The term adaptation has become progressively common in the climate change literature as a result of the continuing effects of a changing climate. Similarly, mitigation definitions and strategies have been well documented over the last decade as the need to address the issue of climate change becomes more and more important. And indeed, mitigating against climate change is an extremely important concept, and one that many organizations and governments are slowly beginning to accept, mostly in the form of reducing their GHG emissions. As the effects and manifestations of a changing climate as a result of anthropogenic actions is extremely likely to cause severe changes to the climate system, reducing the gases and activities that are causing these changes is vital. Mitigation techniques are therefore clear, and should involve the organizations and governments that are contributing the most to GHG emissions and can afford to implement mitigation strategies.
However, adaptation is a concept that is not as clear cut. Adaptation refers to a systems ability to adjust to the manifestations of a changing climate through a variety of different avenues and approaches, from anticipatory adaptation that hopes to buffer against any expected impacts, to reactive adaptation that aims to make the best of a negative situation brought about by climate change. These adaptation strategies can be applied in different ways to different sectors of society. Nationally governments can protect their interests by building adaptive infrastructure, organizations can invest in their own adaptation strategies, or individual adaptive strategies can be utilised on a smaller scale. Although adaptation strategies may help in preventing environmental, economic, and human loss in the event of drastic changes to the climate system, there are many problems with it. Adaptation strategies are put in place to protect ecosystems, regions, communities, businesses, etc against the manifestations of climate change such as droughts, floods, and storms. However, these extreme events have proven to be almost impossible to accurately predict, and occur in many areas where people are unable to put these adaptations strategies into practice.
The ever increasing manifestations of climate change will be felt in all parts of the globe, and no region or society can safely assume that they will not be impacted by these events. The underlying cause of these changes has been the increase of GHG’s in the atmosphere, a large portion of which have been emitted by the developed world. The most advanced, expensive, and innovative adaptive strategies are also emerging in these regions, protecting the societies that are responsible for the need to adapt in the first place whilst the poorer societies remain vulnerable as they are less equipped to cope with anthropogenic induced climate variability. These developed countries also have an advantage when it comes to individual adaptation techniques as communities have more access to information, resources, and technology.
On one side we have the developed world, a society that is capable of attempting to adapt to a dramatically changing planet on both a national and local scale, whilst the other side includes the largely undeveloped world in which the vast majority are struggling to make a living and do not have the resources or knowledge to instigate adaptation strategies. I feel that adaptation to climate change should not be a ‘free for all’ where countries, regions or communities instigate strategies to help prevent loss and damage in their own area, but should include laws that force countries who are largely responsible for climate change to help fund and implement adaptation techniques in regions that are unable to do so themselves.