“Even if we stopped emitting all greenhouse gases today, global warming and climate change will continue to affect future generations”. – NASA, 2020
Reports from the IPCC and statements from the scientific community affirms that indeed global temperatures are rising, and this is mainly the result of human activities or anthropogenic impacts.
Climate change is a complex issue that involves a wide range of areas like politics, science, society, economics, moral and ethical questions (Responding to Climate Change, 2020). Climate change affects all of us and all living things on the planet.
The important thing to remember is that even if all emissions stop today, global warming will continue to affect future generations, because of the presence of gasses in the atmosphere. So, humanity is already on the path to climate change. to what extent will depend on how much emissions will continue and how will our climate system respond to this emission (Responding to Climate Change, 2020).
On our previous blog, we discussed what climate adaptation is. On this post, we will discuss climate adaptation strategies and what it covers.
Why is it important to have adaptation strategies?
Having climate adaptation strategies is important because this will prevent or minimize damages that climate change causes, these are actions that take advantage of opportunities that may arise from climate change. Having well-planned adaptation actions will save money and lives.
Most of the time these measures are not totally new but things that have been done in the past only with more planning, use of innovation and technology, and creative thinking in anticipation of the adverse effects of climate change. Examples of practical adaptation measures includes: using scarce water more efficiently, adapting building codes to future climate conditions and extreme weather, building flooding defences, raising dykes, developing drought resilience crops, planting tree species and forestry practices that are resilient against fire and storms, and better for ecosystems, and setting aside land (refuge) for plants and species to migrate to ensure their survival (Adaptation to climate, n.d.)
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also has a very good resource on climate adaptation strategies in their website. It covers various areas like air, water, waste, public health, and ecosystem protection. Their information aims to inform communities on what they can do and to help them identify potential alternatives and possible ways to address climate change. The site also acknowledges that not everything here would be suitable or appropriate to some communities and should consider the local context when applying adaptation measures.
Below are some highlights from the information on the EPA website. If you want to access the entire information, you may refer to the citations at the bottom end of the blog post.
Climate adaptation to maintain air quality
Climate change will impact the quality of air both the outdoor and indoor air. Poor air quality can aggravate lung diseases and can lead to an early death. For outdoor air, one solution is to manage air pollution and emissions to maintain air quality. For indoor air, proper ventilation of the building to control moisture and dilute pollutants. Climate change may disrupt, power supply or can lengthen dry and hot days or even cold and damp days.
A strategy to counter this problem is to maintain acceptable thermal conditions using passive building designs or using modification strategies such as reducing urban heat islands or heat island cooling strategies by incorporating vegetation or plants in the design of urban buildings and pavements.
Climate adaptation to maintain water quality
Climate change can make it challenging for communities to provide drinkable water, wastewater services, protect water quality and maintain healthy aquatic environments like oceans, rivers, lakes, streams, etc. Adaptation measures make sure that water utility, water quality, and ecosystems are protected against climate change.
To maintain water utility against climate change, some of the adaptation strategies suggested are to construct new infrastructures like flood barriers, or those need for aquifer storage and recovery. Another strategy is to increase system efficiency like energy. Water utilities need electricity to function.
So, to prevent power disruptions due to increasing demands and outages, having energy efficiency will make water utilities more resilient to climate change. Other water utility adaptation measures include model climate risk, modify land use, modify water demand, plan for climate change, and repair and retrofit facilities.
Adaptation measures to maintain water quality includes the use of climate and land use data, applying green infrastructure strategies, consider stormwater management logistics, use of natural infrastructures, building staff capacity, and providing public awareness and coordination.
Lastly, protecting ecosystems from climate change includes these adaptation strategies: maintaining or restoring wetlands, preserving coastal land and development, soft shoreline maintenance like applying breakwater, sand fill, and planting vegetation, hard shoreline maintenance includes fortifying dykes, hardening of shorelines with breakwater, etc., and habitat preservation.
Adaptation strategies are also done according to climate risks such as drought and saltwater intrusion, sea-level rise, flooding and stormwater management, erosion and sedimentation, and many more.
Climate Adaptation in managing wastes.
Climate change will make managing waste both hazardous and non-hazardous challenging. Managing possible ways to address climate change when managing wastes are first, to create a waste facility protection adaptation strategy and second, to develop a waste management plan.
Under waste facility protection strategies, it includes strategies like:
- Site containment (e.g. building armour along coastlines),
- Groundwater remediation (e.g. alarm networks that can trigger system shutdown or allows for manual shut down when specified parameters are exceeded),
- Contaminated site remedy (armour enhancement for example, additional or deeper layers of stone or gravel above base layer to withstand forces of ice jams), and
- Use of Engineered structures (e.g. jetty, level, riprap, retaining walls).
These strategies are designed against waste spills and contamination, to prevent water intrusions either from flooding or ocean water intrusion that can impact waste facilities as well.
Climate Adaptation in public health
As a consequence of climate change, more heatwaves and longer droughts are anticipated. Heatwaves are a health threat and can even be fatal. In some areas, flooding can drown and hurt people, and cause water-borne diseases.
The EPA uses a 5-step process that enables health practitioners to develop their health adaptation strategies (Public Health Adaptation, 2019 ). This includes:
- First, anticipating climate impacts and assessing vulnerabilities. What health problems will arise because of climate change and identify people who are vulnerable in the community.
- Second, estimating the additional health burden it will add to the public health sector.
- Third, identifying the most suitable health interventions for identified health impact. For instance, in flood-prone areas, water-prone diseases will likely to increase.
- Fourth, develop a climate-related health adaptation plan. This needs to be updated regularly and implementation needs to be monitored as well.
- Fifth, evaluation and improvement. Evaluate the strategies, update and improve information if needed.
Climate change indeed has a global impact. It affects every sector of the society from infrastructures, economy, health, ecosystems, and policies.
The climate adaptation strategies that we mentioned provides valuable information and a guide for communities to come up with their own climate adaptation strategies that are relevant and in context with the local perspective.Background Photo Credit: By Tom Corser www.tomcorser.com, CC BY-SA 2.0 uk, Link