01 Mar 2022 2 min read

Climate action must include adaptation

By Justine Schafer

Our view on the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which makes for sobering reading.

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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. 

Adaptation solutions

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.

Justine Schafer

Climate Economist

Justine is a Climate Economist in LGIM’s Climate Solutions team, helping devise metrics to measure climate exposure and impact. She joined LGIM in 2021 from Vivid Economics, a consultancy focused on ‘putting economics to good use’, where she worked on quantifying the risks and opportunities from climate change for the financial and resource-extraction sectors. Justine graduated from McGill University with a BA in Economics and Finance and from the London School of Economics with an MSc in Economics.

Justine Schafer