Explaining Climate Facts – 3/3 – Adaptation & Mitigation


Climate change has already had clear impacts
on natural and human systems. Over the coming decades, based on the various scenarios of
emission of greenhouse gases, the range with which climate can change is quite wide, and
depends on policy decisions that we take now. The risk of negative impacts results from
the interaction between the climate-related hazards and the vulnerability and exposure
of both natural systems and human populations. The precise level of climate change that
would trigger abrupt and irreversible change remains uncertain, but the higher the global
temperature gets, the more risk there is. The main critical risks associated with climate
change are: Flooding, either in coastal areas or inland,
when changes in precipitation change the flow of rivers.
Breakdown of infrastructure networks through extreme weather
Mortality and morbidity during heat waves Food insecurities and the breakdown of food
production chains Insufficient access to drinking water and
water for irrigation Loss of marine, terrestrial and inland water
ecosystems, of their biodiversity and the benefits they provide. Subsequent major risks include a slowdown
of economic growth that will further erode food security and make poverty reduction
more difficult, the risk of violent conflicts, civil war and inter-group violence, by amplifying
conflict causes such as poverty and economic shocks and the subsequent risk of extensive
population migrations. There are two approaches possible to face
these risks. One is to prevent further climate changes from happening through mitigation
measures and the other is through adaptation to the changes and their consequences, should these happen. Regarding carbon emissions, for a ‘business
as usual’ scenario, where greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow, their concentration
could reach the equivalent of 750 to 1300 ppm CO2 by 2100, compared to 400 ppm now.
Models predict, with a high confidence, that in this scenario, the global surface temperature
would increase by between 2.5 and 7.8 °C over pre-industrial levels. This scenario of continuing emissions poses
a high risk of abrupt and irreversible regional-scale change in the composition, structure, and
function of many ecosystems. In the scenario where carbon emissions are
reduced by 40 to 70 % by 2050, and to essentially nothing by 2100, concentrations of greenhouse
gases would reach no more than 450ppm by 2100 and global warming would be limited to 2°C
above pre-industrial levels. This would prevent most of the catastrophic climate impacts that
are anticipated, The people who are the poorest will also be
the least able to adopt mitigation measures and adapt to the subsequent socio-economic
changes, and thus are the most vulnerable. How can we manage these critical risks? The capacity of any system, whether social,
economic, or environmental to resist to major changes is known as its resilience. To maintain this resilience we have to better
manage the complexity of interactions between these systems, particularly between water,
energy, land use, biodiversity systems and human population and activities. However,
the systemic or holistic approaches that are necessary to understand and manage these global
interactions remain unsufficiently applied. How the critical  risks related to climate
change will affect or overcome the capacity of resilience of these systems depends thus
heavily on regulatory decisions that will be taken in the near future. If these are
rapidly adopted and implemented , there will be less risks and a lower level of adaptation
needed. The first step is to reduce the vulnerability
and exposure of natural systems to present and future climate variability by reducing
drastically carbon emissions. The key measures according to the IPCC report,
are : 1. A more efficient use of energy, and, by
the year 2050, a threefold or fourfold increase of the share of zero‐ and low‐carbon energy
sources, including renewable energy, nuclear energy, bioenergy, as well as afforestation
and the development of means to capture and store CO2 
2. Reducing CO2 emissions in all transport modes, through technical improvements, behavioural
changes, as well as new infrastructure and urban redevelopment investments. Electricity
produced from low‐carbon sources has already a potential for electric rail and in medium‐term
for road vehicles. 3. Replacing coal‐fired power plants with
modern, highly efficient natural gas power plants, provided that natural gas is available
and that gas leaks are kept low during extraction and distribution;
4. increased contribution of the liquid and gas biofuels which are already commercially
available and of hydrogen fuels obtained from low‐carbon sources, but which are longer
term options. What are the possible mitigation measures? Besides standards and regulations, economic instruments can provide incentives for reaching these goals. These include
public-private finance partnerships, loans, charges and subsidies. It also includes putting
a financial value on the services, such as clean water, the prevention of erosion and
pollination, that are provided by ecosystems, as well as including those financial values
in the price of natural resources. However, it appears that many constraints
can impede adaptation planning and implementation : which include the different perceptions
of risks, the financial and human resources that are available, economic and business
interests, the limitations of tools to monitor the effectiveness of implementation of the
measures and the absence of key leaders and advocates For example, except if effective carbon storage
solutions are made available, emission reduction objectives are of course associated with reduced
revenues from carbon sources, in particular for coal and oil trade. Also, while nuclear
energy could contribute to low‐carbon energy supply, a variety of political and technological
barriers and specific risks remain. How can we, as individuals, contribute to
the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions? As individuals we can substantially lower
our carbon footprint and emissions by changing our lifestyle : diet habits, reducing food
waste, and modifying our consumption patterns such as our demand for mobility and modes
of transportation, energy use in households, and choosing longer‐lasting products. Such
changes in behaviour may improve energy efficiency by up to 20 to 30 % already in 2030 and in
developed countries, by up to 50% by mid‐century. The decisions and actions that are taken now
will have a long-lasting impact on the climate. At a political level or in our daily lives,
we can make a difference.

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