Understanding adaptation science

Reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is essential in order to mitigate climate change. However, the results of these efforts will not be observed for years. In fact, human activities have been releasing GHGs into the atmosphere for over fifty years. Global warming is therefore already underway and some of the impacts of climate change can no longer be averted. Economic, social and environmental repercussions are already being observed and will grow more severe in the future. 

Combined with GHG reduction efforts, adaptation is therefore proving essential while at the same time presenting an opportunity to live better in the new climate reality taking shape. The message in the most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is clear:  The urgency and complexity of the climate crisis call for adaptation actions of unprecedented depth and magnitude.

Definition | Reduction and Adaptation

Reduction : Human intervention aiming to reduce GHG sources and emissions, as well as to enhance the effectiveness of carbon sinks.

Adaptation : Any initiative or measure taken to reduce the vulnerability and bolster the resilience of natural and human systems to real or anticipated impacts of climate change.

Several studies also note that by investing in adaptation now, even higher costs will be avoided in the future, given that the potential advantages of adaptation efforts outweigh their costs over the long term.

However, neither adaptation nor mitigation alone can prevent the significant impacts of climate change. Therefore, it is essential to pursue a balanced strategy between (i) lowering GHG emissions in order to limit the magnitude of impacts and (ii) adapting to better live in the new climate reality that is taking shape. Such a strategy will help reduce the potential consequences of climate change.
Climate change adaptation is often undertaken in a reactive manner following a devastating climate-related event. However, it is generally less costly and more effective over the long term when it is well planned and coordinated. Additionally, adaptation can generate other advantages such as enhanced biodiversity, economic growth, improved quality of life and mitigation of climate change.

When risk is taken into account in the adaptation process, a location’s ability to adapt is enhanced through the implementation of an array of measures that help reinforce its resilience to climate change. 

Climate risk is a product of the interaction between the hazards generated by physical changes to the climate, the exposure of humans and property to these hazards, and the vulnerability of the exposed elements. 

button back to top