Societies have a long record of adapting to the impacts of weather and climate through a range of practices that include crop diversification, irrigation, water management, disaster risk management and insurance. But climate change poses novel risks which are often outside the range of experience, such as impacts related to drought, heatwaves, accelerated glacier retreat and hurricane intensity [17.2.1].
There is growing evidence since the TAR that adaptation measures that also consider climate change are being implemented, on a limited basis, in both developed and developing countries. These measures are undertaken by a range of public and private actors through policies, investments in infrastructure and technologies, and behavioural change.
Examples of adaptations to observed changes in climate include:
• partial drainage of the Tsho Rolpa glacial lake (Nepal);
• changes in livelihood strategies in response to permafrost melt by the Inuit in Nunavut (Canada);
• increased use of artificial snow-making by the Alpine ski industry (Europe, Australia and North America);
• coastal defences in the Maldives and the Netherlands;
• water management in Australia;
• government responses to heatwaves in, for example, some European countries.
However, all of the adaptations documented were imposed by the climate risk and involve real cost and reduction of welfare in the first instance [17.2.3]. These examples also confirm the observations of attributable climate signals in the impacts of change.
A limited but growing set of adaptation measures also explicitly considers scenarios of future climate change. Examples include consideration of sea-level rise in the design of infrastructure such as the Confederation Bridge in Canada and a coastal highway in Micronesia, as well as in shoreline management policies and flood risk measures, for example in Maine (USA) and the Thames Barrier (UK) [17.2.2].
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