IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability

10.5.7 Key constraints and measures to strengthen adaptation

Effective adaptation and adaptive capacity in Asia, particularly in developing countries, will continue to be limited by several ecological, social and economic, technical and political constraints including spatial and temporal uncertainties associated with forecasts of regional climate, low level of awareness among decision makers of the local and regional impacts of El NiƱo, limited national capacities in climate monitoring and forecasting, and lack of co-ordination in the formulation of responses (Glantz, 2001).

Radical climate change may cause alterations of the physical environment in an area that may limit adaptation possibilities (Nicholls and Tol, 2006). For example, migration is the only option in response to sea-level rise that inundates islands and coastal settlements (see Chapter 17, Section Likewise, impacts of climate change may occur beyond certain thresholds in the ability of some ecosystems to adapt without dramatic changes in their functions and resilience. The inherent sensitivity of some ecosystems, habitats and even species with extremely narrow ranges of biogeographic adaptability will also limit the options and effectiveness of adaptation.

Poverty is identified as the largest barrier to developing the capacity to cope and adapt (Adger et al., 2001). The poor usually have a very low adaptive capacity due to their limited access to information, technology and other capital assets which make them highly vulnerable to climate change. Poverty also constrains the adaptation in other sectors. Poverty, along with infrastructural limitations and other socioeconomic factors, will continue to limit the efforts to conserve biodiversity in South-East Asia (Sodhi et al., 2004). Adaptive capacity in countries where there is a high incidence of poverty will likely remain limited.

Insufficient information and knowledge on the impacts of climate change and responses of natural systems to climate change will likely continue to hinder effective adaptation particularly in Asia. The limited studies on the interconnections between adaptation and mitigation options, costs and benefits of adaptation, and trade-offs between various courses of actions will also likely limit adaptation in Asia. The deficiency in available information and knowledge will continue to make it difficult to enhance public perception of the risks and dangers associated with climate change. In addition, the absence of information on adaptation costs and benefits makes it difficult to undertake the best adaptation option. This limiting factor will be most constraining in developing countries where systems for monitoring and research on climate and responses of natural and human systems to climate are usually lacking. More relevant information such as on the crop yield benefits linked to changes in planting dates for various regions, as reported by Tan and Shibasaki (2003), and on the optimal levels and cost of coastal protection investment in Vietnam, Cambodia and other countries, as reported by Nicholls and Tol (2006), will be needed.

Based on the discussion in Chapter 17, Section, it is very likely that in countries of Asia facing serious domestic conflicts, pervasive poverty, hunger, epidemics, terrorism and other pressing and urgent concerns, attention may be drawn away from the dangers of climate change and the need to implement adaptation. The slow change in political and institutional landscape in response to climate change could also be a major limitation to future adaptation. The existing legal and institutional framework in most Asian countries remains inadequate to facilitate implementation of comprehensive and integrated response to climate change in synergy with the pursuit of sectoral development goals.

To address the constraints discussed above and strengthen adaptation in Asia, some of the measures suggested by Stern (2007) could be useful. These include improving access to high-quality information about the impacts of climate change; adaptation and vulnerability assessment by setting in place early warning systems and information distribution systems to enhance disaster preparedness; reducing the vulnerability of livelihoods and infrastructure to climate change; promoting good governance including responsible policy and decision making; empowering communities and other local stakeholders so that they participate actively in vulnerability assessment and implementation of adaptation; and mainstreaming climate change into development planning at all scales, levels and sectors.