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The global climate disruptions underway require two types of responses. Both the Stern Review (2007) and the IPCC Climate Change (2007) point out that strong action on climate change, includes both mitigation and adaptation. The IPCC uses the following definitions: Mitigation: An anthropogenic intervention to reduce the sources or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases (IPCC, 2001); Adaptation: Adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities (IPCC, 2001). From these definitions it follows that mitigation reduces all impacts (positive and negative) of climate change and thus reduces the adaptation challenge, whereas adaptation is selective; it can take advantage of positive impacts and reduce negative ones.

The former, climate change mitigation, is the more widely discussed and seeks to render climate change less damaging by reducing one's impact or countering some of that impact by another compensating action. Climate actions undertaken for mitigation reduce the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.  In contrast, the latter response, climate change adaptation refers to actions taken to reduce the impact of climate change, once it occurs. Since human emissions of greenhouse gases have locked in a certain amount of future climate disruption, climate actions that undertake adaptation appear imperative as a key component of an integrated and balanced response to climate variability and change.

Climate change adaptation is a technical term that refers to adjustments in ecological, social, or economic systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli and their effects or impacts. Adaptation refers to changes in processes, practices, and structures to moderate potential damages or to benefit from opportunities associated with climate change. (See Figure 1.)

Figure1: According to the US GAO, 186 communities in Alaska are threatened by the twin threats of erosion and flooding. As the Arctic warms rapidly, the melting of the permafrost, rising of sea-level, increasing storm intensity and shrinking shore ice will force many communities to relocate inland, such as the recent move of the settlement of Shishmaref on Barrow’s Point in Alaska. Source: (c) Shishmaref Alaska Erosion & Relocation Coalition

## How adaptation differs from mitigation

Adaptation policy deals with the unavoidable impacts of climate change. Mitigation policy helps reduce future increases in climate change. (See Figure 2.)

 Source: www.globalwarmingart.com Figure 2: According to the World Resources Institute, 2.2 billion people, or 39% of the world’s population, lives on or within 100 kilometers (60 miles) of a seashore.  Adaptation to climate disruptions involves developing ways to protect ourselves from climate impacts, such as building sea walls to protect communities from rising sea levels or relocating coastal communities. Mitigation involves implementing ways to reduce the rise of sea level, such as reducing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere that lead to thermal expansion of the ocean.

An important asymmetry exists between adaptation and mitigation. Unlike mitigation, adaptation will in most cases provide local benefits, realized without long lead times. Adaptation is the only response available for the impacts that will occur over the next several decades before mitigation measures can have an effect.

Adaptation–such as building sea walls, relocating residents, altering the variety of crops planted, increasing water reservoir capacity–benefits those locally who pay for it. The benefits of mitigation effort are much more diffuse and global. Mitigation efforts such as lowering emissions in the United States will reduce atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations in China as well, but will not be effective unless widely adopted.

Further, the asymmetry extends to the time scale differences between adaptation and mitigation impacts. Mitigation measures take much longer to have an impact than adaptation measure. An adaptation to rising water such as seawall will protect a coastline immediately. A mitigation response such as reforestation will take much longer to realize its full benefit of sequestering carbon.

Additionally, the asymmetry includes the different capacities between the developed and the developing nations of the world to undertake adaptations. In places where adequate money is available, adaptation may occur without relying on government intervention. Conversely, in less affluent places, little or no adaptation may be undertaken.

## The inter-relationship between adaptation and mitigation

Climate policy researchers point to four types of inter-relationships that exist between adaptation (A) and mitigation (M):

• Adaptation actions that have consequences for mitigation:
-At the global level, awareness of limits to adaptation can motivate negotiations on mitigation.
-At the national or regional level, watershed planning e.g. hydroelectricity and land cover changes, can affect GHG emissions.
-At the local/individual level, increased use of air conditioning in homes, offices, transport keeps humans comfortable, but raises GHG emissions.

• Mitigation actions that have consequences for adaptation:
-At the global level, the trading of Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM) provide funds for adaptation through surcharge.
-At the national or regional level, fossil-fuel tax increase cost of adaptation through higher energy prices.
-At the local/individual level, community carbon sequestration affects livelihoods.

-At the global level, assessment of costs and benefits in A and M in setting targets for stabilization.
-At the national or regional level, testing project sensitivity to mitigation policy, social cost of carbon and climate impacts.
-At the local/individual level, incorporate integrated assessment of exposure to mitigation policy and climate impacts.

• Processes that have consequences for both adaptation and mitigation:
-At the global level, allocation of Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEA) funds or Special Climate Change Fund.
-At the national or regional level, national capacity (e.g., self-assessment) supports A and M in policy integration.
-At the local/individual level, local planning authorities implement criteria related to both A and M in land use planning.

 (Holdridge, 1947, 1967; ML Parry personal communication). Source: {Klein (2007)} Figure 3: The triangle depicts the interrelationship between climate adaptation, mitigation, and impacts. It is based on the concepts developed in Holdridge’s life-zone classification scheme.

## Climate vulnerability, sensitivity, adaptability and exposure

The vulnerability of a system to effects of climate disruption–such as eroding arctic coasts (as seen in Figure 1)–depends on the sensitivity of that system to changes, its capacity to adapt to changes, and the severity of its exposure to changes.

For example, the exposure to sea level rise is more severe for the low-lying river deltas, such as those Bangladesh and for the arctic coast, than for other continental edges. In the past 100 years, Bangladesh has become 0.5 degree Celsius (°C), or 1 degree Fahrenheit (°F), warmer and has suffered a 0.5 meter (m), or 1.5 foot, rise in sea level. A rise of just an additional meter (3 feet) in sea level would submerge half of the nation’s delta, where most of its 162 million people now live and work. (See Figure 2.)

Climate scientists define vulnerability as the extent to which a natural or social system is susceptible to sustaining damage from climate change. Vulnerability is a function of the (1) sensitivity of a system to changes in climate (the degree to which a system will respond to a given change in climate, including beneficial and harmful effects), (2) adaptive capacity (the degree to which adjustments in practices, processes, or structures can moderate or offset the potential for damage or take advantage of opportunities created by a given change in climate), and (3) the degree of exposure of the system to climatic hazards. (See Figure 4) Resilience is a counter-weight to vulnerability–a resilient system or population may experience the disturbances caused by climate variability and change, but has the capacity to adapt.

 Source: {Adejuwon (2001) IPCC} Figure 4: The vulnerability of a system to climate change depends on the exposure, sensitivity of the system to initial impacts, and the degree to which autonomous adaptations help or hinder the capacity of the system to offset negative effects.

A highly vulnerable system is one that is very sensitive to modest changes in climate, where the sensitivity includes the potential for substantial harmful effects, and for which the ability to adapt is severely constrained. For example, very modest increases in average temperature and duration of such warmer climate induce both melting of the permafrost that has stabilized arctic coasts for millennia as well as frequency of storm surges that erode the sandy shorelines. (See Table 1 for a glossary of adaptation and mitigation terms. This glossary offers definitions of a number of often-related terms germane to the assessment of inter-relationships between adaptation and mitigation.)

Adaptation planning requires an understanding of the three major contributors to the vulnerability to climate disruptions: sensitivity, exposure, and adaptive capacity. Researchers at the IPCC as well as the Pew Climate Center find that examining the first two factors means studying what types of climate changes and impacts can we expect, and which systems will be exposed, as well as whether the impacts be irreversible (such as death, species extinction or ecosystem loss).  The inquiry into adaptive capacity requires answering questions such as: Can the system adapt to scenarios of climate change or cope with projected impacts?  Is repair, relocation, or restoration of the system feasible? Can the system be made less vulnerable or more resilient?
With these adaptive capacity questions in mind, The Pew Center on Global Climate Change summarizes the key factors for strengthening adaptive capacity as including broad sectors within society from economic resources to technology, education, infrastructure and institutional support. (See Table 2.)

 Factors Examples Economic resources Wealth of individuals and localities. Technology Localized climate and impact modeling to predict climate change and variability; efficient irrigation systems to reduce water demand. Information/awareness Species, sector, and geographic-based climate research; population education and awareness programs. Skills/human resources Training and skill development in sectors and populations; knowledge-sharing tools and support. Natural resources Abundant levels of varied and resilient natural resources that can recover from climate change impacts; healthy and inter-connected ecosystems that support migration patterns, species development and sustainability. Infrastructure Systems that provide sufficient protection and enable efficient response (e.g., wireless communication, health systems, air-conditioned shelter). Institutional support/governance Governmental and non-governmental policies and resources to support climate change adaptation measures locally and nationally. Table 2: Key Factors for Adaptive Capacity  (Klein (2007) IPCC as used in Pew Center (2009) Climate Change 101)

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change summarizes the current knowledge about responding to climate change:

• Adaptation will be necessary to address impacts resulting from the warming that is already unavoidable due to past emissions.
• A wide array of adaptation options is available, but more extensive adaptation than is currently occurring is required to reduce vulnerability to future climate change. There are barriers, limits and costs, but these are not fully understood.
• Vulnerability to climate change can be exacerbated by the presence of other stresses.
• Future vulnerability depends not only on climate change but also on development pathways.
• Sustainable development can reduce vulnerability to climate change, and climate change could impede nations’ abilities to achieve sustainable development pathways.
• Many impacts can be avoided, reduced or delayed by mitigation.
• A portfolio of adaptation and mitigation measures can diminish the risks associated with climate change.

Every sector of human activity from growing food to transportation offers opportunities for adapting to climate disruption. Worldwatch Institute summarizes some of the adaptation strategies in seven different sectors in Table 3. (See Table 3.)

 Sector Adaptation strategy Water Water storage and conservation techniques Desalination Increased irrigation efficiency Agriculture Adjustment of planting dates and crop variety Crop relocation Improved land management (such as erosion control and soil protection through tree planting). Infrastructure and settlement Relocation Improved seawalls and storm surge barriers Creation of wetlands as buffer against sea level rise and flooding Human health Improved climate-sensitive disease surveillance and control Improved water supply and sanitation services Tourism Diversification of tourism attractions and revenues Transport Realignment and relocation of transportation routes Improved standard and planning for infrastructure to cope with warming and damage Energy Strengthening of infrastructure Improved energy efficiency Increased use of renewable resources Table 3: Examples of Planned Adaptation for Different Sectors (Engelman, State of the World 2009, Worldwatch)

Around the world, a great many specific adaptation initiatives are underway, from alpine nations adjusting to shrinking winter conditions to low-lying nations preparing for sea-level rise.  No global, comprehensive effort exists yet to record and report on these adaptation efforts. The scientists and researchers collaborating under the IPCC Assessment Report framework, specifically those in Working Group 2, have documented quite a large number of such techniques. See especially chapters 17 and 18 of the Working Group 2 contributions to IPCC Climate Change 2007.  Adaptation techniques may be referred to as “climate proofing” in the popular press, borrowing from the more common use of “fire-proof” or “weather-proof” installations. See Table 4 for a small sample of specific climate proofing adaptations organized by the climate impact they seek to ameliorate.

 Climate impact Nation: specific adaptation techniques Drought; inland Sudan: Expanded use of traditional rainwater harvesting and water conserving techniques; building of shelter-belts and wind-breaks to improve resilience of rangelands; monitoring of the number of grazing animals and cut trees; set-up of revolving credit funds. Drought; saltwater intrusion Philippines: Rainwater harvesting; leakage reduction; hydroponic farming; bank loans allowing for purchase of rainwater storage tanks. Permafrost melt; change in ice cover Canada: Changes in livelihood practices by the Inuit, including: change of hunt locations; diversification of hunted species; use of Global Positioning Systems (GPS) technology; encouragement of food sharing. Sea-level rise The Netherlands: Adoption of Flooding Defence Act and Coastal Defence Policy as precautionary approaches allowing for the incorporation of emerging trends in climate; building of a storm surge barrier taking a 50 cm sea-level rise into account; use of sand supplements added to coastal areas; improved management of water levels through dredging, widening of river banks, allowing rivers to expand into side channels and wetland areas; deployment of water storage and retention areas; conduct of regular (every 5 years) reviews of safety characteristics of all protecting infrastructure (dykes, etc.); preparation of risk assessments of flooding and coastal damage influencing spatial planning and engineering projects in the coastal zone, identifying areas for potential (land inward) reinforcement of dunes. Upward shift of natural snow reliability line; glacier melt Italy, France, Switzerland: Artificial snow-making; grooming of ski slopes; moving ski areas to higher altitudes and glaciers; use of white plastic sheets as protection against glacier melt; diversification of tourism revenues (e.g., all-year tourism). Table 4: Specific “climate proofing” adaptations (Adger (2007) IPCC)

## Figure 5: U.S. state level adaptation planning. Since 2000, some 30 states have developed or are developing climate mitigation action plans through open, democratic, and bipartisan consensus-building processes. These statewide climate action plans include goals of increasing energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Fifteen US states have adopted state-level adaptation plans or are making progress toward doing so, or have climate action plans that recommend specific adaptation plan components. Figure Sources: Pew Center (2009) Climate Change 101; Peterson (2008) Integrating State and Federal Action.

Within the United States, a number of individual states have adopted climate action plans that incorporate adaptation or are the process of incorporation adaptation plan. For example, the California adaptation strategy released in late 2009, led by the California Natural Resources Agency, is in direct response to Governor Schwarzenegger's 2008 Executive Order asking the Agency to identify how state agencies can respond to rising temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, sea level rise, and extreme natural events. As data continues to be developed and collected, the state's adaptation strategy will be updated to reflect current findings. (See Figure 5.)

## Adaptation differences between developing versus developed countries

Both the Stern Review (2006) and the IPCC Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report (2007) point out that the impacts of climate change are not evenly distributed and the poorest countries and people will suffer earliest and most. Many climate researchers find that if and when the damages appear, it will be too late to reverse the process. As a grave threat to the developing world, climate change is a major obstacle to continued poverty reduction. First, developing regions are at a geographic disadvantage: they are already warmer, on average, than developed regions, and also suffer from higher rainfall variability. Therefore, most researchers agree that further warming in poor countries will bring higher costs and fewer benefits than warming causes in richer areas. Second, as pointed out in the Stern Review and IPCC Climate Change reports, developing countries–in particular the poorest–are heavily dependent on agriculture, either in the form of subsistence farming or for the production of agricultural exports. Agriculture is the most climate-sensitive of all economic sectors. In addition, developing nations suffer from inadequate health provision and low-quality public services. Third, the low incomes and vulnerabilities in the developing world make adaptation to climate change particularly difficult.

“For the first time in history, more than half [the world’s] human population, 3.3 billion people, will be living in urban areas. By 2030, this is expected to swell to almost 5 billion. Many of the new urbanites will be poor.” –United Nations Population Fund, 2007

Livestock husbandry employs 1.3 billion people and creates livelihoods for 1 billion of the world’s poor. As a nation industrializes, changes in its land use, such as urbanization, lead to decreases in forest cover. This loss of green space lowers the land’s natural capacity for storing carbon. Brazilian inroads in Amazonia are prime examples of deforestation. Diseases tend to spread under urbanizing conditions as well. As millions of poor flock to cities, they often reside in areas with little or no sanitary water supply or waste management. Warmer or wetter climate patterns also bring expansions of the ranges of insects and other animals that spread diseases.

Quantitative information on the costs and benefits of economy-wide adaptation is currently limited and fragmented in terms of sectoral and regional coverage. Studies in climate-sensitive sectors point to many adaptation options that will provide benefits in excess of cost. But at higher temperatures, the costs of adaptation will rise sharply and the residual damages remain large. The additional costs of making new infrastructure and buildings resilient to climate change in OECD countries could be $15 – 150 billion each year (0.05 – 0.5% of GDP). Adaptation costs are usually expressed in monetary terms, while benefits are typically quantified in terms of avoided climate impacts, and expressed in monetary as well as nonmonetary terms (e.g., changes in yield, welfare, population exposed to risk). Much of the research on adaptation costs and benefits is focused on sea-level rise due in part to the large projects undertaken in the recent decades to protect major harbors from storm surges, such as the River Thames and Rhine River deltas, among others. Research suggests that global protections for a one meter sea level rise might cost require an estimated US$1,055 billion. The same research also suggests, for a 1°C increase, that the annual global benefits from reduced heating requirements would be around US$120 billion and annul global costs increases from increasing cooling at around US$75 billion. Broad macroeconomic and economy-wide implications of adaptations on economic growth and employment remain largely unknown.

The cost of adaptation is in direct inverse relationship to the costs of mitigation and to that of the cost of unmitigated climate disruption impacts. (See the triangle in Figure 3 above.) Significant new research published in late 2009 by the International Institute for Environment and Development suggested that the estimates of climate adaptation costs for 2030 used by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change are likely to be substantial under-estimates.

The research community has broad consensus that the probability for a relatively low but significant impact (at 2°C warming) is virtually certain. The probability for a higher impact is low now, but it increases more the longer that society delays meaningful remedies with adaptation and mitigation. Additionally, researchers point out that climate consequences are not linear. Thresholds and tipping points can lead to even more catastrophic impacts. The consequences of climate change for humans are dire. Hence the risk lurking behind climate disruption is huge. In Figure 6 we can compare the risk versus consequence of nuclear war to climate change disruption. (See Figure 6.)

Figure 6: In the case of nuclear war, the US and former Soviet Union faced a low probability event (nuclear attack) that carried a very high risk of damage. In the case of global climate change, the entire world faces a very high probability of events that carry a very high risk. Adaptation can lower the risks. Mitigation can lower the future probabilities of severe and negative events. (Adapted from CNA (2007) National Security and the Threat of Climate Change) The Military Advisory Board at the CNA Corporation, a nonprofit research group, studied how climate change could affect the security of the United States over the next 30 to 40 years— the time frame for developing new military capabilities. According to the Military Advisory Board, global climate change presents a serious national security threat that could impact Americans at home, impact US military operations, and heighten global tensions. In other words, in the absence of adequate adaptations in other parts of the world, the adaptation in the US will likely have to include addressing these security risks.  Climate change, national security, and energy dependence are a related set of global challenges. In many locations today already, civil strife and warfare can be traced in part to environmental causes. Darfur, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Angola, Nigeria, Cameroon, and Western Sahara all have been hit hard by tensions that drought, flood, famine, and disease have heightened.

Many experts feel each of the security risks from climate disruption represents an adaptation opportunity. (See Table 5.)

 Western Hemisphere security risks from climate disruption The Peruvian plains, northeast Brazil, and Mexico, already subject to drought, will find that droughts in the future will last longer. In the United States, three of the top grain-producing states—Texas, Kansas, and Nebraska—each get 70% to 90% of their irrigation water from the Ogallala aquifer, which is under duress.Warming seas and their link to storm energy are especially worrisome for Central American and small Caribbean island nations. An increased flow of migrants northward into the United States is likely, especially from the more impoverished nations of Latin America and the Caribbean. Table 5: Examples of security risks and adaptation priorities of climate disruption  CNA (2007) National Security and the Threat of Climate Change.

Maladaptation is possible and defined as a response to climate change that has negative or previously hidden consequences. While neglecting the adaptive potential of our society could lead to overestimates of the costs of climate impacts, the opposite is also possible. Maladaptive responses, based on incorrect perceptions of climate impacts, can increase the costs relative to adaption based on better foresight or even when no adaptation takes place. Maladaptations can occur when large natural variability or extreme events mask slowly evolving trends and create new vulnerabilities. On the other hand, appropriate adaptations can reduce negative impacts or take advantage of new opportunities presented by changing climate conditions.

The developing world faces special maladaptation challenges, even as adaptation is urgent for the developing world. Linking climate change adaptation to project development may not carry sufficient leverage to address poverty alleviation and climate change with the same adaptations. For many poorer nations, evidence suggests that coping strategies to maintain livelihood systems can work against long-term adaptation to climate change, unless there is linkage to poverty alleviation. Research in Africa suggests that, rather than micro-economic project management, a broader macro-economic frame be established to bring poverty alleviation into the adaptation strategies.

## Adaptation Policy Framework and the role of governments

To some degree, human and natural systems will adapt autonomously to climate change. Birds will shift their overwintering locations northward. Humans may develop immunities over time to newly arriving diseases. Most researchers feel that planned adaptation can and should supplement autonomous adaptation. Adaptation of human behavior is open to more options and greater possibility for offering incentives than in the case of adaptation to protect natural systems.

Much of the research on adaptation planning emphasizes the central role of governments, but also recognizes the constraints that they face in implementing adaptation actions that have impacts beyond their governmental jurisdictions or when too little information is available on the actions of individual local entities. Researchers identify the following five major constraints particularly apparent in the adaptation challenges for the developing world: (a) relevance of climate information for development-related decisions; (b) uncertainty of climate information; (c) compartmentalization within governments; (d) segmentation and other barriers within development-cooperation agencies; and (e) trade-offs between climate and development objectives.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) developed the Adaptation Policy Framework (APF) to support national planning for adaptation by the providing guidance on how these obstacles and barriers to mainstreaming can be overcome. The APF links climate change adaptation to sustainable development and global environmental issues. The framework is structured around four major principles: (a) Adaptation to short-term climate variability and extreme events serves as a starting point for reducing vulnerability to longer-term climate change; (b) Adaptation policies and measures are assessed in a developmental context; (c) Adaptation occurs at different levels in society, including the local level; and (d) The adaptation strategy is equally as important as the process by which it is implemented.

The APF process can be used for formulating and designing adaptation-related projects or for exploring the potential to add adaptation considerations to other types of projects. In short, adaptation projects can focus on any population scale, from a village to the national level. Governments or stakeholder groups can use the framework to formulate and design adaptation-related projects or to explore the potential to add adaptation components to other types of projects, such as ongoing infrastructure work.

Examples of successful mainstreaming of climate change risk into development planning include application of the APF to urban flooding in Bangladesh and droughts in India. In sum, the opportunities for implementing adaptation as part of government planning depend on effective, equitable, and legitimate actions to overcome barriers and limits to adaptation, as noted above.

In the words of ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability, "The only solution is for local governments to clearly understand the significance of both mitigation and adaptation, and know how to evaluate the effects of particular actions they are considering implementing for their effects on both objectives."

Different energy resources​ as used in different parts of the world as an example of climate adaptations​. ​A. Power gas line in rural Alberta, Canada; ​Different component sections of hydroelectricity generation in Alberta, Canada (B, D & F-I & K-L); Wind turbines in Alberta, Canada​ (C) & Uttarakhand, India (M); Experimental solar energy production system in Alberta, Canada (E); and Micro-hydro project on the Himalayas, India (J)​. ​Source: Saikat Basu, own work

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