Vulnerability and Adaptation to Climate Change in Europe

From the Executive Summary:

Significant changes in climate and their impacts are already visible globally, and are expected to become more pronounced. In Europe, mountain regions, coastal zones, wetlands and the Mediterranean region are particularly vulnerable. Although there are some positive effects, many impacts are adverse. Existing adaptive measures are concentrated in flood defence, so there is considerable scope for adaptation planning and implementation in other areas, such as public health, water resources and management of ecosystems.

There are a number of challenges which should be addressed to make progress on climate change adaptation. These include:

  • improving climate models and scenarios at detailed regional level, especially for extreme weather events, to reduce the high level of uncertainty;
  • advancing understanding on 'good practice' in adaptation measures through exchange and information sharing on feasibility, costs and benefits;
  • involving the public and private sector, and the general public at both local and national level;
  • enhancing coordination and collaboration both within and between countries to ensure the coherence of adaptation measures with other policy objectives, and the allocation of appropriate resources.

Adaptation of Forest Ecosystems and the Forest Sector to Climate Change

This document has been prepared jointly by FAO and Intercooperation. It is intended to assist policymakers and other professionals involved in the planning, project formulation or implementation of adaptation measures for climate change in forest ecosystems. It is of particular interest to the people who deal with national communications to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

This document summarizes information that facilitates the definition and formulation of policies and projects aimed at decreasing vulnerability to climate change, with special emphasis on forest ecosystems and the social groups that depend on them. It emphasizes that adaptation to climate change must be part of a country’s development process, and that every adaptation action should be framed within the national development policies.

Coping with Global Climate Change: The Role of Adaptation in the United States

From the Executive Summary:

Climate change resulting from increased greenhouse gas concentrations has the potential to harm societies and ecosystems. In particular, agriculture, forestry, water resources, human health, coastal settlements, and natural ecosystems will need to adapt to a changing climate or face diminished functions. Reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases and their concentration in the atmosphere will tend to reduce the degree and likelihood that significantly adverse conditions will result. Consideration of actions—e.g., mitigation policy—that can reduce this likelihood is reasonable and prudent, and has generally been the primary focus of public attention and policy efforts on climate change. However, recognition is increasing that the combination of continued increases in emissions and the inertia of the climate system means that some degree of climate change is inevitable. Even if extreme measures could be instantly taken to curtail global emissions, the momentum of the earth’s climate is such that warming cannot be completely avoided. Although essential for limiting the extent, and indeed the probability, of rapid and severe climate change, mitigation is not, and this paper argues, should not be, the only protective action in society’s arsenal of responses.

Adaptation actions and strategies present a complementary approach to mitigation. While mitigation can be viewed as reducing the likelihood of adverse conditions, adaptation can be viewed as reducing the severity of many impacts if adverse conditions prevail. That is, adaptation reduces the level of damages that might have otherwise occurred. However, adaptation is a risk-management strategy that is not free of cost nor foolproof, and the worthiness of any specific actions must therefore carefully weigh the expected value of the avoided damages against the real costs of implementing the adaptation strategy.

Arctic Climate Impact Assessment

This assessment was prepared over the past five years by an international team of over 300 scientists, other experts, and knowledgeable members of the indigenous communities. The lead authors were selected from open nominations provided by AMAP, CAFF, IASC, the Indigenous Peoples Secretariat, the Assessment Steering Committee, and several national and international scientific organizations. A similar nomination process was used by ACIA to select international experts who independently reviewed this report.The report has been thoroughly researched, is fully referenced, and provides the first comprehensive evaluation of arctic climate change, changes in ultraviolet radiation, and their impacts for the region and for the world.

Buying Time: A User’s Manual to Building Resistance and Resilience to Climate Change in Natural Systems

As we stand at the beginning of the new millennium, the threats to nature and protected areas are unprecedented. While some progress has been made and strategies such as protected areas have been successful in preserving biodiversity in some places, new threats are arising. None of these threats is as great as global climate change and none will have such large implications for the way natural resource managers plan and implement conservation strategies.While global climate change is seemingly difficult to understand and plan for, planning is essential, as the conservation approaches of the past may not work in an ever-changing warmer world. New strategies, led by deep cuts in the heat-trapping gases that causes climate change, predominately carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels, may at least buy some time for ecosystems to adapt in the years and decades ahead. However, if CO2 emissions are not reduced quickly and deeply, some of those treasured ecosystems will not survive.Climate change is happening now and nature is experiencing its impacts first. Whether one looks at coral reefs, mangroves, arctic areas or montane regions, climate change poses a complex and bewildering array of problems for ecosystems. The key question is, what can be done—in addition to the rapid reduction of CO2 emissions now—to increase the resiliency of these ecosystems to climate change?WWF compiled “Buying Time: A User’s Manual for Building Resistance and Resilience to Climate Change in Natural Systems” for natural resource managers who are ready to confront the impacts of climate change. While far from comprehensive, this manual brings together assessments and potential initial adaptation strategies for various biomes.Written by experts, the manual addresses all of the major biomes with practical ideas of how to begin increasing the resiliency of ecosystems and plan our protected areas in response to the threat of climate change. Some of these strategies are in line with the conservation strategies we have been working on for years—reducing fragmentation, building corridors, reducing threats, and increasing resiliency in general. Natural resource managers in the field must begin planning to buy time for these biomes while the world works to switch from coal to clean power, a key strategy to reduce the causes of climate change.Looking at the models and gathering empirical evidence, WWF is recommending that natural resource managers start now to build climate change adaptation strategies into their preservation philosophies and plans. This manual is a first step to assist managers in doing so.While testing and implementing these new conservation strategies, managers should also communicate the threat that climate change poses to their biome to local, regional and national authorities. Resource managers have an important role to play in the climate change debate by using examples of changes seen in their regions as indicators of the need for rapid and deep cuts in CO2 emissions.

Climate Change and Water Quality in the Great Lakes Region: Risks, Opportunities, and Responses

From the Introduction:

Climate provides fundamental limits on and opportunities for human activities and ecosystem functioning within the Great Lakes region. A changing climate could lead to alterations in the frequency and severity of droughts and floods; water supply; air, soil, and water quality; ecosystem health; human health; and resource use and the economy. Climate change may act through multiple pathways; interactions in and impacts on the Great Lakes ecosystem can be dynamic and non-linear. Within the Great Lakes watershed, there are already numerous stressors that cause ecosystem change including land use change, pollution, eutrophication, invasion of exotic species, and acid precipitation. A changing climate should be considered as another agent of change acting in concert with other ecosystem stresses.

Recognizing that this emerging issue required a survey of the potential impacts and the ability to adapt, the Great Lakes Water Quality Board commissioned a white paper to explore the implications of a changing climate on the Great Lakes watershed (Figure 1-1). The white paperaddresses four broad questions:

  • What are the Great Lakes water quality issues associated with climate change?
  • What are the potential impacts of climate change on the “beneficial uses” in the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement?
  • How might these impacts vary across the Great Lakes?
  • What are the implications for decision-making?