Connecting countries to climate technology solutions
English Arabic Chinese (Simplified) French Russian Spanish Yoruba

Climate adaptation as risk management: limits and lessons from disaster risk reduction

Publication date:
M. Pelling
Type of publication:
Cross-sectoral enabler:

Adapting to climate change requires that risk management be integrated into development planning and practices. This paper identifies lessons and limits for climate change adaptation from disaster risk reduction. It recognises that risk associated with climate change is a product of human vulnerability as well as local and global environmental change, with disaster risk management well positioned to reduce risk and loss as a component of adaptation. The paper looks at the conceptual and policy openings for an integrated risk management approach to extremes associated with climate change. It outlines the following lessons on and limits of knowledge and action on DRR:

governance - social capacity can extend coping capacity well beyond financial limits and mass risk reduction is best handled by government in partnership with civil society. The limit is that the potential of civil society to support DRR is very limited
insurance and risk transfer - enhances risk reducing behavior when supported with information and regulation and spreads risk over time, place and between risk categories. The limit is whether commercial insurance can be extended to the poor without exacerbating their poverty
perceptions - risk and the propensity for risk reducing behavior is distorted by social media. Organisations and individuals tend to be slow to accept new risks, but can change behavior quickly after events. Individuals are motivated by group dynamics of their social groupings. The limit is whether there are forms of education and learning arrangements can stimulate risk reducing behavior and values.
rights and ethics - those more at risk tend to spend on immediate or more tangible needs rather than invest scarce resources to reduce risk from future potential harm. The limit here is lack of planning tools to open dialogue between those at risk and the risk managers.

The paper states that living with climate change requires two modes of adaptation.

the internalisation of risk management into the development agenda responds to increased levels of uncertainty associated with greater levels of climate variation and larger extremes in weather events
the climate proofing of development decisions for long-term investments aims to take gradual changes in climatic regimes into account alongside other future components such as demographic change, affecting investments from agricultural science to infrastructure projects.

Both modes of adaptation require greenhouse gas emission mitigation and the existing challenges of social justice and ecological sustainability must be considered.