Climate Change Adaptation

Climate change adaptation is the “adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities.” [Source: UN-ISDR].

Essentially adaptation refers to efforts to understand and anticipate the adverse effects of climate change and to take appropriate action:

  1. to prevent or minimise the damage those adverse effects can cause,
  2. to prepare to cope with the consequences of those adverse effects, and
  3. to take advantage of opportunities that may arise.

Early well planned action on adaptation has been show to save money and lives.

Examples of adaptation measures include: increasing the capacities of communities to respond to climate consequences; strengthening flood defences through both soft (e.g. preserving buffer areas along rivers) and hard approaches (e.g. raising the levels of dykes); developing drought-tolerant crops and  tree species and forestry practices less vulnerable to storms and fires; and adapting building codes to future climate conditions and extreme weather events.

Climate change ranks amongst the greatest global problems of the 21st century and the scientific evidence on climate change is stronger than ever. The gradual expected temperature rise may seem limited (with a likely range from 2 to 4 degrees Celsius predicted for the coming century), however a slightly higher temperature has many adverse effects.

Along with the rising temperature, known as global warming, we experience:
  • an increase in both frequency and intensity of extreme weather events: more prolonged droughts, floods, landslides, heat waves, and more intense storms
  • the spreading of insect-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue to new places where people are less immune to them
  • a decrease in crop yields in some areas due to extreme droughts or downpours and changes in timing and reliability of rainy seasons
  • global sea level rise of several cm per decade, which will affect coastal flooding, water supplies, tourism, fisheries etc. Tens of millions of people will be forced to move inland.
  • metling glaciers, leading to water supply shortages
Climate change is here to stay and will accelerate. Although climate change is a global issue with impacts all over the world, those people with the least resources have the least capacity to adapt and therefore are the most vulnerable. Developing countries, more particularly its poorest inhabitants, do not have the means to fend off floods and other natural disasters; to make matters worse, their economies tend to be based on climate/weather-sensitive sectors such as agriculture and fishery, which makes them all the more vulnerable.
[Source: IFRC]
Climate change adaptation works to understand and anticipate the effects of climate change, and works to adjust to these changes though a variety of adaptation measures, such as increasing the capacities of communities to respond to climate consequences; strengthening flood defences through both soft (e.g. preserving buffer areas along rivers) and hard approaches (e.g. raising the levels of dykes); developing drought-tolerant crops and  tree species and forestry practices less vulnerable to storms and fires; and adapting building codes to future climate conditions and extreme weather events.
To learn more about the science of climate change and climate change adaptation, visit the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre.