Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome!
There’s a lot of hype about adaptation these days, but just what is it? A hot new funding source? A requirement to change everything about your work? Just another buzzword to apply to what you already do? Faced with all this, you’d be forgiven for wanting to throw your hands in the air and give up. But we’re here to tell you that there’s no reason to panic.
If you live in an earthquake zone, you want houses that meet minimum earthquake safety standards, municipal plans that incorporate the reality of earthquake risks, established earthquake response plans, and other measures to minimize the vulnerability of your community to earthquakes. Same if you live in a hurricane zone, or a flood zone: you want to minimize the vulnerability of the people, places, and systems you care about to known risks.
The fact is, we all live in a climate change “hazard” zone now. Adaptation is how we minimize vulnerability to climate change. And while meeting the challenges of climate change on a global scale may be a big task, meeting the challenges of climate change at the scale of your own work is something you can do. Do you regulate pollutants? Run a fishing business? Make land-use or land acquisition decisions? Great—you can build climate change into the decisions you make, just as you build other risks and realities into them already.
Climate Change Basics
Some people who are learning about adaptation are also starting to learn about climate change. While the nature of climate change (and of the natural world in general) means that we are perpetually learning new things, there are some great resources on the basics of climate change science that can get you started:
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Climate Change
- U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Climate Services, including NOAA’s Climate Explorer and NOAA's Ocean & Climate Literacy
- Government of Mexico Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT)
- National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Global Climate Change
- The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, including Assessment Reports and targeted Technical Reports and Special Reports
You can find several excellent overviews of climate change adaptation approaches in the CAKE library. Here we give you our own highly abbreviated quick-start guide.
STEP ONE: Admit you have a problem.
Yes, Houston, there is a problem. Climate change is happening and it is affecting the world around us. For those of us who live and work on Earth, it means that resources we rely on or are charged with managing or protecting are not going to behave as we’ve come to expect them to.
Climate change requires us to broaden our perspective to recognize what’s changing and to consider how to respond and prepare in order to achieve our desired outcomes—for conservation, resource management, or development. Ignoring climate change in informed decision-making does not prevent it from adversely affecting you. Rather, it increases your vulnerability and will likely result in missed opportunities to avoid calamity and improve outcomes.
CAKE focuses on all things adaptation-related. Which raises the question, what is adaptation? Climate change adaptation is how we prepare for and respond to the changes that we are already experiencing, or expect to experience. Adaptation can take many forms and is often overlooked by its big sister, climate change mitigation, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions or other actions to reduce the potential of climate change itself. Both adaptation and mitigation are critical components of the fight against climate change and we encourage you to pursue adaptive action that also serves to mitigate (reduce) the amount of additional greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere.
STEP TWO: Engage and learn.
You are not alone, and you do not have to reinvent the wheel. Check out what resources and community opportunities are already out there:
- Case Studies: Find out what other people are already doing on the ground in systems similar to yours or in response to climate change challenges similar to yours. You can almost certainly learn something from the efforts of others, saving yourself some time in the process.
- Documents: There are heaps of reports, books, articles, videos, presentations, and more about climate change adaptation. We’ve amassed a lot of them right here so you can find what you need quickly.
- Tools: The tools on CAKE help users to visualize and process climate data, identify and assess vulnerabilities to climate changes, integrate climate change into planning, and take adaptation action.
- Events: Find upcoming virtual and in-person events, conferences, and trainings on our calendar from a plethora of climate-engaged organizations, agencies, and institutions.
- Opportunities: Search through current job postings, locate funding and fellowship opportunities, and learn about other ways to engage with the climate adaptation community.
- Organizations: Sometimes you just want to talk with someone. You may want to find someone in a position like yours who faces similar challenges or you may just want to hire someone to help you. Either way, you can track down an organization in the directory.
STEP THREE: Do something about it.
Incorporating climate change into your work does not mean that you have to become a climate change specialist or solve every problem. Focus on your goals and what it is you (or your organization) does, and build climate change into that. It’s not rocket science, but it does require that you learn enough (or get the right partners) to do it wisely and thoughtfully. It’s a good idea to:
- Question your assumptions. Do a quick assessment of why and how you arrived at your current goals, objectives, and approaches to doing things. Does climate change affect your thinking?
- Convene partners. You don’t want to do this alone. Consider, do all relevant parties have a seat at the table?
- Develop a process. Successful adaptation strategies are as much about getting all the relevant parties on board as it is about coming up with good ideas and making the right decisions--but you need to do both together. Your process should build local capacity to address the many challenges you will face around climate change and the climate savvy decisions you will need to make going forward.
- Develop a plan. We must certainly take action to reduce our vulnerability to climate change, but doing so without some thoughtful planning is unlikely to lead to the best results. And if you don’t have a plan, it’s harder to improve it as you go along. In truth, addressing climate change will take more than one plan, but since you developed a process, you should be able to repeat it and develop a new plan to meet emerging challenges.
- Implement it! The best plan in the world won’t amount to much if you don’t put it into action. You won’t get everything right, but you’ll get more right by acting and adjusting than by sitting around wondering about it.
STEP FOUR: Learn while you act.
You’re not done yet! Adaptation is iterative. The climate will keep changing for decades, centuries, even millennia, and our understanding of how best to incorporate it into our work at all levels will also evolve and mature over time. Things that work in today’s climate may not work in the future, and what seems like a best practice based on existing knowledge may need to be adjusted as we learn more about what works and what doesn’t to achieve our goals. Monitoring climate change, its effects, and the efficacy of our actions, and using an adaptive framework to modify actions as necessary, is essential.
We will keep revisiting Step Three (Do something about it) as we keep learning, talking, and innovating. This is similar to the instructions on a shampoo bottle: lather, rinse, repeat with modification forever!
STEP FIVE: Share what you have learned.
Talk to your colleagues about what you do and why it’s important. Tell people what worked, what didn’t work, what resources were valuable, and how you made it through your most despairing moments. Creating and participating in communities of practice provides support and ideas that can enrich our work.
Reinvest in CAKE!
- Join the CAKE community! You'll also receive our monthly newsletter, "Slice of CAKE."
- Submit a case study, document, or tool for review to share your adaptation resources.
- Use the community section to add opportunities like events, jobs, and funding.
- Donate to CAKE to help us continue to grow the climate adaptation community!