Climate Adaptation – What is it?

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Climate Adaptation – What is it?

You’ve probably heard the phrase climate adaptation in relation to climate change and its forecasted consequences.

You might be familiar with the phrase having read it on the Climate Adaptation Platform website or somewhere else. In this article, we will discuss further what it means and what it covers.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Adaptation defines “adaptation” as “the process of adjustment to actual or expected climate and its effects” (What is adaptation, 2017).

So what are these expected climate and its effects refer to?

These are sea-level rise, more intense and frequent rainfall, longer droughts and dry weather, stronger hurricanes and typhoon, ocean warming, melting of glaciers, sea ice, and snow cover, among others.

There are certainly challenges when doing climate adaptation. Timing is one of the main challenges because of the uncertain nature of climate change. Specifically, as to when, how, or where it will hit. Acting too soon may produce inappropriate outcomes while acting too late can be very costly as well (What is adaptation, 2017).

Adaptation happens in various levels in society, from the individual to national, and even up to international levels. High levels of adaptation for example, at national or international levels, means that policies are needed to frame actions at the lower levels.

Countries can have differing ability to adapt and this is termed as adaptive capacity. The IPCC defines adaptive capacity as, “the ability of systems, institutions, humans, and other organisms to adjust to potential damage, to take advantage of opportunities, or respond to consequences” (What is adaptation, 2017).

Wealthier and developed countries generally have a higher adaptive capacity, than poor, less and underdeveloped countries. However, higher adaptive capacity does not necessarily translate to actions.

Types of Adaptation

There are seven types of adaptation according to Coast Adapt Australia. These adaptation measures ranges vary in scope from the local government, to a private entity or organization, down to each individual’s adaptation measures.

  • First, incremental adaptation. These are incremental which means a series of small actions and adjustments to meet the goals and expectation of the community to climate change impacts.
  • Second, transformational adaptation. These are actions that result in a significant change in the community’s goals and actions. It happens when incremental actions are no longer enough.
  • Third, proactive adaptation. These are actions taken before any climate change impacts occur.
  • Fourth, reactive adaptation, a response to an event that has already occurred. 
  • Fifth, private adaptation with private benefit, is taken by an individual or a business that only benefits them.
  • Sixth, private adaptation with public benefits, and
  • Seventh, public adaptation is one that is taken by a public entity, for example, a local government, that benefits the whole community.

Clark (2019) explains: “With regards to policies, response to climate change usually comes in two-fold – adaptation and mitigation. Mitigation addresses the root problem by reducing emissions, while adaptation seeks to lower the risk and, in most cases, adjust to the consequences of climates.”

Clark says that both will be necessary because, mitigation measures, will seek to reduce emissions which are causing the warming of the planet in the first place, while adaptation is making sure that risks are kept in check and communities are resilience while we are reducing our emissions (Clark, 2019).

Climate has been changing several times and human beings and animals have adapted well to it, otherwise, we won’t be here anymore.

Plants and Animals Adapting to Climate Change

Human beings have the ability, knowledge and technology to adapt well to changing climates but with the abrupt change in temperature and changing landscapes, plants and animals find it hard to adapt.

That is why human beings intervene by identifying critical climate refugees around the world. These are used to move plants and animals for them to survive.

Holistic climate adaptation means not only adapting to survive and be the fittest but making sure that all living creatures are also valued based on their role to sustaining life on earth.

To know more about how plants and animals are impacted by climate change and what humans are doing to help them, watch this video:

To use the resources mentioned in this post, please check out the following citations:

What is adaptation to climate change? (2017, May 2). Coast Adapt. Retrieved from

Clark, D. (2012, February 2). What is climate change adaptation? The Guardian [Article]. Retrieved from

Eastwood, E. (2016, March 3). Can wildlife adapt to climate change? Youtube [Video file]. Retrieved from

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