Climate Change Adaptation: How it Works in Practice

Soaring temperatures and heatwaves in India this summer caused the death of thousands of vulnerable people across the sub-continent. New temperature records are broken every year in India and recent droughts have hit farmers hard in many states.

Droughts are not new to India, but the severity of recent episodes has been linked to climate change. As a rash of suicides by farmers afflicted by crop failures has became global news the need for India to adapt to a changing climate has become stark.

With climate change fast becoming a reality across the world efforts to adapt to it are becoming ever more important. Ensuring infrastructure is climate resilient and can withstand greater extremes in temperature and rising sea levels is an issue which needs to be addressed now.

South Asia

In South Asia environmental challenges are increasingly acute, pollution, overuse of fresh water and resource depletion are already making a major impact across the region. Climate change will only make these problems worse. Increasingly irregular rainfall, rising tempatures plus dwindling supplies of fresh water and droughts will make life harder for a region containing nearly a quarter of the world’s population.

Building Resilience in South Asia

Four South Asian countries – Pakistan, India, Nepal and Afghanistan have agreed on a new framework to deliver climate change adaptation and resilience. The framework aims to make climate change a feature of adaptation that allows governments to integrate climate change adaptation into governance systems, policies and plans. How does this work in practice….

Pakistan’s water problem

The government of Pakistan asked Action on Climate to forecast the gap between demand and supply of water in the country taking into account population change and the likely resulting increase in water demand.

Heatwaves in Pakistan will increase in length and intensity which will result in greater water loss as water for irrigation evaporates, combined with higher demand for water will create widespread shortages. As well as shortages and droughts – more erratic rainfall will result in a greater number of floods. The impact of a floods can be reduced by planting forests in upstream areas that supply water to rivers and investing in other prevention measures.

Agriculture and Climate Change

Water is of course one of the keys to a successful agricultural sector. For the agricultural sector across South Asia and much of the world, climate change adaptation will mean identifying the risks from climate change, creating climate proof agricultural strategies, such as planning for less frequent rain and expanding storage facilities, diversification into crops which require less water or that thrive in a warming and changing climate.

In terms of finance, reserve funds for famine and poor harvests could be established, and money directed towards farmers looking adapt. It could also mean financial innovation for farmers to reduce risk in terms of insurance, risk-sharing or implementing crop guarantees.

For a country like Afghanistan which is dependent on agriculture increasing food insecurity will compound the nation’s problems. These changes will push rural dwellers into cities and potentially lead to food shortages and even famine across the country. However if action through climate change adaptation is enacted then the most severe impacts posed by a changing climate can be mitigated.

Hydro Power in India

Hydro power in India is another area which will be hit hard by climate change. In normal times hydropower provides predictable power supplies. In many areas climate change may result in reduced water flow and therefore less power, but the monsoon season may see even more extreme rainfall and surges of water which means dams have to be redesigned to withstand more powerful floods than before.

Who is Backing Adaptation Measures?

Governments and private businesses both have major roles to play in mainstreaming climate change adaptation. Below I briefly describe a number of organisations and ventures which will assist and advise governments and private firms in assessing the risk posed by climate change and how best to adapt to a changing world.

Set up 10 years ago Acclimatise is a company focused on climate change adaptation and provides guidance and analytics on adapatation and resilience for its clients. The Collider is a venture which aims to help build firms which use weather and climate data to help prepare the world adapt and become more resilient to climate change. The Global Center on Adaptation is an institution which brings government, civil society, universities and businesses together in the search of new answers and solutions to the society wide issues that adaptation poses.

Climate change adaptation lacks the eye catching projects carried out by solar and wind companies. But an indication of the importance of climate change adaptation was demonstrated when it was clear that the sector would receive approximately half the recent US$ 200 billion financial package to tackle climate change announced by the World Bank. Good news but much more is and will be needed to adapt the world to a fast changing climate.

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