Climate action must include adaptation
Our view on the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which makes for sobering reading.
The window for action on climate change is ‘brief and rapidly closing’, according to the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Adverse impacts to nature and people, including from more frequent and extreme climate events, are already widespread today. Some of these, such as first species extinctions and coral reef degradation, are irreversible.
Nearly half of humanity currently lives in contexts that are highly vulnerable to climate-related risks, particularly in developing countries. Factors such as poverty, poor governance and violent conflict increase vulnerability: in the decade to 2020, highly vulnerable regions experienced 15 times higher mortality from floods, droughts, and storms, compared to very low vulnerability regions.
In all possible future climate outcomes, including those involving ambitious mitigation action (such as 1.5°C), climate risks will likely worsen and require adaptation. Yet global net-economic damages will probably increase in a non-linear fashion with global warming levels. Accordingly, the authors of the report call for an even split between finance for mitigation and finance for adaptation, as opposed to the focus of current efforts on the former.
The authors emphasise that global financial flows for adaptation, from public and private sources, are insufficient and present a constraint to adaptation implementation. Furthermore, they articulate that the observed impacts, projected risks, levels and trends in vulnerability, and adaptation limits presented in the report, demonstrate that worldwide climate resilient development action is urgently needed.
While progress has been made, with at least 170 countries and many cities including adaptation in climate policies and planning processes, most current initiatives are fragmented, small-scale, and focused on near-term risks and planning rather than implementation.
In this context, the report focuses on detailing feasible adaptation solutions. These include: effective on-farm and urban water management; forest conservation, protection, and restoration; resilient infrastructure, including coastal defences; resilient, diversified, and reliable energy systems; early warning systems; climate risk education and social safety nets.
However, the report also warns that many solutions, such as irrigation and bioenergy, need to be carefully managed, lest they cause unintended harm to overall adaptation, through adverse impacts in other areas like biodiversity, and food and water security.
This report follows one released by the IPCC in August last year on the physical science basis of climate change, which established an ‘unequivocal’ link between human activities and global warming. You can read a summary of that report on our blog here. There will be another IPCC report published this month, detailing possible mitigation pathways, as well as a synthesis report due to summarise the findings of all three reports in September.
- In our second blog on the IPCC report, we discuss how we are taking action on our clients’ behalf on this urgent issue.