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Is it really Possible to Increase our Climate Resilience?

In this article we’ll explore what climate resilience entails, the challenges it faces, and successful strategies for increasing climate resilience.
Ecology News
2023-05-12T00:00:00.000Z
en-us
firefighters battling with a large wildfire blaze

Climate resilience is the ability to successfully prepare for, recover from, and adapt to the impacts of climate change, and it’s something that has become a hot topic in recent years with the growing climate crisis. The reality of the situation is that even if we manage to prevent further global heating, we won’t be able to escape all of the effects of climate change, and so this means that climate change mitigation alone is not enough, we also need to focus on climate adaptation - ie. building climate resilience. 

👉 In this article we’ll explore what climate resilience entails, the challenges it faces, and successful strategies for increasing climate resilience.

Understanding climate resilience

No matter how successful we are in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we will be unable to completely avoid all of the impacts of climate change - the damage has already been done. From heatwaves, to droughts, to flooding, and more frequent or intense storms, we’re starting to face significant challenges as a result of the warming climate. This means that we have no other option but to prepare for, recover from, and adapt to the effects of climate change - something that is called ‘climate resilience’.

Climate resilience focuses on coping with and managing the impacts of climate change, while also ensuring that the effects don’t become any worse - in other words, it asks that we eliminate harmful greenhouse gas emissions while also adapting to unavoidable climate change impacts. A climate resilient society is one that is prepared to deal with the impacts of a warmer climate, while also operating on a low carbon basis.

Climate resilience is both a global and local issue, which means that it’s now an essential consideration in any climate action program. There are very few communities who will be left untouched by the impacts of climate change as so climate resilience is a priority that must be adopted by the international community, while also being enacted at a local level.

the planet Earth from outerspace

What climate challenges does climate resilience aim to address?

Climate change is one of the biggest threats that we currently face as a species. The Earth’s atmosphere has already warmed by 1.1 degrees celsius, and experts have stressed that it’s absolutely imperative that we prevent temperatures from rising above 2 degrees - and ideally that warming is kept below 1.5 degrees celsius. 

This has led to a variety of different international and national commitments - for example 195 countries are now signatories to the Paris Agreement, which pledges to keep global heating under 1.5 degrees celsius (compared to 1990s temperatures). Many countries have also committed domestically to net zero emissions by 2050. 

However, the fact of the matter remains that global temperatures have already warmed by 1.1 degrees celsius. And while mitigation measures will hopefully prevent further warming leading to even worse effects, we can’t avoid the impacts of global heating completely.

We’re already experiencing the increasing impacts of climate change. Climate related weather events are becoming more frequent and severe across the world. Whether it’s wildfires or flooding, or changing weather patterns, the impacts of global warming can be seen all around us, and many of the impacts will be felt for centuries to come.

These impacts represent a grave threat for many communities. Not only does climate change put lives at risk, but it also threatens the livelihoods of communities, forces migration, threatens species extinction, and is destroying delicate ecosystems upon which we depend for survival. 

There is also an economic impact when it comes to the effects of climate change. Extreme weather events and natural disasters can result in significant destruction and loss, which ultimately means a large reparation bill. Not only this, but the changing weather patterns are having an impact on industries such as agriculture and energy - these industries are facing new challenges and are being forced to adapt in order to survive. 

❗️This is why climate change mitigation alone is not enough, and why climate change resilience is so essential.

child holding up an umbrella and standing in a disaster zone

Climate resilience challenges

Unpredictability

One of the biggest obstacles to climate resilience is simply that climate related events can be very difficult to predict. Their unpredictability makes it hard to effectively plan or prepare in advance and can even affect the speed and effectiveness with which governments or organizations are able to respond to a crisis.  

Climate related crises fall outside the typical investment remit, and they are often of a scale and complexity that is beyond the capacity of a single organization.

Regulatory or legal considerations

Climate resilience may also be impeded by either a lack of supporting policies, regulations, and law, or inhibited by existing policies, regulations, and law. Either way, climate resilience needs the legal and regulatory support of governments and the international community. 

Where governments instead choose to promote a maintenance of the status quo, it can be very difficult to develop the infrastructure and capabilities needed to implement effective climate adaptation action.

legal gavel balancing on table

Budgetary limitations

Climate resilience measures require investment and financial backing, which is why funding is one of the biggest obstacles. Governments and organizations around the world face a multitude of budgetary and funding pressures, and climate resilience is often pushed to the back in favor of other items that are deemed to be more pressing or urgent.

Lack of expertise or appropriate technology

The impacts of climate change are numerous and complex - something that’s only compounded by their unpredictability. Therefore the measures needed to make our communities more resilient are also incredibly complicated. 

Climate resilience requires that we conduct research, collect data, implement monitoring systems, build the required policy frameworks and infrastructure needed to deliver adaptation actions. A whole variety of different experts and professionals are needed in order to make this happen, not to mention the technology that is needed to support such activities. Unfortunately, the appropriate experts and technology are not always available when needed.

Climate change is impacting developing nations disproportionately, and unfortunately they don’t always have access to the expertise or technology needed for climate change adaptation - often due to financial reasons.

group of people discussing and observing vegetation and plants

Lack of urgency

Climate resilience requires proactivity even when the effects of climate change aren’t yet being felt. This means that decision makers and businesses need to buy into the planning element of climate resilience - they need to adopt climate considerations into their advanced planning and try to project the future risks and opportunities that it brings. 

Where the effects of climate change are minimal or not being felt yet, it can be tempting to disregard the issue and to wait for the effects to take hold before reacting, but this is a mistake. Acting in advance can lessen the effects and impact of climate change - it can minimize harm and the resulting damage costs.

Climate resilience strategies

In order to increase our climate resilience we need to focus on climate adaptation strategies, something that is defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as “an adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli (variability, extremes, and changes) or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities”. 

Strategies of climate change adaptation fall under either:

Building adaptive capacity

This involves the formulation of information and data (through research, data collection, and monitoring), the creation of supportive infrastructure, and supporting governance (regulations, laws etc) in order to create an appropriate foundation for the delivery of adaptation actions.

Delivering adaptation actions 

Adaptation actions are quite simply those that help to reduce the negative impact of climate change.

Principles of effective climate resilience

The World Bank released a report titled ‘The Adaptation Principles: A Guide for designing Strategies for Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience’. The report outlines six universally applicable principles that governments and organizations should use in the development of climate resilience strategies. The principles are: 

  • Build resilient foundations with rapid and inclusive development - the poorest communities are often the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, therefore effective climate adaptation works to ensure that vulnerable communities have access to the resources they need to adapt. 
  • Help people and firms do their part - climate adaptation means that individual households and businesses are also supported in building climate resilience. Various ways in which they can be supported in building resilience include information sharing, financial support, regulatory support, and access to technology. 
  • Revise land use plans and protect vital infrastructure - public infrastructure and services must also be protected from the future impacts of climate change. This means ensuring that communities have access to sufficient levels of power and water and other vital services. 
  • Help people and firms to recover quickly - climate impacts can’t be completely avoided, so actions also need to ensure that populations are able to deal with the consequences in a way that minimizes harm and economic loss. 
  • Manage impacts at the macro level - climate change affects the economy in a variety of different ways which requires planning and management of climate change risks and opportunities.
  • Prioritize according to needs, implement across sectors and monitor progress - actions must be prioritized according to needs and availability of resources. It’s also essential that frameworks are put in place to facilitate implementation and that progress is continually monitored. Climate resilience should form a consideration in all future plans, as opposed to being a stand alone measure or project.
two firefighters with hose trying to put forest fire out

Climate resilience success stories

To get a better understanding of the sorts of adaptation activities that can strengthen climate resilience, let’s take a look at a couple of success stories that highlight just how effective climate adaptation can be:

Social Safety Net Program in Ethiopia

In 2006, the Ethiopian government in conjunction with international partners created the Social Safety Net Program. The program aims to combat food scarcity that has arisen due to climate change impacts such as floods, droughts etc. by providing financial aid and food. 

In order to receive the aid, participants must take part in environmental programs such as land rehabilitation and the improvement of water infrastructure. 

The program’s success can be seen through the fact that program beneficiaries experience a 25% smaller drop in consumption after flooding than those who are not in the program. The program has also been successful in reducing soil loss by 40%, has improved the availability of safe drinking water, and has increased land productivity in the area.

child sitting on pavement looking at the camera

Centralized air conditioning in India

Global warming is resulting in more intense, frequent, and longer lasting heat waves - something that presents both a threat to human health and to productivity. The Gujarat International Finance Tec-City in India is developing a centralized air conditioning system to help battle this. 

The centralized cooling system will reduce the high-up front costs associated with the installation of air conditioning and will also result in up to 50% less energy consumption, which means that not only will air cooling systems be more affordable, but they’ll also have less of an impact on the environment.

man fixing an air conditioning unit

👀 The future of climate resilience

Building climate resilience is essential if we’re going to stave off some of the unavoidable impacts of climate change, and protect our most vulnerable communities. However, the reality of implementing climate adaptation action is complex, expensive and demands that governments and organizations commit to and invest in planning for unpredictable and uncertain future impacts. 

Yet, what is certain is that climate change is having a negative effect on communities across the world and unfortunately, it’s often those who are already the most vulnerable who suffer the most. What's more is that these communities are usually the least to blame when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions. This is why it’s also essential that the international community comes together to help fund and support climate adaptation projects in developing nations. 

A collective effort is not only needed to eliminate emissions and prevent further deterioration of our environment, but is also essential to increase our climate resilience and adapt to the impacts of a climate that is already 1.1 degrees warmer.

What about Greenly? 

At Greenly we can help you to assess your company’s carbon footprint, and then give you the tools you need to cut down on emissions. Why not request a free demo with one of our experts - no obligation or commitment required. 

If reading this article has inspired you to consider your company’s own carbon footprint, Greenly can help. Learn more about Greenly’s carbon management platform here.

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