The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) identifies two responses to climate change: mitigation of climate change by reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and enhancing sinks, and adaptation to the impacts of climate change. Most industrialised countries have committed themselves, as signatories to the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol, to adopting national policies and taking corresponding measures on the mitigation of climate change and to reducing their overall greenhouse-gas emissions (United Nations, 1997). An assessment of current efforts aimed at mitigating climate change, as presented by the Working Group III Fourth Assessment Report (WGIII AR4), Chapter 11 (Barker et al., 2007), shows that current commitments would not lead to a stabilisation of atmospheric greenhouse-gas concentrations. In fact, according to the Working Group I Fourth Assessment Report (WGIAR4), owing to the lag times in the global climate system, no mitigation effort, no matter how rigorous and relentless, will prevent climate change from happening in the next few decades (Christensen et al., 2007; Meehl et al., 2007). Chapter 1 in this volume shows that the first impacts of climate change are already being observed.

Adaptation is therefore unavoidable (Parry et al., 1998). Chapter 17 (see Section 17.2 and Section 17.4) presents examples of adaptations to climate change that are currently being observed, but concludes that there are limits and barriers to effective adaptation. Even if these limits and barriers were to be removed, however, reliance on adaptation alone is likely to lead to a magnitude of climate change in the long run to which effective adaptation is no longer possible or only at very high social, economic and environmental costs. For example, Tol et al. (2006) show what would be the difficulties in adapting to a five-metre rise in sea level in Europe. It is therefore no longer a question of whether to mitigate climate change or to adapt to it. Both adaptation and mitigation are now essential in reducing the expected impacts of climate change on humans and their environment.

18.1.1 Background and rationale

Traditionally the primary focus of international climate policy has been on the use and production of energy. This policy focus was reflected in the Second Assessment Report (SAR), which, in discussing mitigation, paid relatively little attention to greenhouse gases other than CO2 and to the potential for enhancing carbon sinks. Likewise, it paid little heed to adaptation. Since the publication of the SAR, the international climate policy community has become aware that energy policy alone will not suffice in the quest to control climate change and limit its impacts. Climate policy is being expanded to consider a wide range of options aimed at sequestering carbon in vegetation, oceans and geological formations, at reducing the emissions of non-CO2 greenhouse gases, and at reducing the vulnerability of sectors and communities to the impacts of climate change by means of adaptation. Consequently, the Third Assessment Report (TAR) provided a more balanced treatment of adaptation and mitigation.

The TAR demonstrated that the level of climate-change impacts, and whether or not this level is dangerous (see Article 2 of the UNFCCC), is determined by both adaptation and mitigation efforts (Smith et al., 2001). Adaptation can be seen as direct damage prevention, while mitigation would be indirect damage prevention (Verheyen, 2005). However, only recently have policy-makers expressed an interest in exploring interrelationships between adaptation and mitigation. Recognising the dual need for adaptation and mitigation, as well as the need to explore trade-offs and synergies between the two responses, they are faced with an array of questions (GAIM Task Force, 2002; Clark et al., 2004; see also Figure 18.1). How much adaptation and mitigation would be optimal, when, and in which combination? Who would decide, and based on what criteria? Are adaptation and mitigation substitutes or are they complementary to one another? When and where is it best to invest in adaptation, and when and where in mitigation? What is the potential for creating synergies between the two responses? How do their costs and effectiveness vary over time? How do the two responses affect, and how are they affected by, development pathways? These are some of the questions that have led the IPCC to include this chapter on inter-relationships between adaptation and mitigation in its Fourth Assessment Report (AR4).

The relevant literature to date does not provide clear answers to the above questions. Research on adaptation and mitigation has been rather unconnected to date, involving largely different communities of scholars who take different approaches to analyse the two responses. The mitigation research community has focused strongly, though not exclusively, on technological and economic issues, and has traditionally relied on 'top-down' aggregate modelling for studying trade-offs inherent in


Figure 18.1. A schematic overview of inter-relationships between adaptation, mitigation and impacts, based on Holdridge's life-zone classification scheme (Holdridge, 1947, 1967; M.L. Parry, personal communication).


Figure 18.1. A schematic overview of inter-relationships between adaptation, mitigation and impacts, based on Holdridge's life-zone classification scheme (Holdridge, 1947, 1967; M.L. Parry, personal communication).

mitigation (see the WGIII AR4 (IPCC, 2007)). After a period of conceptual introspection, the adaptation research community has put its emphasis on local and place-based analysis: a research approach it shares with scholars in development studies and disaster risk reduction (Adger et al., 2003; Pelling, 2003; Smith et al., 2003; see also Chapter 17). In addition, adaptation is studied at the sectoral level (see Chapters 3 to 8).

One important research effort that does consider both adaptation and mitigation is integrated assessment modelling. Integrated assessment models (IAMs) typically combine energy models and sectoral impact models with climate, land-use and socio-economic scenarios to analyse and compare the costs and benefits of climate change and climate policy to society (see also Chapter 2). However, climate policy in IAMs to date is dominated by mitigation; adaptation, when considered, is either represented as a choice between a number of technological options or else it follows from assumptions in the model about social and economic development (Schneider, 1997; Corfee-Morlot and Agrawala, 2004; Fisher et al., 2007).

New research on inter-relationships between adaptation and mitigation includes conceptual and policy analysis, as well as 'bottom-up' studies that analyse specific inter-relationships and their implications for sectors and communities. The latter studies often place the implementation of adaptation and mitigation within the context of broader development objectives (e.g., Tompkins and Adger, 2005; Robinson et al.,

2006; Chapters 17 and 20). They complement integrated assessment modelling by studying the factors and processes that determine if and when adaptation and mitigation can be synergistic in climate policy. Owing to it being a new research field, the amount of literature is still small, although it is growing fast. At the same time, the literature is very diverse: there is no consensus as to whether or not exploiting interrelationships between adaptation and mitigation is possible, much less desirable. Some analysts (e.g., Venema and Cisse, 2004; Goklany, 2007) see potential for creating synergies between adaptation and mitigation, while others (e.g., Klein et al., 2005) are more sceptical about the benefits of considering adaptation and mitigation in tandem.

The differences in approaches between adaptation and mitigation research, and between integrated assessment modelling and 'bottom-up' studies, can create confusion when findings published in the literature appear to be inconsistent with one another. In assessing the literature on inter-relationships between adaptation and mitigation, this chapter does not hide any differences and inconsistencies that may exist between relevant publications. As artefacts of the research approaches that have emerged as described above, these differences and inconsistencies reflect the current state of knowledge. To provide as much clarity as possible from the outset definitions of important concepts are provided in Box 18.1. Next, Section 18.1.2 summarises important differences, similarities and complementarities between adaptation and mitigation.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment