Climate Change 2007 Update
6. How do people adapt to climate change?
- 6.1 What are the current adaptation strategies?
- 6.2 What makes populations vulnerable to climate change?
- 6.3 What are the relative roles of mitigation and adaptation?
6.1 What are the current adaptation strategies?
Changes in consumption habits can help address climate
Some adaptation of human
activities to both observed and anticipated
climate change is already
taking place. For instance, climate change is taken into account
in coastal defense projects in the Maldives and the Netherlands.
Other examples include prevention of glacial lake outburst
flooding in Nepal, water management strategies in Australia, and
government responses to heat waves in some European countries.
Past emissions are expected to cause some unavoidable warming
(about a further 0.6°C by the end of the century) even if the
amount of greenhouse gas
concentrations in the
atmosphere remained at the
same level as they were in the year 2000. There are thus some
impacts for which adaptation
is the only option.
Although many early impacts of
climate change can be
effectively addressed through
adaptation, the options for
successful adaptation diminish and the associated costs increase
with increasing climate change.
A wide array of adaptation
options exist, including technological solutions such as coastal
defenses, behaviour changes such as the modification of
consumption habits, as well as policy and managerial solutions.
While the limits to adaptation are not yet known, it is not
expected that adaptation alone will be sufficient to cope with
all projected impacts as they increase in magnitude.
6.2 What makes populations vulnerable to climate change?
The vulnerability of natural environments and human societies
to climate change can be
exacerbated by factors such as
conflicts, or epidemics such as AIDS.
Future vulnerability will depend not only on the changes in
climate but also on the development path chosen. Indeed
scenarios foresee large
differences in regional
population, income and
technological development, which strongly affect vulnerability
to climate change.
A sustainable approach to
development, for instance, can help reduce vulnerability to
climate change by
increasing the capacity of
adapt. However, climate
change itself can become an obstacle to development, slowing
down progress and potentially preventing the achievement of the
Millennium Development Goals (MDG).
6.3 What are the relative roles of mitigation and adaptation?
Many impacts can be avoided, reduced or delayed by mitigation,
which mainly aims to reduce greenhouse gase emissions. However
even the most severe mitigation measures cannot completely avoid
impacts of climate change
in the next few decades. Measures to
adapt to impacts also have
There is therefore a need for or mix of strategies that
development (to enhance both adaptation and mitigation) and
research (on climate science, impacts, adaptation and