There is no doubt that mitigation and reduction in greenhouse gas emissions are crucial in the fight against global climate change. However, there are changes in the climate that we cannot avert any longer. Certain thresholds will be reached, and the consequences suffered, no matter what we do today. But there is still much we can do to avert major losses for those who are most vulnerable.

The key is in adaptation.

Adaptation, as defined by the IPCC, is “adaptations in ecological, social or economic systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli and their effects.” Its main goal is to avoid harm from future climate change. Harm can include losses in agriculture, damages to infrastructure, averse effects on human health, and the loss human lives.

However, there are obstacles to development. Specifically, lack of awareness and will, lack of financial resources, weak institutions and governance, erosion of social capital, weakened social and community safety networks, lack of adequate information for those at risk, and little voice given to those at risk. The people most vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change are those already in situations of poverty. Therefore it is important to strengthen top-bottom safety networks (governments, institutions, public services, infrastructure), as well as bottom-up community networks (risk sharing networks, community resources, grassroots organizations, etc).

As outlined in “A Stitch in Time: General Lessons from Specific Cases” by Leary et al. in Climate Change and Adaptation, a way of accomplishing these adaptation goals and overcoming obstacles is to couple the goals of adaptation with those of development. Development is seen as a necessity in many countries, so a lot of resources (including human capital) are being invested into development efforts.
If individuals and organizations can realize the complimentary goals of adaptation and development, they will be capable of implementing dual strategies of adaptation and development in the areas most vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change

Some further reading

WMO Climate Information for Adaptation and Development Needs
Pew Center. Adaptation to Climate Change: International Policy Options

If you haven’t already, watch this movie, “The 11th Hour”.

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