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A framework and key questions for adapting to climate variability and change

A framework and key questions for adapting to climate variability and change
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  AFRAMEWORK AND KEYQUESTIONS FORADAPTING TO CLIMATE VARIABILITYAND CHANGE E.E. WHEATON 1 AND D.C. MACIVER 2 1 Saskatchewan Research Council, 15 Innovation Boulevard,Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, S7N 2X8 Canada 2  Atmospheric Environment Service, 4905 Dufferin Street, Downsview, Ontario, M3H 5T4 Canada Abstract. There is a critical need to collectively understand, to develop adaptationoptions to enhance the benefits, and to reduce the social and economic vulnerabilitiesinduced by climate variability and change. This paper uses key questions to help build aframework for adaptation by first organizing the questions into adaptation science,management and option components, including their respective sub-categories. Theprocess of adaptation depends on many factors, including who or what adapts, what theyadapt to, how they adapt and what and how resources are used. This conceptual model isdesigned to organize concepts regarding adaptation, to help stimulate ideas, and toexplore the linkages among parts of the adaptation cycle. Predictive models need to bedeveloped to determine the outcomes of planned adaptation strategies. For the best andmost realistic evaluation of climate problems, adaptation and impacts should be consid-ered together. This joint approach improves the assessment of the significance anddangers of the current and future climate, as well as the determination of solutions(e.g., how to prepare for a changing climate) and their priorities. Challenges of adaptivemanagement are discussed in terms of a framework with linkages to adaptation scienceand options. Adaptation research and applications work continue to build on the founda-tion of science and management frameworks to address the risks and uncertainties in thedecision-making process and to identify adaptation options. Key words: climate, adaptation, impacts. 1. Introduction and Rationale It is important to collectively understand, to develop adaptation options to enhance the ben-efits, and to reduce the dangers of climate variability and climate change. Work has begunto address adaptation in the climate change arena with greater fervour. For example, therecent IPCC Special Report “The Regional Impacts of Climate Change: An Assessment of Vulnerability” (Watson et al ., 1998) addresses the vital question: what is “the degree towhich human conditions and the natural environment are vulnerable to the potential effectsof climate change?” The degree of vulnerability indicates the amount of adaptation that isrequired within the context of our history, infrastructure, and technologies.  MitigationandAdaptationStrategiesforGlobalChange 4 :215–225,1999.c  1999 KluwerAcademicPublishers.PrintedintheNetherlands.  Why should adaptation to climate change and variability be considered? Responsesto global warming are popularly considered to be mainly in terms of mitigation.However, adaptation is also a main part of the response set. Adaptation is needed for sev-eral reasons, principally because human-induced climatic change appears unavoidableregardless of the mitigation actions to slow the speed of global warming. Several definitions of adaptation exist in the literature. “Adaptation” is commonlydefined as the act or process of adapting and the state of being adapted. “Adapt” meansto make more suitable, or to fit some purpose, by altering or modifying. The IPCC(Watson et al ., 1996) defines “adaptability” as the “degree to which adjustments are pos-sible in practices, processes, or structures of systems to projected or actual changes of cli-mate; adaptation can be spontaneous or planned, and can be carried out in response to,or in anticipation of changes in conditions.” Numerous examples of adaptive practices arein the literature. For example, IPCC (1998) includes sections on adaptation and vulner-ability. Additional examples are provided in this paper and many more need to bedescribed and their lessons learned.The concept of adaptation is used in many fields ranging from biology to the arts.Adaptation literature can be organized into the more theoretical and the more practical orapplied work. Adaptation work includes the natural and social sciences, as well as policyconsiderations. This paper uses key questions to help organize adaptation into a frame-work using adaptation science, management and option components plus their respectivesub-categories. 2. Challenges of Adaptation Science: Understanding the Process Amain challenge facing adaptation science is to improve our theoretical understandingand predictive capacity. The purpose of this is to guide adaptive management. Adaptivemanagement serves to reduce vulnerabilities to, and enhance opportunities of climatevariability and change. The IPCC (Watson et al . 1996 WGII:4) defines vulnerability as“the extent to which climate change may damage or harm a system. It depends not onlya system’s sensitivity but also on its ability to adapt.” If a system is sensitive to climateand a climatic stress (either positive or negative) occurs, then damages and/or benefitsresult. However, even if a human or natural system is sensitive to climate, it may be sowell adapted or able to adapt that few or no damages occur. Conversely, if a system is notadapted and is climate-sensitive, climatic events of a certain type may result in damages.Whether or not a system is affected by a disturbance such as climate depends on howsensitive they are to the trigger. The IPCC (Watson et al ., 1996) defines “sensitivity” asthe “degree to which a system will respond to a change in climatic conditions (e.g., theextent of change in ecosystem composition, structure, and functioning, includingprimaryproductivity, resulting from a given change in temperature or precipitation).” Responsescan be nonlinear and may not occur until a certain threshold has been reached. For exam-ple, soil erosion will not occur until a threshold wind speed has been reached, dependingon the characteristics of the soil particles, including moisture. 216 E.E. WHEATONAND D. C. MACIVER  3. Challenges of Adaptation Science: Some Key Questions 1)What do we understand about the adaptation of human and natural systems to past, present and anticipated future climate variability and change?2)How is the adaptation process similar or different in human and natural systems?3)What is the ability of the scientific community to accurately represent adaptation processes in impacts models and assessments? What are the best ways of modelling adaptation?4)How do people monitor and gather information that indicates they need to adapt? How do they know that a system or activity is adapted or maladapted? What feedback or warnings are needed?5)How are the risks of climate variability and change perceived (e.g., by decision-makers,by managers, by those responsible for adaptation management)? How are the risks perceived differently or similarly?6)The use of adaptation options is part of a broader process of the adoption of innovation,which is a component of social change. What is our understanding of the process of social change and of the adoption of innovation?7)How well adapted are activities or systems? What options exist or are needed for developing regional or sectoral monitoring systems to determine how well activities or systems are adapted?Guidelines for impact and adaptation assessments have been prepared by the IPCCWorking Group II (Carter et al ., 1994). Two of the guidelines’steps directly addressadaptation and there is an opportunity to broaden the scope of several of the other steps(e.g., problem definition, method selection and testing) to directly consider adaptation.The guidelines consider how risk and uncertainty analysis can be used. They state thatdecision analysis, a form of risk analysis, can be used to identify the response strategiesto provide the flexibility, at least cost, that best ameliorates the expected impacts.The process of adaptation to climate occurs in a wide variety of ways and under manycircumstances. The process depends on many factors, including who or what adapts,what they adapt to, how they adapt, what resources are used and how, and the effects of adaptation within and across sectors. These related themes are part of a model of anadaptation cycle (Figure 1) that changes through time and space. This framework isdesigned to organize concepts regarding adaptation, to stimulate ideas, and to explore thelinkages among parts of the adaptation cycle. The adaptation cycle model is iterative, dynamic, interconnected, non-linear, andlikely chaotic. Geographic scales of time (including rate of change) and space must beconsidered at each step because the cycle is constantly evolving through space and timefor each system and system linkages. This cycle reminds us that research can begin withexamining the disturbance and impacts, as has been traditionally done, or it can begindirectly with adaptation assessments. In this case, the literature on adaptation to the cur-rent climate would be one appropriate starting point to determine the types, processes,and efficacy of adaptation. What adaptations are in place, how well do they work, andhow can they be improved? 217 AFRAMEWORK AND KEYQUESTIONS FOR ADAPTING  3.1. ADAPTATION MODELLING EXAMPLESPredictive models need to be developed to determine the outcomes of planned adapta-tion strategies. Examples from the many under development include:• the use of Geographic Information Systems in the Canadian study of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Basin to examine adaptation responses to the potential impacts of climate change (Koshida et al ., 1994).• the development of two simulation models: the South Florida Water Management Model and the Adaptive Environmental Assessment and Management model. These are used to assess the impacts of alternative management policies on the behaviour of the natural ecosystem (Holling, 1994).• adaptive responses to cope with future water deficits in the Warta River, Poland, were identified as infrastructure development, transfer of water from other river basins, and improved resource management (Kaczmarek et al., 1996).There are many stakeholders in the adaptation process. Adaptation literature includesboth adaptation at the individual and the collective scales. Human and natural systemscooperate in small to large groups. Adaptation research needs to be sensitive to thesescales, but may differ depending on the model used. Adaptation of the individual maynot mean adaptation of the group. For example, actions that maintain the livelihood of individual farms may not improve the long term adaptation of the regional farming group(Smithers and Smit, 1997). Literature on human cooperation for adaptation purposesincludes decision theory, game theory, and conflict resolution. Cooperation in naturalsystems is addressed in animal behaviour studies for example. Figure 1. The Adaptation Cycle Through Space and Time. 218 E.E. WHEATONAND D. C. MACIVER ADAPTATION CYCLE (through space and time) What do they adaptto and why?(climate, etc)Who orwhat systemadapts? (characteristics,goals and values)How well do they adapt?(evaluation)System changesCost/Benefits Implementation (constraintsand incentives) methods andresources How do they adapt?(processes) What impacts result?1. Ecosystem2. Socioeconomics3. Integrated Systems  Characteristics of systems related to adaptation are identified in several literaturestreams, including disciplines in both the natural and socioeconomic sciences. Theseinclude concepts such as resilience, sensitivity, tolerance, thresholds, critical levels,susceptibility, vulnerability, adaptability, adaptive capacity, coping range, flexibility, size(individual or collective) and part of the ecosystem (e.g., human, plant, animal, water,soil, air). Several of these are described in Smithers and Smit (1997). These characteris-tics, both singly and combined, determine their role in the adaptation cycle (Figure 1) andaffect the individual and/or system’s adaptability, or adaptive capacity.Climate adaptation should be considered in the milieu of disturbances or stimuli leadingto, initiating, or promoting adaptation. These other variables can act as conflicting, over-riding, or complementing factors in the adaptation cycle. For example, the increasingsize and property of cities makes them more vulnerable to hailstorms, even if the char-acteristics of hailstorms remain the same as in previous years. Systems respond to and interact with a wide range of climatic elements described byvarious time, space scales, statistics and other descriptors. Climatic variables includetemperature (soil, air, leaf, lake, etc .), precipitation, cloud cover and type, solar radiation,wind speed and direction, pressure, and so on. Space scales range from the scale of aplant leaf or brick, for example, to ecosystems, to the global scale. Time scales rangefrom less than seconds to millions of years, and include past, present and future. Theword “climate” is used purposefully here, rather than climatic change, variability or vari-ations, to cover a wider range of time scales. Statistics include the moments such as themean, standard deviation, kurtosis, and the frequency, duration, range, and extremes.Other characteristics of climate elements, such as speed of onset and observationdetectability are also important. For example, the onset of a drought may be gradual andcan be difficult to detect, but a flash flood onset is sudden.To be more precise, statistics and time scales should be specified quantitatively, ratherthan qualitatively, within the context of issues such as climate change, variability orextremes. For example, the change in mean June temperatures from the 1951 to 1980period as compared to the mean June temperatures for the 1961 to 1990 period. Anotherexample is the change in frequencies of May dust storms from the last five years to thenext five years. Also, many time scales should be used, depending on the objectives of the study or of the system. For example, the IPCC Expert’s Meeting on Adaptation(IPCC 1997) identified adaptation to transient climatic change, including non-linearchanges, as an issue.For the best and most realistic evaluation of climate problems, adaptation and impactsshould be considered together. This joint approach improves the assessment of thesignificance and dangers of the current and future climate, as well as the determinationof solutions (e.g., how to prepare for a changing climate) and their priorities. Adaptationcan change the nature of impacts in many ways. For example, adaptation may change theimpact to another type and degree of impact. Integrated impact and adaptation assess-ments can help determine priorities, for example, what types of action are first needed toprevent damage to key components of systems? Topics to address include currentadaptation to present climate impacts, the effect of adaptation on impacts, theories to 219 AFRAMEWORK AND KEYQUESTIONS FOR ADAPTING
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