Climate Change Adaptation

What is adaptation?

Adaptation refers both to the process of adapting and to the condition of being adapted (Grothman & Pratt, 2003), and has specific interpretations in particular disciplines. Within ecology, adaptation is the process by which organisms or species becomes better suited to their environment. In the social sciences, it refers to adjustments by individuals or collective behaviour within a system. In the field of climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) specifically defines adaptation as the;

‘adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities’.

a more succinct definition provided by the UK Climate Impacts Programme defines adaptation as;

‘any action taken to minimise the adverse effects or to take advantage of any beneficial effects of climate change’ (UKCIP).

Existing natural and human systems are, in their very nature, an adaptive response to spatial differences in climate; we have been adapting to changing conditions for millennia. Adaptation to climate variability is evident in our social and economic systems – such as agriculture, forestry, industry, transportation, settlements etc., – which have evolved to accommodate inherent temporal variates from normal conditions (Dessai & van der Sluijs, 2007). However, this new era of climate variability is bringing into question the capacity and inherent adaptability of natural and human systems; can they cope with the climate changes taking place?


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