAPA process entail: identification of communities and livelihoods most vulnerable to climate change, generating a list of activities that would form a core of the national adaptation programme of action, and to communicate the country’s immediate and urgent needs and priorities for building capacity for adaptation to climate change"
Namibia - the critical themes for adaptation are "Food security and sustainable biological resource base, Sustainable water resources base,Human health and well being and Infrastructure development"
Madagascar - the priority sectors for adaptation are: agriculture and livestock, forestry, public health, water resources and coastal zones.
Malawi - The NAPA identifies the following as high priority activities for adaptation: "Improving community resilience to climate change through the development of sustainable rural livelihoods, Restoring forests in the Upper and Lower Shire Valleys catchments to reduce siltation and associated water flow problems, Improving agricultural production under erratic rains and changing climatic conditions, Improving Malawi’s preparedness to cope with droughts and floods, and Improving climate monitoring to enhance Malawi’s early warning capability and decision making and sustainable utilization of Lake Malawi and lakeshore areas resources".
Mauritius - adaptation should address the following priority areas: coastal resources, agriculture, water resources, fisheries, health and well-being, land use change and forestry and biodiversity.
Mozambique - "The proposed adaptation initiatives target various areas of economic and social development, and outline projects related to the reduction of impacts to natural disasters, the creation of adaptation measures to climate change, fight against soil erosion in areas of high desertification and coastal zones, reforestation and the management of water resources."
Rwanda has developed the National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA 2006) which contains information to guide national policy-makers and planners on priority vulnerabilities and adaptations in important economic sectors. The country has also developed sector based policies on adaptation to climate change such as the Vision 2020, the National Environmental Policy and the Agricultural Policy among others.
South Africa is in the progress of finalising its national climate change adaptation strategy. "The National Adaptation strategy acts as a common reference point for climate change adaptation efforts in South Africa, and it provides a platform upon which national climate change adaptation objectives for the country can be articulated so as to provide overarching guidance to all sectors of the economy"
Tanzania Tanzania has outlined priority adaptation measures in their NAPA, and various national sector strategies and research outputs. The NAPA has been successful at encouraging climate change mainstreaming into sector policies in Tanzania; however, the cross-sectoral collaboration crucial to implementing adaptation strategies remains limited due to institutional challenges such as power imbalances, budget constraints and an ingrained sectoral approach. Most of the projects in Tanzania concern agriculture and water resource management (irrigation, water saving, rainwater collection); however, energy and tourism also play an important role.
Zambia - "The NAPA identifies 39 urgent adaptation needs and 10 priority areas within the sectors of agriculture and food security (livestock, fisheries and crops), energy and water, human health, natural resources and wildlife"
Zimbabwe - "The other strategic interventions by the NAP process will be: Strengthening the role of private sector in adaptation planning, Enhancing of the capacity of Government to develop bankable projects through trainings, Improving management of background climate information to inform climate change planning, Crafting a proactive resource-mobilization strategy for identifying and applying for international climate finance as requests for funds are primarily reactive at present, focusing on emergency relief rather than climate change risk reduction, preparedness and adaptation, Developing a coordinated monitoring and evaluation policy for programs and projects, as many institutions within the government do not currently have a systematic approach to monitoring and evaluation. "
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.
The IPCC group also pointed out that climate change adaptation measures can reinforce and be reinforced by efforts to promote sustainable development and reduce poverty.
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.
Various attempts have been made to estimate the cost of adaptation to climate change. An early study by the UNFCCC in 2007 estimated costs of adaptation to be $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). However, this estimate was criticised as underestimating costs of adaptation by a factor of 2 or 3, particularly as it did not take into account sectors such as tourism, mining, energy and retail. More recent estimates by the United Nations Development Programme and World Bank put estimates between $75–100 billion per year between 2010 and 2050, depending on the scenario of climate change.
The benefits of strong, early action on mitigation considerably outweigh the costs.
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."
The are some measure that seems like adaptation, but can lead, in fact, to more climate sensitivity and more climate change. For example, reliance on air conditioning gives relief from the heat, but can create an addiction to it, e. g. intolerance to any uncomfortable climate. Air conditioning also consumes 20% of all energy in United States therefore emitting a lot of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, according to the book Losing Our Cool of Stan Cox.
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.
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Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions (ASSAR) project combined interdisciplinary scientific research at regional and thematic levels, capacity building, and stakeholder engagement to improve understanding of the barriers and enablers to effective climate adaptation.
African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS) is a pioneering development research think tank on harnessing applications of science, technology and innovation policies for sustainable development in Africa.
African Climate Policy Centre (ACCP) goal is to contribute to poverty reduction through successful mitigation and adaptation to climate change in Africa and to improve the capacity of African countries to participate effectively in multilateral climate negotiations.
African Monsoon Multidisciplinary Analysis 2050 (AMMA-2050) aim to address the challenges of understanding how the monsoon will change in future decades, to 2050, and how this information can be most effectively used to support climate-compatible development in the region.
Future Climate for Africa (FCFA) aims to generate fundamentally new climate science focused on Africa, and to ensure that this science has an impact on human development across the continent. FCFA is implemented by five international research teams working across the African continent: AMMA-2050 , FRACTAL, IMPALA , HyCRISTAL , and UMFULA .
Improving Model Processes for African cLimAte (IMPALA) project has developed a very high-resolution pan-African climate model that better captures key processes and local-scale weather phenomena including extremes, and provides new understanding of the roles played by these processes in African climate variability and change.
Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) is a continental coalition of Civil Society Organizations whose goal is to mobilize and empower African civil society to ensure realization of environmental and climate justice for all people in Africa.
Pathways to Resilience In Semi-Arid Economies (PRISE) aims to generates new knowledge about how economic development in semi-arid regions can be made more equitable and resilient to climate change, in order to deepen decision-makers’understanding of the threats and opportunities that semi-arid economies face in relation to climate change.
"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).
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.
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
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
"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.