By : Kalpana Palkhiwala Climate change is likely to threaten all life forms on earth including plants and animals. The sensitivity will vary from one species to the other. Changes in temperature and perceptions patterns will affect several weather sensitive sectors and areas like agriculture, forestry, water resources and coasts. Impact of these changes will be felt on human systems affecting human health, human settlements and the industry and energy sectors ((Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change(IPCC, 2001). Therefore adaptation remains a crucial intermediate response strategy as it has the potential to reduce the adverse effects of climate change although it will not prevent the damages in entirety.
The science of climate change highlights with a high degree of confidence increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events like droughts and floods. The conditions worsen with reduced capacity of human systems to cope with these changes. Adapting to the changing conditions of climate would form an integral part of sustainable development. Many countries that are vulnerable to the changes in the climate are also under pressure due to high rates population growth, poor living conditions and deep embedded poverty.
By building the resilience of communities to current climate variability, anticipating changes in the climate in future would help in reducing vulnerability of communities and enhancing adaptive capacity. Polices that lessen pressures on resources and increase welfare of the poor advances sustainable development enhancing adaptive capacity and reducing vulnerability to climate changes and other stresses. Thus inclusion of climate risk in the design and implementation of development initiatives can promote development that is more sustainable and that reduces vulnerability to climate changes .
The focus on mitigation was on the limitations to greenhouse emissions. Traditionally it has received greater attention than adaptation both from a scientific and policy perspective. The reason being the issue of climate change has emerged as a result of long–term disturbance of the global geo-biochemical cycles and associated effects on the climate system. IPCC also suggested “to assess the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant for the understanding of the risk of human – induced climate” to broaden the understanding in this area. Thus the science on adaptation will deal with the feasibility of various concepts, frameworks and approaches that can be used.
There are arguments for consideration of adaptation as a response measure. First, no matter how robust mitigation measures are, a certain degree of climate change is inevitable due to historical emissions and the inertia of the climate system . Second while the effects of mitigations may take several decades to manifest, most adaptations activities take effect almost immediately. Third, such measures can be applied on a regional or local scale, and their effectiveness is less dependent on actions of others. Fourth, adaptation besides addressing the risk associated with changes in the climate in future typically reduces risk associated with current climate variability.
Need for Adaptation
We are getting signal of changes in physical and biological systems. They include the melting of glaciers and polar ice-caps , late freezing and early thawing of ice on rivers and lakes, plants and animals shifting to poles, changes in the habits of migratory birds, shifting of certain farming practices towards higher altitudes etc., present an exemplary case of changes that are happening around us as a result of changes in the climate. As the impacts of climate change become evident, it is quite clear that actions to cope with the crisis at hand would have to encompass an integrated approach entailing both mitigation as well as adaptations.
Focus on adaptation to climate change has grown steadily over the years , as it is now recognised that even if the currently agreed regime of emissions control was implemented, it would not stabilize atmosphere concentrations of GHGs and climate (IPCC, 2001). Therefore adaptation emerges as a crucial intermediate response strategy as it has the potential to reduce adverse effects of climate change and can also often produce immediate ancillary benefits. Adaptations to climate change is a new process of both developed and developing nations. The adaptations line of inquiry reflects the international community’s escalating need to prepare for and adapt to climate change and to ensure that any future climate change regime will bestow on the issue this legitimate recognition. It also recognizes growing international awareness of the need to integrate adaptation issue into core policy and decision making process. Adaptations to climate variability and change has to be fully integrated into development policies.
Variations in Response
There is variation in the way different countries react to these changes as the ability to adapt clearly depends on the state of development. While the developed counties are comparatively in better positions to deal with the consequent changes, the developing and the least developed countries will be the most affected as they lack both in technical and financial capacities to cope with these changes. The impacts in these countries would be felt disproportionately on the poor who are unable to meet their basic needs further exacerbating conditions. Also most of the people in developing counties are dependents on climate sensitive sectors like agriculture, forestry and fishing for a living .
The adverse effects of climate changes challenges neutralises the efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by increasing the vulnerability of the poor. The communities most vulnerable to the impacts are the poorest and climate change hinders the prospects of their development in the absence of proactive adaptation. Thus, planned adaptations remain a necessary strategy to react to the expected changes in climate in the future.
Adaptation calls for natural resource management, intensification of food security, development of social and human capital and strengthening of institutional systems. Such processes, besides building the resilience of communities, regions and countries to all shocks and stresses, including climate variability and change, are good development practice in themselves. Hence the inclusion of climate risk in the design and implementation of development initiatives is vital to reduce vulnerability and enhance sustainability.