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Insights into Editorial: Adapting better to climate change

Insights into Editorial: Adapting better to climate change


While there are on-going efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and restrict global warming to below 2°C or even below 1.5°C, there are also efforts to adaptation to Climate Change that help us live in a world where average global temperatures are rising.

What is Adaptation?

Adaptation means anticipating the adverse effects of climate change and taking appropriate action to prevent or minimise the damage they can cause.  Some of the examples of adaptation practices are – new building codes to adapt future climate change, developing drought tolerant crops and setting aside land corridors to help species migrate.

Why does climate change adaptation necessary?

Global warming as a result of Climate change has increased the vulnerability of social and biological systems to relatively sudden change. These changes will last many years. So, climate change adaptation is necessary to offset the effects of global warming.

Adaptation strategies are needed at all levels of administration to make them more effective. Successful adaptation not only depends on governments but also on the active and sustained engagement of stakeholders including national, regional, multilateral and international organizations.

How is Adaptation different from Mitigation?

Mitigation is an intervention to reduce the emissions sources or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases.

Adaptation and mitigation present some notable differences, particularly in their objectives. Mitigation addresses the causes of climate change (accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere), whereas adaptation addresses the impacts of climate change.

Both approaches are needed. On the one hand, even with strong mitigation efforts, the climate would continue changing in the next decades and adaptation to these changes is necessary.

On the other hand, adaptation will not be able to eliminate all negative impacts and mitigation is crucial to limit changes in the climate system.

Adaptation and mitigation differ in terms of spatial scales: even though climate change is an international issue, adaptation benefits are local and mitigation benefits are global.

Mitigation is a priority in the energy, transportation, industry and waste management sectors where as Adaptation is a priority in the water and health sectors and in coastal or low lying areas.

Some of the Adaptation initiatives taken at international level

Adaptation to the changing climatic conditions requires a lot of finances. There are several programs and proposals to finance adaptation to climate change in developing countries.

Why did some of the Adaptation projects fail?

Many projects on adaptation begin by studying what climate impacts are expected, what kinds of vulnerabilities exist locally and how these can be addressed in a given local context. However, a 2010 survey by James Ford concluded that adaptation projects were not helping the most vulnerable communities, and benefits were simply reaching those who had been assisted earlier.


  • Private agents acquire public assets or expand their authority over them. Some stakeholders getting excluded or marginalised thus limit their access to decision-making processes. 
  • Adaptation actions taken in areas that are rich in biodiversity often interfere with ecosystem services and resulting in an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. 
  • As a result, the condition of those who are already disempowered or marginalised in the local social context, such as the poor, women or other minorities, worsens from the intervention.


  • Encroachment from Tanzania shows how marine protection areas that were set up to boost the resilience of coral reefs encroached on the lands of traditional fishing communities who then turned to energy-intensive farming which led to higher rates of greenhouse gas emissions. 
  • In Burkina Faso, efforts to increase options for livelihood during drought led to distress selling of productive assets that people owned, such as livestock.
  • Disaster relief funds provided to cities first led to crises in rural communities in Kenya.

What are the important lessons to be learned from failed Adaptation projects?

Politics and power struggles to control resources need to be acknowledged as being part and parcel of adaptation projects. 

Mechanisms to anticipate and deal with them correctly should be incorporated well in advance. 

Measures to prevent elite networks to capture and misuse land, water and other resources are to be identified.

Anticipate the problems and look for measures to reduce the adverse effects of projects that ultimately aim to reduce the effects of global warming over many decades.

While using Technology as a solution to the climate impacts, for instance drip irrigation in dry lands, ramifications and worsening of social and political conditions should not be ignored.

In addition to vulnerabilities and costs, adaptation projects should also consider issues around equity.

Policies on adaptation need to consider the multiple scales of effects of the project.

Integrating adaptation and mitigation could be a possible way out. Integrating both will increase the local legitimacy of the project, as adaptation puts emphasis on local needs.