Adaptation Strategies

The issue of climate change is becoming more urgent. Every day humanity is getting closer to pushing the planet to its boundaries and causing irreversible damage to the Earth system. To mitigate against the effects of climate change and prevent this eventuality, climate adaptation strategies are required so that we get off this trajectory of destructive climate change. 

Adaptation Strategies Adaptation Strategies

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Table of contents

    Climate Change Adaptation Strategies

    Climate change adaptation strategies are necessary to cope with the increasing risks coming from climate change. One of those negative changes is caused by the primary greenhouse gas, namely Carbon dioxide.

    But what are these strategies, and how can they help?

    How Do You Define Adaptive Strategies In Geography?

    Adaptive strategies in climate change are not aimed at reducing or stopping climate change but at responding to climate change and limiting its negative effects. In other words: strategies to adapt to a situation. This is the opposite of mitigation strategies, which do aim to reduce or prevent climate change from happening. Mitigation strategies include alternative/renewable energy, carbon capture, planting trees, and international agreements.

    Climate change adaptation can occur on a local, regional, national and global scale.

    As people become more aware of climate change and the associated dangers, there has been an increased emphasis on proactively taking action and formulating climate adaptation strategies. The ultimate goal is to create protection for ecosystems and their populations. This should lead to climate resilience.

    According to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), climate resilience is: "The ability to anticipate, prepare for, and respond to hazardous events, trends, or disturbances related to climate. Improving climate resilience involves assessing how climate change will create new, or alter current, climate-related risks, and taking steps to better cope with these risks."1

    Adaptation Strategies Australian drought and wildfires in 2020 StudySmarterFig. 1 - Bushfire in Australia in 2020. Droughts are the cause of more frequent and more severe (bush)fires.

    Types Of Adaptation Strategies

    Climate change adaptation strategies address many different areas of society and can differ dramatically in terms of approach and effectiveness. Let’s break down a few of them.

    Landscape design

    A few adaptation strategies relating to landscape design, both urban and rural, have and can be implemented to help people adapt to the threats of climate change.

    Preservation of green spaces (e.g. parks and forests)

    Several studies have concluded that preserving green spaces can help adapt to climate change by using the natural/existing environment to act as a carbon sink. This is both a mitigation and adaptation strategy because, as well as aiming to reduce the implications of climate change, it is adapting current circumstances to cope with the struggles of climate change. Where ordinarily, the green spaces may be deforested, protective laws can adapt this circumstance to prevent this from occurring.

    Improved building designs (e.g. stilts)

    One of the significant threats people face due to climate change is sea-level rise. One way to adapt to this threat is to construct buildings in vulnerable areas on stilts/raised platforms (figure 2). This means that as sea levels continue to rise, the buildings will not be flooded, and the populations will be protected. This has resulted in entire towns being constructed at an elevated level, reducing the short-term risk of submergence.

    Such climate change adaptation strategies are useful because they target key contributors to climate change and adapt core infrastructure so that anthropogenic activity is not drastically disrupted.

    Adaptation Strategies Houses constructed on stilts in the city of Yawnghwe, Myanmar StudySmarterFig. 2 - Houses on stilts in Inle Lake in Yawnghwe, Burma (Myanmar).

    Improvements to agriculture

    The agriculture industry is one of the worst culprits contributing to the climate crisis. However, it is also vulnerable to the threats of climate change. For example, flooding and drought events are likely to increase in frequency alongside climate change, and shifting ecosystems can cause damage to crops as well as the spread of diseases. These events can be harmful to crops and increase the risk of food insecurity. As agriculture is relied upon worldwide, it is not just something that can be discontinued. Instead, it needs to be adapted so that it may meet population demand without compromising the demands of future generations. Some examples of adaptation include:

    StrategyEffect

    Diversifying the crops planted

    This shares out the risk of crop failure and increases the chances of successfully producing food.

    Genetic modification

    Albeit controversial, modifying plant genes can make them resistant to harmful conditions, e.g. increasing temperatures. This can allow plants to survive that would ordinarily fail due to climate change.

    Increasing efficiency

    Using new technologies to improve farming efficiency reduces the consumption of water. This allows agriculture to adapt to the threat of water insecurity resulting from climate change.

    Adaptation Strategies Agricultural adaptation example StudySmarterFig. 3 - Pearl millet seed production plots in India. Normally, pearl millet is a cross-pollinating crop, but the panicles are covered in parchment paper bags to ensure self-pollination. This is an example of agricultural adaptation.

    In Scotland, owners of farms and agricultural businesses have been encouraged to introduce climate change adaptation strategies to protect the industry from harm. Some suggestions include:

    • Buildings fences and walls to protect from increased rainfall.
    • Introducing SUDS (sustainable urban drainage systems) where appropriate to combat increased rainfall and reduce the risk of land being submerged.
    • Store and manage water supplies.

    Water management

    One of the impacts of climate change is water insecurity. This can be caused by many factors, including increased evapotranspiration, the contamination of existing freshwater sources via rising sea levels and the increased frequency and intensity of drought events. This lower supply of water, combined with growing demand from an increasing population, can result in damaging and prolonged water shortages. Therefore, the population needs to adapt to having less water available to sustain them. This can be achieved in several ways:

    • Implementing legislation to ensure the 'fair' distribution of water: This is particularly important where many countries share a water source which is common in many water-scarce regions of the world, such as the MENA (the Middle East and Northern Africa) region.
    • Introducing water-efficient agricultural practices.
    • Finding alternative water stores (e.g. desalinated seawater, rainwater, and treated sewage water): This takes the pressure off the traditional water stores and prevents overexploitation.
    • The creation of pipelines allows for the transportation of water to more water-scarce areas.
    • Increasing water conservation in periods of water surplus (e.g. during rainy seasons) will allow some reserves to be collected for times when water is scarce.

    In the MENA region, there is an organisation called the 'Arab Integrated Water Resources Management Network' (AWARENET), which works to determine water quotas throughout the region and reduce over-exploitation and unfair distribution of water supplies.

    Remember: not all adaptation strategies are equally effective!

    Importance Of Climate Change Adaption

    The climate change adaptation strategy is incredibly important because the issue of climate change is becoming increasingly prominent and urgent. There is a certain point beyond which climate change will leave the planet unsafe for human habitation and therefore doom us to extinction. Other effects of reaching such a point might include a mass extinction causing substantial biodiversity decline, habitat destruction, and extreme sea-level rise. Essentially, not adapting to stop us from reaching this point is critical to the long-term survival of humanity and the other species found on Earth. It is important to place such a strong emphasis on adaptation because it is important that the demands of the population are met and that countries have the opportunity to develop. Not compromising on the quality of life in society is crucial, so adaptation must occur to ensure that needs are met without contributing to climate change.

    Increased awareness of climate change results in more proactivity

    What will the future look like?

    It is clear that adaptation and mitigation strategies are extremely important to climate change. While either of these strategies by itself is important, combining both will give the best results.

    Mitigation

    As mentioned earlier, mitigation is the act of reducing or even entirely eliminating the effects of something happening. When we use mitigation strategies, damages could be minimised:

    • Choosing renewable energy over fossil fuel and improving energy efficiency.
    • Improve and promote public transport and sustainable mobility.
    • Improve and implement the 3Rs rule, namely reduce, reuse, recycle. Furthermore, promote food sustainability and responsible consumption.
    • Tax those who use fossil fuels and CO2 emissions markets in order to reduce our carbon footprint.

    Adaptation

    When we combine mitigation strategies with adaptation strategies, meaning learning to adapt rather than prevent issues, we can make the biggest impact on climate change:

    • Replanting forests and restoring damaged ecosystems.
    • In the future, build buildings and infrastructure that are safer and more sustainable.
    • Diversify crops so that they can adapt to climate change and its effects on the soil and weather conditions.
    • Prevent and manage natural disasters by investigating and developing ingenious solutions.
    • Develop action plans for climate emergencies. This can ensure a quicker response when one happens with, hopefully, a lesser impact.

    The future

    According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), we could indeed achieve some positive changes, but we would have to successfully implement both mitigating and adapting strategies by the next decade.

    What can we change?What is the outcome?
    MobilityWhen journeys are undertaken either by public transport or (shared) electric cars we could minimise the number of traffic and traffic jams. This will not only benefit the climate but also improve quality of life.
    Architecture and town planningWith proper town planning, parking zones in streets can be reduced in favour of more urban allotments and parks. In the meantime, buildings and houses will be using renewable energy.
    FoodIt would be beneficial to decrease our intake of meat, dairy and fish and increase our intake of fruit and vegetables.
    AgricultureDecreasing the intake of meat and dairy means that livestock farming can be reduced as well. This will have a positive effect on reforestation, and the land becoming newly available can be used to cultivate other foods.
    ConsumptionSingle-use plastic will have to disappear, and other packaging will have to be easier to sort and recycle. Furthermore, sharing goods and services, purchasing less and reusing and recycling more will have a positive impact.

    Adaptation Strategies - Key Takeaways

    • The climate change adaptation strategy looks to transform components of life so that the impacts of climate change can be reduced and/or prevented.

    • There are many different climate change adaptation strategies that differ in terms of what they address, which scale they operate on, and how effective they are.

    • Some examples of climate change adaptation are: changing landscape design, improving agriculture and managing water effectively.

    • An effective climate change adaptation strategy must be introduced so that climate change doesn’t worsen to a point where the effects are irreversible.

    • An effective climate change adaptation strategy must also ensure that the present population's quality of life and needs aren't compromised.


    References

    1. Climate Resilience Portal. Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES).
    2. Fig. 1: Bushfire in Australia in 2020. Droughts are the cause of more frequent and more severe (bush)fires (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Orroral_Valley_Fire_viewed_from_Tuggeranong_January_2020.jpg) by Nick-D (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Nick-D) Licensed by CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en)
    3. Fig. 2: Houses on stilts in Inle Lake in Yawnghwe, Burma (Myanmar) (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Inle-Yawnghwe.jpg) by 3coma14 (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:3coma14) Licensed by CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en)
    4. Fig. 3: Pearl millet seed production plots in India. Normally, pearl millet is a cross-pollinating crop, but the panicles are covered in parchment paper bags to ensure self-pollination. This is an example of agricultural adaptation (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:2013.02-402-294a_Pearl_millet,breeding,selfing_ICRISAT,Patancheru(Hyderabad,Andhra_Pradesh),IN_wed20feb2013.jpg) by Rik Schuiling/TropCrop-TCS (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:RikSchuiling) Licensed by CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en)
    Frequently Asked Questions about Adaptation Strategies

    What is an adaptation strategy in geography?

    Adaptive strategies in climate change are strategies that are not aimed at reducing or stopping climate change, but at responding to climate change and limiting its negative effects. In other words: strategies in order to adapt to a situation. 

    What are mitigation strategies for climate change?

    Mitigation strategies are strategies aimed at reducing or preventing climate change from happening. It includes:

    • Alternative energy
    • Carbon capture
    • Planting trees
    • International agreements

    Why is climate change adaptation strategy important?

    As climate change continues on its current trajectory, so does the likelihood of doing irreversible damage to the planet. Climate change adaptation strategy is necessary to prevent this from happening, and to lessen the negative impacts suffered around the world. 

    What are examples of adaptation practices?

    Some examples of adaptation practices include:

    • Changing agricultural systems
    • Managing water supplies
    • Reducing risk from rising sea levels (e.g. through the construction of higher land / infrastructure)

    What are (some) environmental selection and adaptation strategies?

    Genetic modification enables plants / species to survive that would be at risk of environmental (natural) selection eliminating them in ordinary circumstances.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    Why are climate adaptation strategies important?

    True or false: agricultural systems contribute to climate change AND are at threat because of it.

    True or false: water security is a consequence of climate change.

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