Vulnerability and adaptation to climate change

Authored by: Robin Leichenko , Adelle Thomas , Mark Barnes

Routledge Handbook of Climate Change and Society

Print publication date:  July  2010
Online publication date:  July  2010

Print ISBN: 9780415544764
eBook ISBN: 9780203876213
Adobe ISBN: 9781135998509


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Coping with climate change will be a major societal challenge over the next several decades. While mitigation efforts are expected to reduce or slow down the growth of future greenhouse gas emissions, these efforts will not halt climatic changes that are already underway due to carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that are currently present in the atmosphere (IPCC 2007a). In addition to higher temperatures, climate change is expected to alter precipitation patterns, and to increase the frequency and magnitude of extreme climate events such as droughts, heatwaves and cyclones. Recognition of the threat of climate change to vital infrastructure, economic systems and resource-dependent societies has led to a large and growing body of research and scientific literature on societal impacts of climate change (IPCC 2007b). While this literature focused initially on the assessment of the impacts of climate change for specific economic sectors, such as agriculture and water resources, it has gradually shifted over the past decade towards an emphasis on how and why some regions, sectors and social groups might be vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and investigation of actions or strategies that may be taken by individuals, households, firms or governing institutions in order to adapt to climate change.

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