As we already know, IPCC defines adaptation as â€˜adjustment in natural or human systems to a new or changing environmentâ€™.
Before we move further, it is important to understand three terms related to adaptation, namely, coping range, resilience range, and failure range.
- Coping Range: Coping range represents the magnitude or rate of disturbance various systems like communities, enterprises, or ecosystems can tolerate without significant adverse impacts or the crossing of critical thresholds.
- Resilience Range: Resilience range is the magnitude of damage a system can tolerate, and still autonomously return to its original state.
- Failure Range: Failure range starts from the point where magnitude of damage is such that a system can no longer tolerate it without significant adverse impacts.
The severity of an event in a system depends on the coping range and the resilience range. The following diagram shows the severity of an event in two scenarios.
Variation in event severity
The two scenarios are as follows.
- In the absence of adaptation measures: This is the upper block in the image. It depicts that when there are no adaptation measures, then with the increase in event severity, the coping and resilience ranges (in green and yellow) decrease and the failure range (in red) increases, thereby making the system more and more susceptible to the impacts of climate change.
- In the presence of adaptation measures: This is the lower block in the image. It depicts that when adaptation strategies are in place, then with the increase in event severity, the coping and resilience ranges (in green and yellow) increase and the failure range (in red) decreases.
In short, a system with adaptation measures will be more resilient to damage in case a severe event takes place. This system will suffer lesser damage in an event with same level of severity, compared to another system without adaptation measures.
The following are examples of adaptation to observed changes in climate.
- Partial drainage of the Tsho Rolpa glacial lake (Nepal)
- Changes in livelihood strategies in response to permafrost melt by the Inuit in Nunavut (Canada)
- Increased use of artificial snow-making by the Alpine ski industry (Europe, Australia, and North America)
- Coastal defences in the Maldives and the Netherlands
- Water management in Australia
Let us consider the range of adaptation measures available to us.