Adaptation sectorspecific practices options and constraints

10.5.1 Agriculture and food security

Many studies (Parry, 2002; Ge et al., 2002; Droogers, 2004; Lin et al., 2004; Vlek et al., 2004; Wang et al., 2004a; Zalikhanov, 2004; Lal, 2007; Batima et al., 2005c) on the impacts of climate change on agriculture and possible adaptation options have been published since the TAR. More common adaptation measures that have been identified in the above-mentioned studies are summarised in Table 10.8. Generally, these measures are intended to increase adaptive capacity by modifying farming practices, improving crops and livestock through breeding and investing in new technologies and infrastructure. Specific examples include adaptation of grassland management to the actual environmental conditions as well as the practice of reasonable rotational grazing to ensure the sustainability of grassland resources (Li et al., 2002; Wang et al., 2004a; Batima et al., 2005c), improvement of irrigation systems and breeding of new rice varieties to minimise the risk of serious productivity losses caused by climate change (Ge et al., 2002), and information, education and communication programmes to enhance the level of awareness and understanding of the vulnerable groups.

Changes in management philosophy could also enhance adaptive capacity. This is illustrated by integrating fisheries and aquaculture management into coastal zone management to increase the coping ability of small communities in East Asia, South Asia and South-East Asia to sea-level rise (Troadec, 2000).

The ability of local populations to adapt their production systems to cope with climate change will vary across Asia and will be largely influenced by the way government institutions and policies mediate the supply of, and access to, food and related resources. The adaptive capacity of poor subsistence farming/herding communities is commonly low in many developing countries of Asia. One of the important and effective measures to enhance their adaptive capacity is through education and the provision of easy access to climate change-related information.

10.5.2 Hydrology and water resources

In some parts of Asia, conversion of cropland to forest (grassland), restoration and re-establishment of vegetation, improvement of the tree and herb varieties, and selection and cultivation of new drought-resistant varieties are effective measures to prevent water scarcity due to climate change. Water saving schemes for irrigation should be enforced to avert water scarcity in regions already under water stress (Wang, 2003). In North Asia, recycling and reuse of municipal wastewater (Frolov et al., 2004), increasing efficiency of water used for irrigation and other purposes (Alcamo et al., 2004), reduction of hydropower production (Kirpichnikov et al., 2004) and improved use of rivers for navigation (Golitsyn and Yu, 2002) will likely help avert water scarcity.

Table 10.8. Adaptation measures in agriculture.


Adaptation measures

1 °C temperature increase in June to August

Choice of crop and cultivar:

• Use of more heat/drought-tolerant crop varieties in areas under water stress

• Use of more disease and pest tolerant crop varieties

• Use of salt-tolerant crop varieties

• Introduce higher yielding, earlier maturing crop varieties in cold regions Farm management:

• Altered application of nutrients/fertiliser

• Altered application of insecticide/pesticide

• Change planting date to effectively use the prolonged growing season and irrigation

• Develop adaptive management strategy at farm level

Livestock production

• Breeding livestock for greater tolerance and productivity

• Increase stocks of forages for unfavourable time periods

• Improve pasture and grazing management including improved grasslands and pastures

• Improve management of stocking rates and rotation of pastures

• Increase the quantity of forages used to graze animals

• Plant native grassland species

• Increase plant coverage per hectare

• Provide local specific support in supplementary feed and veterinary service


• Breeding fish tolerant to high water temperature

• Fisheries management capabilities to cope with impacts of climate change must be developed

Development of agricultural bio-technologies

• Development and distribution of more drought, disease, pest and salt-tolerant crop varieties

• Develop improved processing and conservation technologies in livestock production

• Improve crossbreeds of high productivity animals

Improvement of agricultural infrastructure

• Improve pasture water supply

• Improve irrigation systems and their efficiency

• Improve use/store of rain and snow water

• Improve information exchange system on new technologies at national as well as regional and international level

• Improve sea defence and flood management

• Improve access of herders, fishers and farmers to timely weather forecasts

There are many adaptation measures that could be applied in various parts of Asia to minimise the impacts of climate change on water resources and use: several of which address the existing inefficiency in the use of water. Modernisation of existing irrigation schemes and demand management aimed at optimising physical and economic efficiency in the use of water resources and recycled water in water stressed countries of Asia could be useful in many agricultural areas in Asia, particularly in arid and semi-arid countries. Public investment policies which are aimed at improving access to available water resources, integrated water management, respect for the environment and promotion of better practices for wise use of water in agriculture, including recycled waste water could potentially enhance adaptive capacity. As an adaptation measure, apart from meeting non-potable water demands, recycled water can be used for recharging groundwater aquifers and augmenting surface water reservoirs. Recycled water can also be used to create or enhance wetlands and riparian habitats. While water recycling is a sustainable approach towards adaptation to climate change and can be cost-effective in the long term, the treatment of wastewater for reuse, such as that being practiced now in Singapore, and the installation of distribution systems, can be initially expensive compared to such water supply alternatives as imported water or groundwater, but are potentially important adaptive options in many countries of Asia. Reduction of water wastage and leakages, which in some cities like Damascus can be substantial, could be practiced to cushion the decrease in water supply due to decline in precipitation and increase in temperature. The use of market-oriented approaches to reduce wasteful water uses could also be effective in reducing effects of climate change on water resources (Ragab and Prudhomme, 2002). In rivers like the Mekong where wet season riverflows are estimated to increase and the dry season flows projected to decrease, planned water management interventions could marginally decrease wet season flows and substantially increase dry season flows (World Bank, 2004).

10.5.3 Coastal and low lying areas

The response to sea-level rise could mean protection, accommodation and retreat. As substantial socio-economic activities and populations are currently highly concentrated in the coastal zones in Asia, protection should remain a key focus area in Asia. Coastal protection constructions in Asia for 5-year to 1,000-year storm-surge elevations need to be considered. Most megacities of Asia located in coastal zones need to ensure that future constructions are done at elevated levels (Nicholls, 2004; Nishioka and Harasawa, 1998; Du and Zhang, 2000). The dike heightening and strengthening has been identified as one of the adaptation measures for coastal protection (Du and Zhang, 2000; Huang and Xie, 2000; Li et al., 2004a, b).

Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) provides an effective coastal protection strategy to maximise the benefits provided by the coastal zone and to minimise the conflicts and harmful effects of activities on social, cultural and environmental resources to promote sustainable management of coastal zones (World Bank, 2002). The ICZM concept is being embraced as a central organising concept in the management of fisheries, coral reefs, pollution, megacities and individual coastal systems in China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Kuwait. It has been successfully applied for prevention and control of marine pollution in Batangas Bay of the Philippines and Xiamen of China over the past few years (Chua, 1999; Xue et al., 2004). The ICZM concept and principle could potentially promote sustainable coastal area protection and management in other countries of Asia.

10.5.4 Natural ecosystems and biodiversity

The probability of significant adverse impacts of climate change on Asian forests is high in the next few decades (Isaev et al., 2004). Improved technologies for tree plantation development and reforestation could likely enhance adaptation especially in vulnerable areas such as the Siberian forests. Likewise improvement of protection from fires, insects and diseases could reduce vulnerability of most forests in Asia to climate change and variability.

Comprehensive intersectoral programs that combine measures to control deforestation and forest degradation with measures to increase agricultural productivity and sustainability will likely contribute more to reducing vulnerability of forests to climate change, land use change and other stress factors than independent sectoral initiatives. Other likely effective adaptation measures to reduce the impacts of climate change on forest ecosystems in Asia include extending rotation cycles, reducing damage to remaining trees, reducing logging waste, implementing soil conservation practices, and using wood in a more carbon-efficient way such that a large fraction of their carbon is conserved.

10.5.5 Human health

Assessment of the impact of climate change is the first step for exploring adaptation strategy. The disease monitoring system is essential as the basic data source. Specifically, the monitoring of diseases along with related ecological factors is required because the relation between weather factors and vector-borne diseases are complicated and delicate (Kovats et al., 2003). Also, disease monitoring is necessary in assessing the effectiveness and efficiency of the adaptation measures (Wilkinson et al., 2003). For effective adaptation measures, the potential impacts of climate variability and change on human health need to be identified, along with barriers to successful adaptation and the means of overcoming such barriers.

The heat watch and warning system in the USA was evaluated to be effective (Ebi et al., 2004). Also, a similar system was operated in Shanghai, China (Tan et al., 2004). Implementation of this type of heat watch and warning system and other similar monitoring systems in other parts of Asia will likely be helpful in reducing the impacts of climate change on human health.

10.5.6 Human dimensions

Rapid population growth, urbanisation and weak land-use planning and enforcement are some of the reasons why poor people move to fragile and high-risk areas which are more exposed to natural hazards. Moreover, the rapid growth of industries in urban areas has induced rural-urban migration. Rural development together with networking and advocacy, and building alliances among communities is a prerequisite for reducing the migration of people to cities and coastal areas in most developing countries of Asia (Kelly and Adger, 2000). Raising awareness about the dangers of natural disasters, including those due to climate extremes, is also crucial among the governments and people so that mitigation and preparedness measures could be strengthened. Social capital has been paid attention to build adaptive capacity (Allen, 2006). For example, a community-based disaster management programme was introduced to reduce vulnerability and to strengthen people's capacity to cope with hazards by the Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre, Bangkok (Pelling, 2003).

Tourism is one of the most important industries in Asia, which is the third centre of tourism activities following Europe and North America. Sea-level rise, warming sea temperatures and extreme weather events are likely to have impacts on the regions' islands and coasts which attract considerable number of visitors from countries such as Japan and Taiwan (World Tourism Organization, 2003; Hamilton et al., 2005). Relevant adaptation measures in this case include designing and building appropriate infrastructures to protect tourists, installation and maintenance of weather prediction and hazard warning systems, especially during rainy and tropical storm seasons. Conservation of mangroves is considered as effective natural protection against storm surges, coastal erosion and strong wave actions (Mazda et al., 1997, 2006; Vermaat and Thampanya, 2006). To minimise the anticipated impact of global warming on the ski industry, development of new leisure industries more resistant to or suited to a warmer atmosphere, thus avoiding excessive reliance on the ski industry, e.g., grass-skiing, hiking, residential lodging and eco-tourism, could be helpful in compensating for the income reduction due to snow deterioration (Fukushima et al., 2002).

To minimise the risks of heat stress that are most pronounced in large cities due to the urban heat-island effect in summer (Kalnay and Cai, 2003) urban planning should consider: reducing the heat island in summer, the heat load on buildings, cooling load and high night-time temperature, and taking climate change into account in planning new buildings and setting up new regulations on buildings and urban development. Planting trees, building houses with arcades and provision for sufficient ventilation could help in reducing heat load (Shimoda, 2003). The use of reflective surfaces, control of solar radiation by vegetation and blinds, earth tubes, the formation of air paths for natural ventilation, and rooftop planting could reduce the cooling load.

10.5.7 Key constraints and measures to strengthen adaptation

Effective adaptation and adaptive capacity in Asia, particularly in developing countries, will continue to be limited by several ecological, social and economic, technical and political constraints including spatial and temporal uncertainties associated with forecasts of regional climate, low level of awareness among decision makers of the local and regional impacts of El Niño, limited national capacities in climate monitoring and forecasting, and lack of co-ordination in the formulation of responses (Glantz, 2001).

Radical climate change may cause alterations of the physical environment in an area that may limit adaptation possibilities (Nicholls and Tol, 2006). For example, migration is the only option in response to sea-level rise that inundates islands and coastal settlements (see Chapter 17, Section Likewise, impacts of climate change may occur beyond certain thresholds in the ability of some ecosystems to adapt without dramatic changes in their functions and resilience. The inherent sensitivity of some ecosystems, habitats and even species with extremely narrow ranges of biogeographic adaptability will also limit the options and effectiveness of adaptation.

Poverty is identified as the largest barrier to developing the capacity to cope and adapt (Adger et al., 2001). The poor usually have a very low adaptive capacity due to their limited access to information, technology and other capital assets which make them highly vulnerable to climate change. Poverty also constrains the adaptation in other sectors. Poverty, along with infrastructural limitations and other socioeconomic factors, will continue to limit the efforts to conserve biodiversity in SouthEast Asia (Sodhi et al., 2004). Adaptive capacity in countries where there is a high incidence of poverty will likely remain limited.

Insufficient information and knowledge on the impacts of climate change and responses of natural systems to climate change will likely continue to hinder effective adaptation particularly in Asia. The limited studies on the interconnections between adaptation and mitigation options, costs and benefits of adaptation, and trade-offs between various courses of actions will also likely limit adaptation in Asia. The deficiency in available information and knowledge will continue to make it difficult to enhance public perception of the risks and dangers associated with climate change. In addition, the absence of information on adaptation costs and benefits makes it difficult to undertake the best adaptation option. This limiting factor will be most constraining in developing countries where systems for monitoring and research on climate and responses of natural and human systems to climate are usually lacking. More relevant information such as on the crop yield benefits linked to changes in planting dates for various regions, as reported by Tan and Shibasaki (2003), and on the optimal levels and cost of coastal protection investment in Vietnam, Cambodia and other countries, as reported by Nicholls and Tol (2006), will be needed.

Based on the discussion in Chapter 17, Section, it is very likely that in countries of Asia facing serious domestic conflicts, pervasive poverty, hunger, epidemics, terrorism and other pressing and urgent concerns, attention may be drawn away from the dangers of climate change and the need to implement adaptation. The slow change in political and institutional landscape in response to climate change could also be a major limitation to future adaptation. The existing legal and institutional framework in most Asian countries remains inadequate to facilitate implementation of comprehensive and integrated response to climate change in synergy with the pursuit of sectoral development goals.

To address the constraints discussed above and strengthen adaptation in Asia, some of the measures suggested by Stern (2007) could be useful. These include improving access to high-quality information about the impacts of climate change; adaptation and vulnerability assessment by setting in place early warning systems and information distribution systems to enhance disaster preparedness; reducing the vulnerability of livelihoods and infrastructure to climate change; promoting good governance including responsible policy and decision making; empowering communities and other local stakeholders so that they participate actively in vulnerability assessment and implementation of adaptation; and mainstreaming climate change into development planning at all scales, levels and sectors.

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