Why We Need Principles for Climate Change Adaptation
The latest IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) world climate report emphasises the likelihood of global temperature increases in excess of two degrees. It states that sea levels are rising more rapidly than had previously been predicted. Even if we can stay within the threshold of a two-degree increase, urban environments and living conditions will change considerably.
Cities are simultaneously the origin and also the solution for dealing sustainably with climate change. Cities were and still are the principal originating places for practices that cause carbon emissions. On the other hand, because of their population numbers, density, and/or geographical location, cities are particularly vulnerable. This quandary has further implications. Cities in the Global North are currently higher per capita carbon emitters, while cities in the South will be more severely affected by the impacts of climate change. Co-operation and knowledge exchange is therefore essential.
Large metropolises will be especially affected by climate change. Major cities, in particular, are heat islands. The overall effect of global warming and heat-island effects does not merely form the sum of those parts. As a result of coupling and mutual build-up effects, temperature increases in cities will be higher than the global mean. There will be a significant increase in the frequency and duration of heat waves. Simultaneously, there will be significant changes in precipitation volumes and distribution. In particular torrential rain and storm events will proliferate — albeit with differing regional intensity.
The various dimensions of climate change remain uncertain. It is doubtful whether the aim of limiting temperature increase to no more than two degrees can be adhered to. Mitigation remains essential, but it needs to be supplemented by adaptation. In the best possible case, responsive measures will involve synergy effects between mitigation and adaptation. It is therefore necessary to achieve a balance between effective CO2 reduction (mitigation) and adaptive social responses to those impacts of climate change which are anticipated (adaptation).
This requires that we pursue long-term objectives which require action to be taken here and now in a sustainable way in order to adapt to climate change and make cities more resilient. Such action is best conceived around clear principles and a systematic sense of the comprehensiveness of the practical activities. Hence our No Regrets approach.