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2013 IPCC Assessment Report on Climate Change

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
Changes in consumption habits can help address climate change.

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. More...

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 poverty, pollution, 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 different development 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 populations to 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). More...

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 their limits.

There is therefore a need for or mix of strategies that includes mitigation, adaptation, technological development (to enhance both adaptation and mitigation) and research (on climate science, impacts, adaptation and mitigation). More...

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