Adaptation to climate change or global warming refers to strategies, initiatives and measures individual or collective (companies, associations, communities, etc.) aimed, through appropriate measures, to reduce the vulnerability of natural and human systems against actual or expected effects of climate change.
These strategies are complementary to mitigation strategies, designed to emit fewer greenhouse gases and to restore or protect the carbon sink capacity of ecosystems and agro-ecosystems.
In several countries, its inclusion has become mandatory in the process of planning and management of sustainable development.
The definitions and criteria are to be modulated according to the biogeographic zones or regional contexts, especially in extreme situations (polar zone and permafrost, low islands, sub-desert areas, etc.) For example, the definition of “priority” groups or priority activities or prioritization of issues may change as the context of the environment and operating modes may be incompatible with densely populated and rich areas could prove to be factors of resilience in some areas of developing countries. One of factors to take into account is the sensitivity of the system (ecosystem, agroecosystem, infrastructure …) or population or the region.
“Sensitivity” is, in this context, defined by the IPCC as “degree of positive or negative a system is affected by climate-related stimuli. The effect may be direct (modification of a crop yield in response to variation of the average of the range, or variability of temperature, for example) or indirect (damage caused by an increase in the frequency of coastal flooding due to the elevation of the sea level, for example).” Resilience must be examined in the light of this sensitivity not only deal with one type of event, but face a repetition of these events or a combination of several events affecting the entities.
In its Green Paper, Europe considers that adaptation is necessary but should not overshadow mitigation, because the greater the warming will be important “more the costs of adaptation will rise dramatically. That is why mitigation is an urgent need for the international community.”
In its White Paper (2009), Europe also stresses the importance of adapting ecosystem management to make them more robust and resiliants to change. It offers among the priority actions to rule (“EU Member States”) “to promote strategies to build resilience to climate change in terms of health, infrastructure and productive soil functions, including improving water resources and ecosystem management ”
Europe proposes to combine 3 types of complementary strategies:
- Mitigation; it is to limit the rate of increase in greenhouse effect of gas rates in the air, better controlling energy wastage, substituting new energies to fossil fuels and storing carbon.
- Mitigation is to implement sustainable development programs. For States, they are national strategies for sustainable development for communities, agendas 21, and for businesses, corporate programs of social responsibility.
- Adaptation; it is to make systems or territories less vulnerable to climatic disturbances through actions reducing staffing impacts of climate change, and improving the response capacity of societies and the environment (natural or cultivated).
- “Adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, to moderate the harming effects or exploits beneficial opportunities.“
- Transition; the change will be probably both characterized by a succession of extreme peaks (heat waves, floods, etc.) and continued global warming trend. It is not therefore, reminds the CESD, of “knowing how to adapt to a ‘new climate‘, but how and at with what cost we can adapt our societies to a ‘ever changing‘ climate. Adaptation must therefore be understood as an ongoing political transition in the very long term. An adaptation plan over several years is only one step in this process.” In addition, at the same time the degradation of ecosystems could exacerbate any social crises, economic and geopolitical.
- There will be sometimes impossible or too costly to adapt “at the margin” mainatining at the same place and the same activities or existing services.
- “In general, the vulnerability (V) and capacity adaptability (CA) are (…) considered inversely, a low level of V commitment for good CA, and vice versa. Scientists have thus established that the V was a function of both system exposure to natural hazards and its CA“.
- “Adapting to climate change often requires bifurcations to other activities and/or other sites“, which implies an international, supportive, intersectoral framework and very prospective and proactive approach to regional planning and of urbanization plans (or de-urbanization, changing farming or stop in the most vulnerable areas, as already practiced in the Netherlands in certain areas of polders that goes to the sea). The issue of transitions between activities and/or regions therefore becomes a central issue.