Know Climate Change

Adaptation and Mitigation


Topic Summary

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  • Human systems interact with earth systems in numerous ways.
  • Vulnerability is defined as a combined measure of threats to a particular system.
  • Vulnerability is the degree to which a system is susceptible to, or unable to cope with, the adverse effects of climate change, including climate variability and extremes.
  • Adaptation to climate change refers to adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities.
  • Mitigation means technological change and substitution that reduces resource inputs and emissions per unit of output with respect to climate change. In other words, mitigation means implementing policies to reduce GHG emissions and enhance sinks.
  • Vulnerability is a function of - the character, magnitude and rate of climate variation to which a system is exposed; its sensitivity; and adaptive capacity.

    Vulnerability = f (Exposure, Sensitivity, Adaptive Capacity)

    • Exposure is defined as degree of climate stress upon a particular unit analysis; it may be represented as either long-term change in climatic conditions, or by changes in climate variability, including the magnitude and frequency of extreme events.
    • Sensitivity is the degree to which a system will be affected by, or responsive to, climate stimuli.
    • Adaptive capacity refers to the potential or capability of a system to adjust to climate change, including climate variability and extremes, to moderate potential damages, to take advantage of opportunities, or to cope with consequences.
  • There is a difference in the degree of vulnerability across systems, and even within a particular system; this is known as differential vulnerability.
  • IPCC identifies seven criteria from literature that can be used to identify key vulnerabilities.
  • Based on the timing, goal and motive of their implementation, adaptation measures can be classified as
    • Reactive or Anticipatory
    • Planned or Autonomous
  • With reference to the sectors considered, adaptation measures can be classified as
    • Sectoral
    • Multi-sectoral
    • Cross-sectoral
  • There are mainly two types of approaches to ‘no regrets’ adaptation.
    • Actions that reduce existing vulnerability
    • Mainstreaming climate change into existing activities
  • The first step in mainstreaming is to understand how climate change is linked to the development challenge or the sector under consideration.
  • Integration of climate change aspects into sustainable development policies and into the decision-making process enables us to
    • Address the problem cost-effectively and at the scale required
    • Ensure that duplication of efforts and wastage of scarce resources is avoided
  • To design an effective mitigation strategy, we need to know the GHG emission patterns, available mitigation options, role of technology, and role of market-based mechanisms.
  • In December 1997, 160 countries met in Kyoto, Japan and reached a historic agreement to reduce GHG emissions; this agreement is known as the Kyoto Protocol.
  • The Kyoto Protocol introduced binding emission-reduction targets and they have been specified differently for different industrial nations—8% below the 1990 emission levels for the European Union, 7% for the US, and 6% for Japan.
  • The UNFCCC divides countries into three categories based on their commitment to reduce emissions - Annex I, Annex II, and Non-Annex I Parties or Countries.
  • To meet the emission targets in a cost-effective manner, the Kyoto Protocol has introduced the following flexible market-based measures.
    • CDM (Clean Development Mechanism)
    • JI (Joint Implementation)
    • Emissions Trading
  • Reducing GHG emissions by mitigation can result in large and rapid health benefits from reduced air pollution, which may also offset a substantial part of the mitigation costs.
  • Agriculture is a prime source of the three major GHGs, namely, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxides.
  • In the transport sector, GHG emissions can be reduced by employing alternative fuels, using efficient engines, and so on.
  • In the building sector, GHG emissions can be reduced by employing efficient lighting, cooking, waste and water management techniques; using energy-efficient materials, and so on.
  • In the energy sector, GHG emissions can be reduced by employing renewable sources of energy, such as solar power, wind power, hydropower, biogas, and so on.
  • Two important sources of technological change for mitigation are as follows.
    • Research and development
    • Spill-over effects
  • JI and CDM are the two project-based mechanisms, which feed into the Carbon Market.
  • Changes in lifestyle and behaviour patterns can contribute widely to climate change mitigation.