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Developments in adaptation: new responses to climate change

Publication date:
Jo E. Parry
Type of publication:

Adapting to climate change is an urgent issue for developing countries. In many regions, the impacts of climate change are already affecting the ability of poor people to sustain livelihoods and provide enough food. How can the international community support developing countries as they adapt to a changing climate?The need to adapt to a changing climate – to take actions
in response to actual or anticipated changes – is increasingly recognised by
all countries, but particularly developing countries. Predicted changes in
climatic patterns, such as increased drought in Africa and sea-level rise, are
raising real concern about global warming which prevents developing countries
from achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
The International Institute for Sustainable
Development, Canada, has recently completed an overview of issues related to climate
change adaptation and how the needs of developing countries could be better met
in the future. The paper notes that while global climate models provide information
about potential long-term impacts, policymakers need more detailed information to
develop appropriate programmes that respond to climate change. Community-based,
‘bottom-up’ approaches that build upon local experiences have proved to be a
better basis for developing adaptation strategies.
The effects of climate change
need to be considered across a range of local and national programmes, such as emergency
preparedness, watershed management, business strategies, community health and
social services. There are several important issues for policymakers to consider:
Hundreds of
billions of dollars will be required to prepare for and deal with the effects of
climate change; in many developing countries, financing adaptation programmes
is a critical concern.
Adaptation to
climate change needs to influence policy decisions, budgets and the design of
long-term infrastructure projects.
Other development
issues, such as HIV/AIDS and changing trade patterns, make adaptation more
Climate change may
bring new opportunities, such as the ability to grow crops in new locations.
Integrating adaptation
issues into the work of development agencies and private sector firms would increase
the ability of developing countries to prepare for climate change.
The international research and development community
is only beginning to understand how to adapt to climate change. An increase in
awareness and understanding of adaptation is needed, as well as greater use of existing
knowledge and tools. It is also necessary to increase the ability of developing
countries to respond to climate change, for example through the transfer of appropriate
The research suggests a number of actions to support adaptation
by developing countries:
Involve non-climate
experts to help integrate adaptation responses into development policies at
local, national and international levels.
Greater transfer
of existing technologies for adaptation and the development of new tools, such
as processes for determining the exposure of projects to new climate risks.
Provide long-term,
reliable and regular financial support for adaptation programmes. The private
sector should also consider the potential effects of climate change when making
long-term investments.
Other existing
finance schemes, such as insurance against losses caused by climate change,
will be an important factor in reducing the cost of adaptation.
agencies should increase their own awareness of adaptation issues and the
concerns of developing countries.