Climate change adaptation

Scientists agree that climate change poses major risks to the world’s economies, communities and ecosystems.

Reducing these risks requires action by governments and businesses to sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions (mitigation), combined with measures to increase resilience to the impacts that occur (adaptation).

The world’s communities have been adapting to climate change throughout history by developing practices suited to local conditions. But man-made climate change is rendering existing practices ineffectual due to quickly rising temperatures, and the greater frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.

Adaptation measures may include large-scale infrastructure changes – such as building defences to protect against rising seas, or improving the quality of road surfaces to withstand hotter temperatures, as well as precautionary measures, such as using less water and developing and planting more resilient crops.

Fast-paced innovation in clean technology over the past two decades and cleantech investing by some of the world’s largest investors have played an increasingly significant role in climate change adaptation.

Innovation in climate-smart agriculture (CDSA) has emerged, aligning agricultural practices to the new realities of climate change. The UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) defines CDSA as “agriculture that sustainably increases productivity, enhances resilience (adaptation), reduces/removes GHGs (mitigation) where possible, and enhances achievement of national food security and development goals”.

As climate change brings warmer global temperatures and increasingly erratic and volatile weather and rainfall patterns, the effects on the economy will be felt globally. Initiatives underway to build resilience include reducing the reliance on raw materials sensitive to the climate and vulnerable to changes in the natural environment.

The global insurance industry is also active in developing solutions to climate change, although some assets are becoming uninsurable. The protection gap – the difference between the costs of natural disasters and the amount insured – has quadrupled to $100 billion a year since the 1980s.

Adaptation is especially important in developing countries since those countries are predicted to bear the brunt of the effects of global warming. A recent World Bank report suggested that the price of adaptation in developing countries alone will be $70–100 billion a year between 2010 and 2050, depending on the severity of climate change and the range of measures chosen.

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