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Climate Adaptation Faces Growing Threats

Adaptation planning must anticipate additional impacts caused by interacting changes outlined in IPCC WG2

“Humankind’s long history of coping with climate tells us that the limits of adaptation are real, and cannot be reduced to economic trade-offs with investment or even with mitigation" say Kirstin Dow and Tom Downing, authors of The Atlas of Climate Change. “The challenges of adapting to new conditions are substantial and require much more effort. We still need focused guidance on where urgent adaptation is required now, where adaptation is likely to fail over the longer time frame and how to cope with the potential for crises."

Says Downing – also a lead author on linkages between adaptation and mitigation of the Working Group II of the IPCC Report released this week – “Climate change changes everything, from environmental services to economic infrastructure and even our culture.”

The IPCC WG2 has pulled together an amazing number of documented case studies where climate change is already causing effects, on the physiology of species, in changes in distributions and functions of ecosystems and to a lesser extent in managed resources.

But, warn Dow and Downing, “Climate change impacts accumulate through its many affects, accelerating multiple stresses that will concern all societies and economies, from the wealthy fabric of post- industrialized countries to those with severely limited resources focused on poverty and vulnerability reduction.”

For example, the rural economy in temperate countries may decline as water becomes scarce, heat waves stifle outdoor activities, and attractive environmental areas are degraded. In Africa, drought may reach a crisis against long term loss of reliable water supplies, accelerated soil erosion and deforestation, leaving some populations with little recourse other than leaving their homes.

Say Dow and Downing, “As you look at the IPCC Report, look at all of the elements that are changing because of climate change and think about how people, places, and economies are linked together in today’s world. On its own, each impact may not appear too bad, at least for the next few years. But are our societies ready to cope with all of the changes occurring and interacting at once? And, add up over the next few decades?

Says Downing “The Atlas of Climate Change brings the central story of climate change, reflecting the robust findings of the IPCC, to a wider audience. It is a resource for policy makers, scientists and the public, to raise awareness of the full story of climate change, from the scientific evidence, understanding of consequences to the nature of causes and responses. Issues of multiple stresses, vulnerability, and adaptation are a central theme running through the discussions of potential consequences and responses.”

Foreign language editions have been sold in Brazil, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea and Portugal with Greek and Spanish rights under offer.

Reviews and awards for The Atlas of Climate Change:

Gudrun Freese | alfa
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