Adaptation to climate change is a complicated issue because generally, it is hard to say to what kind of change exactly a society must adapt in the future, and who will have to make the decisions about it. Scientific uncertainty about climate change means that it is hard to predict where the availability of water for agriculture will change, how much it will change, and sometimes even whether it is likely to decrease or increase. Adaptation is therefore not just a set of clear technical or administrative measures that have to be taken. Rather, it should be seen as an overarching issue that calls for policy and administration to become more flexible in resource management and able to handle surprises and unexpected change. In other words, adapting to climate change means to reduce vulnerability and to become more resilient.
While a straight-forward blueprint cannot be made because each country’s situation is very different, the OECD (2009) has developed a generic outline of the adaptation decision process which consists of four steps:
- Identify vulnerabilities and gain an understanding how climate change can impact society
- Identify all adaptation options suitable for decreasing vulnerability
- Assess and prioritise options with regard to their effectiveness, cost, and feasibility
- Monitor and evaluate their implementation, and change strategies if necessary
For each of these steps, methods are available that can be tailored to the situation at hand. For example, a vulnerability assessment in agriculture will take into account the drought resistance of crops, the likely changes in precipitation, and the availability of income alternatives or insurance for farmers in the case of crop failure. Identifying adaptation options can range from designing government-led insurance schemes to agricultural extension programmes or R&D investments in irrigation. Only at later stages options are assessed regarding their actual feasibility, which might be limited in a development context, implemented, and monitored.
Involving stakeholders is an important bit of adaptation because change can lead to conflicting interests and understandings of the situation might be different. But it is not straightforward: not all stakeholders of an adaptation measure have the capacity to deal with climate change and implement adaptation, even if they are aware of it. Based on the OECD guidelines, the GIZ has developed training courses for increasing the capacity of stakeholders to participate in climate change discussion and adaptation.
- ↑ OECD (2009), Integrating Climate Change Adaptation into Development Co-operation: Policy Guidance, OECD Publishing. http://www.oecd.org/dac/43652123.pdf