Historically, adaptation (coping with the impacts of climate change) has always been something of a poor relation of its big-brother mitigation (limiting emissions). It is essentially a bottom-up activity, in which governments play a framing rather than an active role, and in which the role of science is to package existing information for end users. On the international policy-making stage of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), adaptation was the sop to developing countries—the promise of funding to support adaptation actions was a carrot to persuade the smaller and poorer countries to support action to limit emissions.
With the failure of the international process around limiting greenhouse gas emissions, adaptation has become a much more significant player. At the same time, it has become abundantly clear to all that there is going to be climate change on a scale that will cause impacts to which we must adapt. These impacts no longer threaten the poor and the insignificant; this year we have seen Russia brought to its knees through drought, with up to one-third of the grain crop ruined, and many thousands of people displaced by flooding in China and Pakistan.
This presentation looks at what we must do to adapt to climate change—the size of the threat, and what we can do. It attempts to answer two fundamental questions: first, how must our lifestyle change in order to live with climate change and, second, can developing countries limit their emissions as they strive to improve living standards?