Climate adaptation encompasses a wide array of actions that help people and nature cope with the present-day harms of climate disruption and minimize future harms.
It requires us both to respond to how things have already changed, and ask “what if?” and “how bad?” in anticipation of conditions well outside humanity’s collective experience.
Adaptation entails a continuing risk management process; it does not have an end point. With this approach, individuals and organizations of all types assess risks and vulnerabilities from climate and other drivers of change (such as economic, environmental, and societal), take actions to reduce those risks, and learn over time.
Adaption actions have increased in part due to
- the growing awareness of climate-related threats and impacts and the risks these pose to business operations and supply chains, critical public infrastructure and communities, natural areas and public lands, and ecosystems
- the wider recognition that investing in adaptation provides economic and social benefits that exceed the costs;
- and the increasing number and magnitude of extreme events that have occurred.
To date, there exists considerable guidance on actions in some sectors where benefits exceed costs, though guidance is lacking in many other sectors.
Benefit–cost information exists for adaptation responses to storms and rising seas in coastal zones, to riverine and extreme precipitation flooding, and for agriculture at the farm level.
Some of the actions in these sectors, at least in some locations, appear to have large benefit–cost ratios, both in addressing current variability and in preparing for future change.
Unfortunately, climate adaptation has been underfunded, incomplete, and, in the words of the Fourth National Climate Assessment, “incommensurate with the projected scale of climate threats.” We need to quickly use the existing progress on climate adaptation as a springboard to much more ambitious heights.
To thrive in a climate-changed world, humans must do something that doesn’t come naturally: Plan for an uncertain and potentially unrecognizable future.
Reference- CNBC, NRDC website, Slate website, Clean Technica, FOURTH NATIONAL CLIMATE ASSESSMENT Report