Adapting to the climate crisis (restored saltmarshes along the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia).

Adapting to the Climate Crisis

Magda Nawrocka-Weekes

by Magda Nawrocka-Weekes


A recent report by the Global Commission on Adaptation calls for revolutions in understanding, planning and finance to accelerate adaptation for crucial systems within our world to help combat the climate crisis.

In New York, the climate action summit begins next week (Monday 23rd September), and the global climate strike commences today (20th September). The world is in a desperate struggle to limit the effects of climate change. At the forefront of our minds are the harrowing scenes of the Amazon set ablaze, the melting of the Alaskan glaciers at 100 times the speed as previously thought, and the carnage left behind by Hurricane Dorian. At times it can all seem like too much, but now more than ever we need concerted community-wide action, to help us combat this problem head on.

Adapting to the climate crisis (restored saltmarshes along the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia).

Adapting to the Climate Crisis: nature-based solutions will be key to a climate resilliant future.

How can we adapt?

The Global Commission for adaptation has recently released a report on the actions that can be taken to begin to adapt to the growing threat of climate change. Their strategies can be broken down into three fundamental principles: reduction, preparation and restoration. Reduction of the effects of climate change begins with preventing the causes of its disruption. It can mean anything from deploying nature-based solutions such as planting trees or coral restoration, to further agricultural research and land use planning. Preparation includes the immediate response to climate-based problems, including temporary evacuation plans, updated early warning systems and increased training for first responders. Restoration goes hand in hand with recovery, such as introducing social safety nets for those affected, changing insurance operations and rebuilding in a way that is better than before. To achieve this adaptation the report notes that we will need to revolutionize our understanding of who and what is at risk from climate change, as well as the power structures in place that are limiting our action.

A radical change in how we plan must also be achieved to include climate risk in policy and investment decisions, and to begin to implement solutions. Additionally, a revolution in finance will be essential to mobilize the resources necessary for scaling up cost-effective solutions. Each of these is starting to be seen, with the rise of crowdfunded environmental projects, large scale demonstrations raising awareness for our predicament and many governments and NGOs looking for climate-resilient solutions. The report highlighted five crucial areas where we need to begin accelerating our adaptation. Each area was analyzed for how much money it would save or make in terms of Economic benefits, Avoided Losses and Social and Environmental Benefits. Considering an investment of $1.8 trillion over the next 10 years, the overall benefits outweigh the costs, as seen below.

An investment of $1.8 trillion into Strengthened early warning systems, new resilient infrastructure, improved dryland agriculture, protecting mangroves and resilient water resource management would net benefits of roughly $7.1 billion.

The benefit to cost ratio for five key adaptation areas was analyzed in the latest report by the Global Commission for Adaptation. Source: Adapt Now: A Global Call For Leadership On Climate Resilience, Global Commission for Adaptation.

What do we need to focus on?

  • By strengthening early warning systems, we can begin to mitigate the effects of disasters, limiting the number of deaths up to a thousand-fold. Coupled with efforts to reduce the causes of these disasters in the first place, such as installing protective barriers again sea storms, and comprehensive planning for evacuations and recovery efforts, hazards can effectively be prevented from becoming disasters.
  • New infrastructure should be mandated that will increase communities' resilience to climate change. This can be anything from painting cities' roofs white to reflect heat , to improving urban planning to allow for more green spaces, to facilitating funding for climate-resilient infrastructure.
  • Dry Land agriculture is also a key area for adaptation, as the way land is used in Agriculture is now responsible for 25% of global CO2 emissions. The number of undernourished or food-insecure people nearly quadrupled between 2014 and 2017, meaning the effects of climate change are more prescient than ever. Here the report advises supporting small scale farmers, including the most vulnerable, such as women, by providing them with resistant crops, adaptive technologies and up-to-date training. On a larger scale, policies should be introduced and initiatives financed that ensure agriculture is resource-efficient and climate-smart. On a personal level reducing meat and dairy consumption can save up to 30ft2 of forest and 20lb of CO2 per day , decreasing demand for its intensive farming practices.
  • Protecting, sustaining and revitalizing mangrove habitats is one aim that is directly highlighted. This is vital as it harnesses the power of nature to prevent coastal erosion and water loss, as well as being a natural protection from storms. Other nature-based solutions were suggested, as seen below, but only mangrove protection was assessed in relation to investment.
  • Water resources management is the final area identified to be a prime investment for climate resilience. Climate change is already increasing the risk of droughts, floods and water scarcity. Here the solution again lies with nature. Solutions were suggested such as installing green rooftops which reduce the effects of storm run-off, planning and building with flooding in mind and efficient and adaptive water resource management policies.
  • Using Nature-Based solutions to build climate resilience.

    TUsing Nature-Based solutions to build climate resilience. Source: Adapt Now: A Global Call For Leadership On Climate Resilience, Global Commission for Adaptation.

    What's next?

    The report identified the next 15 months, until December 2020, as a time for immediate action. It has set out several Action Tracks which will be vital in jumpstarting the transition to a more adaptive and climate-resilient way of life. They range from financing resilience projects to supporting local-lead initiatives to utilizing further nature-based solutions. To succeed in adapting to our changing world, collaboration from all walks of life — governments, the private sector, civil society, and citizens — will be essential, along with education and a little bit of hope.

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