“While mitigation focuses on government actions to stopping GHG emissions, climate adaptation seeks to help people live in a changed environment.”
Given the extreme events that have happened within the last ten years – according to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), the period 2011 to 2020 is the warmest decade in their record, with 2015 as the start of the six warmest consecutive years.
Also, within just two years, we see headline news of extreme events around the world- severe floods in NSW Australia and the West Coast of New Zealand, wildfires in the US and Australia, the deep freeze in Texas, debilitating droughts in some parts of Africa, and increasing strength and frequencies of cyclones and typhoons in that affect Southeast Asian countries, southern US states, and countries in the Caribbean and Pacific Island countries.
The European Commission’s Climate Adaptation Plan recognizes that climate change is already happening, citing all these extreme events that have already happened and calling for urgent adaptation actions.
The Global Citizen article presents a concise and thoughtful explanation of why climate adaptation is vital to our survival. Quoting Christina Chan, director of the Climate Resilience Practice at the World Resources Institute (WRI), “Adapting to climate change is a moral, economic and environmental imperative”.
Climate Adaptation vs Mitigation
The article also provides a distinction between climate adaptation and climate mitigation, and both should go together to address the climate crises. While mitigation focuses on government actions to stopping GHG emissions, climate adaptation seeks to help people live in a changed environment.
According to the article, climate adaptation is any measure that protects the community or ecosystem from the climate change effects while also building long-term resilience to a changing environment.
Climate adaptation is wide-ranging in terms of scope, from agriculture practices by using climate-resilient crops to strengthening infrastructure and physical structures, building protective measures around a vulnerable area (seawalls, levees), installing early warning systems, to improving the management of waterways.
Nature-based solutions are also becoming popular because they can work both as climate adaptation and mitigation. Restoring and expanding mangroves in Southeast Asian countries, for example, absorbs CO2 emissions and protects coasts from flooding and enhances the ecosystem in the area.
Climate adaptation should be guided by local priority, identifying vulnerable areas and finding ways to address them using innovative or existing knowledge and technology.
Climate Change funding institutions
Institutions like the United nations feel strongly that wealthy economies should extend support to developing countries to help them adapt to climate change. Poor and developing communities are disproportionately affected by climate change than richer countries because of their low adaptive capacities.
Developing countries require support to boost their finance, skills, knowledge, and technology to improve their adaptive capacities.
Thankfully, funding institutions like the Green Climate Fund, the Adaptation Fund, the Global Environmental Facility, etc., exist to help developing countries efficiently build resilience and help address the widening inequalities from climate change effects.
These funds can help governments gradually transition to a low-carbon economy, uptake of more renewable energy infrastructure, expand nature-based solutions, and applying the principles of Build Back Better to those communities struggling to recover after significant disasters.
Inclusion of Local knowledge in climate adaptation initiatives.
The article also points out that including local knowledge and locally-led initiative should be considered in climate adaptation strategies.
Several studies attest to the benefits and advantage when local knowledge is recognized and implemented in a community that includes a greater sense of ownership in the community, community cohesion, and quicker recovery from disasters because workforce and resources are readily available in the area.
These studies also point out the role of improved government policies, especially those that integrate climate change response to the long-term sustainability and success of climate adaptation initiatives.
Consultation with the community and giving stakeholders a voice in the decision-making process and good climate change response policies work hand in hand in the long-term success of any climate adaptation action that a community choose.
HEADER PHOTO CREDIT: Gillespies Beach, West Coast, New Zealand by Michal Klajban – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=89467191