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Adaptation for climate change means choosing plans to reduce the risks of damage due to climate change and acting on these plans as soon as possible.
Ways to adapt to climate change must be added to all of society’s efforts to reduce or mitigate emissions. Adaptation can double the effects of any effort. This is because adaptation can increase beneficial and reduce negative effects of climate change at the same time.
Both natural ecosystems and built ecosystems will be affected by the extremes, the variability and the rate of climate change. Each planned action will cost money. Planning and acting now will help reduce total costs.
There is no guarantee that any one measure alone will prevent damage as climate changes occur. Beginning adaptations in high risk areas now may avoid catastrophic losses. E.g. ensuring that flood plains are kept as green space to handle extreme precipitation or spring flooding events, updating the sewage systems and water treatment facilities.
Research is needed now for better uses of materials and energy. Incentives may help to speed up the process of adaptation by the general public and business. Business as Usual (BAU) might become Business for Sustainability (BFS) with innovations in methods and resource use that look beyond this century. Natural ecosystems will not be able to adapt as quickly.
In Ontario the question for all sectors of society may be what is the best combination of adaptations? Actions by individuals, businesses, government are all needed and needed now. See the CD Menu – What you can Do – spheres of empowerment and Successes – case studies for all levels.
There is enough knowledge in communities and in research already to act now. Studies of the future might help speed up response time or motivate quicker actions but observations documenting climate change have already been collected in communities.
Consequences of not acting on our knowledge are already being felt eg. Peterborough floods and sewage backup and overflows. The risk of recurrence of historical extreme events is higher than ever before for most of the extremes being experienced today.
ADAPTATION TO CLIMATE CHANGE – after IJC
International Joint Commission (IJC) Climate Change and Water Quality in the Great Lakes Region. May2003 www.ijc.org
What is Adaptation?
Adaptation = adjustment or response to change (real or expected) which reduces the harm and uses the benefits of change. Natural ecosystems will react to change. Humans and their built systems can anticipate change. Eg. develop new crop varities, health alert protocols.
The Challenge of Adaptation
A changing climate challenges all managers. Managers and planners must ask:
- How is the climate changing?
- How big or how quick are the changes?
- What and who might be affected?
- What present issues would become worse and how?
- What new problems or opportunities are found?
- What adaptations must be made to prepare for these changes?
- When or how fast must adaptations be made?
- What are the costs?
- What are the barriers to adaptation?
- What ability and resources can be used for adaptation?
Three Basic Considerations in planning ways to adapt to climate change.
The past used to be a reliable guide for planning and managing for the future. Our changing climate adds a new factor to planning and management programs. Adaptation for climate change is the new factor that is needed. Adaptation to climate change links the needs of today with the problems of tomorrow.
The three deciding factors for adaptation planning are the possible risks, possible costs and possible negative consequences.
Six issues to consider for effective adaptation responses to climate change.
1. Distributional Effects
Preparations for climate change must be local ones that are decided on the basis of local geography and community structure. Groups should look together at the risks and opportunities to integrate possible adaptations.
2. Multiple Stresses
The stress of climate change may add to present stresses on systems.E.g. land use on ecosystems, power and water usage on these resources. By facing the challenges of climate change now everyone can win. Present stresses are reduced through introducing sustainable use programs.
Decisions regarding the cost of the programs must consider the benefits of beginning as soon as possible. Climate change will affect all parts of society and business as well as the environment. Payment now for preparations or adaptations should take this into account. E.g. dredging for shipping.
4. Effectiveness of Adaptations
Previous failures to identify environmental risks must be understood to improve the design of future adaptation projects. E.g. extreme heat deaths.
Badly planned adaptations may badly effect systems that are sensitive to climate change. Such “maladaptations” may be avoided by studying both the harmful and helpful consequences of each possible adaptation response to climate change.
6. Multiple Benefits
Adaptations for climate change made now have many benefits regardless of climate change. E.g. planning for floods, heat waves, new diseases. Such planning would use resources available to communities more efficiently and provide flexibility when responding to disasters. E.g. Wm. J. Sparling Associates Morrisburg, Ontario on EMO readiness during the 1998 Ice-Storm.
Spending now to reduce costs later- Adaptation Strategy Implementation
Any funds used now in adaptations reduce the risk of climate change damage and increase the means to healthy, sustainable communities are a good investment. Choosing ways to spend these funds for the benefit of all depends on the community decision makers.