Insights gained about adaptation and adaptive capacity from the sector chapters
and the regional chapters are summarized in Tables 18-6
and 18-7, respectively.
|Table 18-6: Adaptation and adaptive capacity in
sectors (key findings from Chapters 4 through 9).
|| Key Findings
- Water managers have experience adapting to change. Many techniques
exist to assess and implement adaptive options. However, the pervasiveness
of climate change may preclude some traditional adaptive strategies,
and available adaptations often are not used.
- Adaptation can involve management on the supply side (e.g., altering
infrastructure or institutional arrangements) and on the demand side
(changing demand or risk reduction). Numerous no-regret policies exist
that will generate net social benefits regardless of climate change.
- Climate change is just one of numerous pressures facing water managers.
Nowhere are water management decisions taken solely to cope with climate
change, although it is increasingly considered for future resource management.
Some vulnerabilities are outside the conventional responsibility of
- Estimates of the economic costs of climate change impacts on water
resources depend strongly on assumptions made about adaptation. Economically
optimum adaptation may be prevented by constraints associated with uncertainty,
institutions, and equity.
- Extreme events often are catalysts for changes in water management,
by exposing vulnerabilities and raising awareness of climate risks.
Climate change modifies indicators of extremes and variability, complicating
- Ability to adapt is affected by institutional capacity, wealth, management
philosophy, planning time scale, organizational and legal framework,
technology, and population mobility.
- Water managers need research and management tools aimed at adapting
to uncertainty and change, rather than improving climate scenarios.
|Ecosystems and Their Services
Adaptation to loss of some ecosystem services may
be possible, especially in managed ecosystems. However, adaptation
to losses in wild ecosystems and biodiversity may be difficult or
There is considerable capacity for adaptation in agriculture,
including crop changes and resource substitutions, but adaptation
to evolving climate change and interannual variability is uncertain.
Adaptations in agriculture are possible, but they
will not happen without considerable transition costs and equilibrium
(or residual) costs.
Greater adverse impacts are expected in areas where
resource endowments are poorest and the ability of farmers to adapt
is most limited.
In many countries where rangelands are important,
lack of infrastructure and investment in resource management limit
options for adaptation.
Commercial forestry is adaptable, reflecting a history
of long-term management decisions under uncertainty. Adaptations are
expected in both land-use management (species-selection silviculture)
and product management (processing-marketing).
Adaptation in developed countries will fare better,
while developing countries and countries in transition, especially
in the tropics and subtropics, will fare worse
- Without adaptations, the consequences of global warming and sea-level
rise would be disastrous.
- Coastal adaptation entails more than just selecting one of the technical
options to respond to sea-level rise (strategies can aim to protect,
accommodate, or retreat). It is a complex and iterative process rather
than a simple choice.
- Adaptation options are more acceptable and effective when they are
incorporated into coastal zone management, disaster mitigation programs,
land-use planning, and sustainable development strategies.
- Adaptation choices will be conditioned by existing policies and development
objectives, requiring researchers and policymakers to work toward a
commonly acceptable framework for adaptation.
- The adaptive capacity of coastal systems to perturbations is related
to coastal resilience, which has morphological, ecological, and socioeconomic
components. Enhancing resilienceincluding the technical, institutional,
economic, and cultural capability to cope with impactsis a particularly
appropriate adaptive strategy given future uncertainties and the desire
to maintain development opportunities.
- Coastal communities and marine-based economic sectors with either
low exposure or high adaptive capacity will be least affected. Communities
with less economic resources, poorer infrastructure, less developed
communications and transportation systems, and weak social support systems
have less access to adaptation options and are more vulnerable.
|Human Settlements, Energy, and Industry
- The larger and more costly impacts of climate change occur through
changed probability of extreme weather events that overwhelm the design
resiliency of human systems.
- There are many adaptation options available to reduce the vulnerability
of settlements. However, urban managers, especially in developing countries,
have so little capacity to deal with current problems (housing, sanitation,
water, and power) that dealing with climate change risks is beyond their
- Lack of financial resources, weak institutions, and inadequate or
inappropriate planning are major barriers to adaptation in human settlements.
- Successful environmental adaptation cannot occur without locally based,
technically competent, and politically supported leadership.
- Uncertainty with respect to capacity and the will to respond hinder
the assessment of adaptations and vulnerability.
|Insurance and Other Financial Services
Adaptation in financial and insurance services in
the short term is likely to be to changing frequencies and intensities
of extreme weather events.
Increasing risk could lead to a greater volume of
traditional business and the development of new financial risk management
products, but increased variability of loss events would heighten
Financial services firms have adaptability to external
shocks, but there is little evidence that climate change has been
incorporated into investment decisions.
The adaptive capacity of the financial sector is influenced
by regulatory involvement, the ability of firms to withdraw from at-risk
markets, and fiscal policy regarding catastrophe reserves.
Adaptation will involve changes in the roles of private
and public insurance. Changes in the timing, intensity, frequency,
and/or spatial distribution of climate-related losses will generate
increased demand on already overburdened government insurance and
disaster assistance programs.
Developing countries seeking to adapt in a timely
manner face particular difficulties, including limited availability
of capital, poor access to technology, and absence of government programs.
Insurers' adaptations include raising prices,
nonrenewal of policies, cessation of new policies, limiting maximum
claims, and raising deductiblesactions that can seriously affect
investment in developing countries.
Developed countries generally have greater adaptive
capacity, including technology and economic means to bear the costs.
- Adaptation involves changes in society, institutions, technology,
or behavior to reduce potential negative impacts or to increase positive
ones. There are numerous adaptation options, which may occur at the
population, community, or personal levels.
- The most important and cost-effective adaptation measure is to rebuild
public health infrastructurewhich, in much of the world, has declined
in recent years. Many diseases and health problems that may be exacerbated
by climate change can be effectively prevented with adequate financial
and human public health resources, including training, surveillance
and emergency response, and prevention and control programs.
- Adaptation effectiveness will depend on timing. "Primary"
prevention aims to reduce risks before cases occur, whereas "secondary"
interventions are designed to prevent further cases.
- Determinants of adaptive capacity to climate-related threats to health
include the level of material resources, the effectiveness of governance
and civil institutions, the quality of public health infrastructure,
and the preexisting burden of disease.
- Capacity to adapt also will depend on research to understand associations
between climate, weather, extreme events, and vector-borne diseases.
|Table 18-7: Adaptation and capacity in regions (key
findings from Chapters 10 through 17).
|| Key Findings
- Adaptive measures would enhance flexibility and have net benefits
in water resources (irrigation and water reuse, aquifer and groundwater
management, desalinization), agriculture (crop changes, technology,
irrigation, husbandry), and forestry (regeneration of local species,
energy-efficient cook stoves, sustainable community management).
- Without adaptation, climate change will reduce the wildlife reserve
network significantly by altering ecosystems and causing species emigration
and extinctions. This represents an important ecological and economic
vulnerability in Africa.
- A risk-sharing approach between countries will strengthen adaptation
strategies, including disaster
management, risk communication, emergency evacuation, and cooperative
water resource management.
- Most countries in Africa are particularly vulnerable to climate change
because of limited adaptive capacity, as a result of widespread poverty,
recurrent droughts, inequitable land distribution, and dependence on
- Enhancement of adaptive capacity requires local empowerment in decisionmaking
and incorporation of climate adaptation within broader sustainable development
- Priority areas for adaptation are land and water resources, food productivity,
and disaster preparedness and planningparticularly for poorer,
- Adaptations already are required to deal with vulnerabilities associated
with climate variability, in human health, coastal settlements, infrastructure,
and food security. The resilience of most sectors in Asia to climate
change is very poor. Expansion of irrigation will be difficult and costly
in many countries.
- For many developing countries in Asia, climate change is only one
of a host of problems to deal with, including nearer term needs such
as hunger, water supply and pollution, and energy. Resources available
for adaptation to climate are limited. Adaptation responses are closely
linked to development activities, which should be considered in evaluating
- Early signs of climate change already are observed and may become
more prominent over 1 or 2 decades. If this time is not used to design
and implement adaptations, it may be too late to avoid upheavals. Long-term
adaptation requires anticipatory actions.
- A wide range of precautionary measures are available at the regional
and national level to reduce
economic and social impacts of disasters. These measures include awareness
building and expansion of the insurance industry.
- Development of effective adaptation strategies requires local involvement,
inclusion of community
perceptions, and recognition of multiple stresses on sustainable management
- Adaptive capacities vary between countries, depending on social structure,
culture, economic capacity, and level of environmental disruptions.
Limiting factors include poor resource and infrastructure bases, poverty
and disparities in income, weak institutions, and limited technology.
- The challenge in Asia lies in identifying opportunities to facilitate
sustainable development with strategies that make climate-sensitive
sectors resilient to climate variability.
- Adaptation strategies would benefit from taking a more systems-oriented
approach, emphasizing multiple interactive stresses, with less dependence
on climate scenarios.
- daptations are needed to manage risks from climatic variability and
extremes. Pastoral economies and communities have considerable adaptability
but are vulnerable to any increase in the frequency or duration of droughts.
- Adaptation options include water management, land-use practices and
policies, engineering standards for infrastructure, and health services.
- Adaptations will be viable only if they are compatible with the broader
ecological and socioeconomic environment, have net social and economic
benefits, and are taken up by stakeholders.
- Adaptation responses may be constrained by conflicting short- and
long-term planning horizons.
- Poorer communities, including many indigenous settlements, are particularly
vulnerable to climate-related hazards and stresses on health because
they often are in exposed areas and have less adequate housing, health
care, and other resources for adaptation.
- Adaptation potential in socioeconomic systems is relatively high
as a result of strong economic conditions; stable population (with capacity
to migrate); and well-developed political, institutional, and technological
- The response of human activities and the natural environment to current
weather perturbations provides a guide to critical sensitivities under
future climate change.
- Adaptation in forests requires long-term planning; it is unlikely
that adaptation measures will be put in place in a timely manner.
- Farm-level analyses show that if adaptation is fully implemented large
reductions in adverse impacts are possible.
- Adaptation for natural systems generally is low.
- More marginal and less wealthy areas will be less able to adapt, so
without appropriate policies of response climate change may lead to
- Adaptation measures have potential to reduce climate-related losses
in agriculture and forestry.
- There are opportunities for adapting to water shortages and flooding
through water resource management.
- Adaptation measures in the fishery sector include changing species
captured and increasing prices to reduce losses.
- Strain on social and economic systems from rapid climate and sea-level
changes will increase the need for explicit adaptation strategies. In
some cases, adaptation may yield net benefits, especially if climate
change is slow.
- Stakeholders in most sectors believe that technology is available
to adapt, although at some social and economic cost.
- Adaptation is expected to be more successful in agriculture and forestry.
However, adaptations for the water, health, food, and energy sectors
and the cities are likely to require substantial institutional and infrastructure
- In the water sector, adaptations to seasonal runoff changes include
storage, conjunctive supply management, and transfer. It may not be
possible to continue current high levels of reliability of water supply,
especially with transfers to high-valued uses. Adaptive measures such
as "water markets" may lead to concerns about accessibility
and conflicts over allocation priorities.
- Adaptations such as levees and dams often are successful in managing
most variations in the weather but can increase vulnerability to the
most extreme events.
- There is moderate potential for adaptation through conservation programs
that protect particularly threatened ecosystems, such as high alpines
and wetlands. It may be difficult or impossible to offset adverse impacts
on aquatic systems.
- Adaptation will occur in natural polar ecosystems through migration
and changing mixes of species. Species such as walrus, seals, and polar
bears will be threatened, although others (such as fish) may flourish.
- Potential for adaptation is limited in indigenous communities that
follow traditional lifestyles.
- Technologically developed communities are likely to adapt quite readily,
although the high capital investment required may result in costs in
- Adaptation depends on technological advances, institutional arrangements,
availability of financing, and information exchange.
- The need for adaptation has become increasingly urgent, even if swift
implementation of global agreements to reduce future emissions occurs.
- Most adaptation will be carried out by people and communities who
inhabit island countries; support from governments is essential for
implementing adaptive measures.
- Progress will require integration of appropriate risk-reduction strategies
with other sectoral policy initiatives in areas such as sustainable
development planning, disaster prevention and management, integrated
coastal zone management, and health care planning.
- Strategies for adaptation to sea-level rise are retreat, accommodate,
and protect. Measures such as retreat to higher ground, raising of the
land, and use of building set-backs appear to have little practical
utility, especially when hindered by limited physical size.
- Measures for reducing the severity of health threats include health
education programs, improved health care facilities, sewerage and solid
waste management, and disaster preparedness plans.
- Islanders have developed some capacity to adapt by application of
traditional knowledge, locally appropriate technology, and customary
practice. Overall, however, adaptive capacity is low because of the
physical size of nations, limited access to capital and technology,
shortage of human resource skills, lack of tenure security, overcrowding,
and limited access to resources for construction.
- Many small islands require external financial, technical, and other
assistance to adapt. Adaptive capacity may be enhanced by regional cooperation
and pooling of limited resources.
Increasingly, adaptation and adaptive capacity are explicitly considered in
impact and vulnerability assessments, and there are some consistent findings
across sectors and regions (see Section 18.8). However,
there is insufficient basis to rank systematically countries according to their
adaptive capacity or to list the "most vulnerable" overall. Analyses to date
indicate that adaptive capacity and vulnerability are multidimensional, so that
one country (or, more often, a group within a country) may be extremely vulnerable
economically whereas another country (or community) is extremely vulnerable
in terms of life and livelihood. These different types of vulnerability reflect
different types of exposures and adaptive capacities.