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1.2 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) a certain amount of global warming is unavoidable, due to greenhouse gases that are already present in the atmosphere. We are seeing the effects of global warming already, 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 extreme weather events are changing. If policy goals are based on historic data, they may consequently fail.
  • An increase in 1ºC or 2ºC may not seem much, but average temperatures now are only 5ºC higher than they were at the peak of the last ice age. Warming of 2ºC could result in dangerous climate changes. The frequency and intensity of extreme weather events is also expected to change and in some cases increase.
  • In many cases planned adaptation is more effective than last minute, reactive adaptation or emergency responses. The planning itself, however, also takes time.
  • Increasingly, governments, insurers and investors are demanding that climate change be taken into account in decision-making.

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