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Why adapt to climate change?

You may ask why you should consider adapting to climate change, given other challenges. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warming of the climate system is unequivocal with human influence as the dominant cause since the mid-20th century. This relates to warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, changes in the global water cycle, reductions in snow and ice, in global mean sea level rise, and to changes in some climate extremes. We are already seeing the effects of global warming, and will continue to do so for many years to come. Adaptation is therefore crucial to deal with the unavoidable impacts of climate change to which we are already committed. It will also help us take advantage of any opportunities that arise.

Practical reasons to adapt to climate change include:

  • Decision-making on the basis of historic climate is no longer robust. With climate change, average conditions and return periods for  are changing. If policy goals are based on historic data, they may consequently fail.
  • Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased.
  • Warming of 2ºC could already result in significant climate changes. Continued emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system. The frequency and intensity of extreme weather events is also expected to change and increase.
  • Even if GHG emissions were stabilized at their current levels, the climate system will continue to change as a delayed response. Early and pro-active action versus reactive adaptation or emergency responses is thus needed to cope with changing climatic conditions.
  • Planning adaptation is essential to systematically identify potential climate change impacts, explore adequate response pathways and monitor and evaluate their success.

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