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

5.5.2 Planned adaptations

Autonomous adaptations may not be fully adequate for coping with climate change, thus necessitating deliberate, planned measures. Many options for policy-based adaptation to climate change have been identified for agriculture, forests and fisheries (Howden et al., 2003; Kurukulasuriya and Rosenthal, 2003; Aggarwal et al., 2004; Antle et al., 2004; Easterling et al., 2004). These can either involve adaptation activities such as developing infrastructure or building the capacity to adapt in the broader user community and institutions, often by changing the decision-making environment under which management-level, autonomous adaptation activities occur (see Chapter 17). Effective planning and capacity building for adaptation to climate change could include:

  • 1. To change their management, enterprise managers need to be convinced that the climate changes are real and are likely to continue (e.g., Parson et al., 2003). This will be assisted by policies that maintain climate monitoring and communicate this information effectively. There could be a case also for targeted support of the surveillance of pests, diseases and other factors directly affected by climate.
  • 2. Managers need to be confident that the projected changes will significantly impact on their enterprise (Burton and Lim, 2005). This could be assisted by policies that support the research, systems analysis, extension capacity, and industry and regional networks that provide this information.
  • 3. There needs to be technical and other options available to respond to the projected changes. Where the existing technical options are inadequate to respond, investment in new technical or management options may be required (e.g., improved crop, forage, livestock, forest and fisheries germplasm, including via biotechnology, see Box 5.6) or old technologies revived in response to the new conditions (Bass, 2005).
  • 4. Where there are major land use changes, industry location changes and migration, there may be a role for governments to support these transitions via direct financial and material support, creating alternative livelihood options. These include reduced dependence on agriculture, supporting community partnerships in developing food and forage banks, enhancing capacity to develop social capital and share information, providing food aid and employment to the more vulnerable and developing contingency plans (e.g., Olesen and Bindi, 2002; Winkels and Adger, 2002; Holling, 2004). Effective planning for and management of such transitions may also result in less habitat loss, less risk of carbon loss (e.g., Goklany, 1998) and also lower environmental costs such as soil degradation, siltation and reduced biodiversity (Stoate et al., 2001).
  • 5. Developing new infrastructure, policies and institutions to support the new management and land use arrangements by addressing climate change in development programs; enhanced investment in irrigation infrastructure and efficient water use technologies; ensuring appropriate transport and storage infrastructure; revising land tenure arrangements, including attention to well-defined property rights (FAO, 2003a); establishment of accessible, efficiently functioning markets for products and inputs (seed, fertiliser, labour, etc.) and for financial services, including insurance (Turvey, 2001).
  • 6. The capacity to make continuing adjustments and improvements in adaptation by understanding what is working, what is not and why, via targeted monitoring of adaptations to climate change and their costs and effects (Perez and Yohe, 2005).

Box 5.6. Will biotechnology assist agricultural and forest adaptation?

Breakthroughs in molecular genetic mapping of the plant genome have led to the identification of bio-markers that are closely linked to known resistance genes, such that their isolation is clearly feasible in the future. Two forms of stress resistance especially relevant to climate change are to drought and temperature. A number of studies have demonstrated genetic modifications to major crop species (e.g., maize and soybeans) that increased their water-deficit tolerance (as reviewed by Drennen et al., 1993; Kishor et al., 1995; Pilon-Smits et al., 1995; Cheikh et al., 2000), although this may not extend to the wider range of crop plants. Similarly, there are possibilities for enhanced resistance to pests and diseases, salinity and waterlogging, or for opportunities such as change in flowering times or enhanced responses to elevated CO2. Yet many research challenges lie ahead. Little is known about how the desired traits achieved by genetic modification perform in real farming and forestry applications. Moreover, alteration of a single physiological process is often compensated or dampened so that little change in plant growth and yield is achieved from the modification of a single physiological process (Sinclair and Purcell, 2005). Although biotechnology is not expected to replace conventional agronomic breeding, Cheikh et al. (2000) and FAO (2004b) argue that it will be a crucial adjunct to conventional breeding (it is likely that both will be needed to meet future environmental challenges, including climate change).

  • It is important to note that policy-based adaptations to climate change will interact with, depend on or perhaps even be just a subset of policies on natural resource management, human and animal health, governance and political rights, among many others: the ‘mainstreaming’ of climate change adaptation into policies intended to enhance broad resilience (see Chapter 17).