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Difference Between Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction

What is Climate Change Adaptation?

Climate change adaptation is the process of preparing for environmental conditions that will result from a changing climate. For the last few decades, since the threat of rising global temperatures was discovered, the focus has been on mitigating or preventing climate change. Many scientists now think that there is not enough time to prevent climate change due to carbon emissions and steps must also be taken to prepare for a warmer world.

Predicted Effects of Global Warming

Scientists predict that as the planet warms, sea levels will rise due to melting land ice and extreme weather events such as droughts, floods, and hurricanes will be more intense than they were in the past. Many countries are now taking steps to adapt to potential changes. Changes in the atmosphere are also predicted to affect air quality because warmer temperatures can increase concentrations of ground level ozone which is toxic to humans.

Strategies for Climate Change Adaptation

Most adaptation strategies focus on the multiplying influence that global climate change will have on extreme weather and sea level rise.

For example, countries which are at risk of flooding are making efforts to build more flood defenses and higher dykes. Countries which are sensitive to drought are discussing strategies to use less water more efficiently and develop more drought resistant crops.

Some cities have also discussed the possibility of building sea walls and relocating buildings to higher ground. Some experts have furthermore suggested constructing artificial floating islands in light of the threat of sea level rise to coastal cities and small island communities.

The ability for countries to adapt will depend on technological, economic, and social factors. Poorer countries already under stress from violent conflicts or health crises, such as high rates of AIDS/HIV cases, may not have as much capacity to also deal with the challenges added by global climate change. Another variable in adaptability is mobility. Relatively mobile populations, such as nomadic pastoralists, may not be as affected by changes in climate.

If a population is nomadic and only has temporary settlements, climate change effects, such as sea level rise or desertification, may not be as much of a problem. If the homeland of nomads becomes inhospitable, they may be able to simply move. This is also true for people who live in small settlements and are used to the land shifting due to fluctuating water levels.

The populations for which climate change adaptation may be the hardest are those that are large and sedentary such as people living in metropolises of hundreds of thousands to millions of inhabitants. This would include cities such as Miami, Shanghai and Singapore. Moving these populations as the sea level rises will be very difficult and expensive.

As a result, adaptation to global climate change depends on the capacity of a nation’s economy, technology, and ability to adjust to the lifestyles and customs which will be necessary for adapting to climate change.


What is Disaster Risk Reduction?

Disaster risk reduction is the process of analyzing and reducing the causal factors of risk brought about by natural hazards such as earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, and asteroid impacts. It involves studying what cause these events and what measures can be taken to prevent their damage. The risks studied in disaster risk reduction range from local, small-scale natural hazards such as landslides to hazards which could lead to human extinction such as supervolcanoes.

Aspects of Disaster Risk Reduction

In addition to scientific analysis and assessment, disaster risk reduction involves educational, governmental, and infrastructural components. This includes pre-disaster mitigation. Furthermore, it also involves the ability to respond during the disaster and provide relief after the disaster. Traditionally, there has been more focus on preparing for disaster response, but recently the UN, and other organizations involved in disaster risk reduction, have been placing more emphasis on how to prevent disasters before they happen or at least preemptively reduce their negative effects.

Governments also need to be able to respond to disasters in order to reduce the amount of social unrest that may result from a natural disaster. Often governments also must step in to provide relief for those who have been impacted by the disaster.

Education is also important. People must be educated on what natural hazards are most common in their region and what can be done to mitigate the consequences of potential disasters. It is imperative that regions with frequent volcanic eruptions educate their citizens about how volcanoes work, for example.

Infrastructure is also important. For example, regions where earthquakes are common, such as Japan, Indonesia, and the west coast of the United States, benefit from having new buildings constructed to be more resilient during an earthquake.


Similarities between Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction

Disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation both involve improving the response of human societies to natural hazards and reducing the damage or loss of life caused by these hazards. Disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation also overlap in the types of hazards that are addressed. Both climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction would be involved in preventing damage from large floods and hurricanes, for example, because they are natural hazards that will also be made more intense because of climate change.


Differences between Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction

Although there are similarities between these two concepts, there are also important differences which include the following.

  • Climate change adaptation is responding to disasters specifically made more common by a warming climate, such as floods, hurricanes, and wildfires, whereas disaster risk reduction also involves preventing disasters that are unrelated to climate, such as earthquakes and large meteor impacts.
  • Climate change adaptation involves adjusting to a specific set of conditions, a warmer planet with higher sea level and more extreme weather, whereas disaster risk reduction is simply interested in reducing the risk of natural hazards without necessarily transforming society to adapt to a specific environment.
  • Climate change adaptation involves adapting to permanent changes in the environment, such as higher sea level, whereas disaster risk reduction involves a response only to specific events that may or may not have geologically long-term consequences.
  • Climate change adaptation addresses large scale changes to the environment, whereas disaster risk reduction responds to both small scale hazards, such as earthquakes, and large-scale hazards, such as planetary collisions.

Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction


Summary of Climate Change Adaptation vs. Disaster Risk Reduction

Climate change adaptation involves responding to global climate change by adjusting lifestyles and social and economic practices to conditions expected of the future climate, a planet with higher sea level and more extreme weather. Examples of this adaptation include constructing buildings on higher ground, building sea walls, building artificial islands, more efficient use of water in the case of droughts, and producing more drought resistant crops. The ability for a country to respond to a changing climate depends on its technological and economic capabilities, as well as its cultural adaptability and physical mobility. Disaster risk reduction involves assessing and reducing the potential damage or risk from natural hazards such as earthquakes, volcanoes, and hurricanes that can cause disasters. It involves educating the public, having effective government agencies that can respond quickly and effectively and having infrastructure that can withstand the effects of natural disasters, such as buildings that are more resistant to being toppled from earthquakes. Disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation are similar in that they both respond to threats to humanity from natural phenomena. On the other hand, they differ in that climate change adaptation is responding to a specific large-scale threat to humanity that involves permanent changes to the planet’s environment while disaster risk reduction focuses on mitigating or responding to any disaster regardless of the scale or whether the effects are long-term or short-term.


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References :

[0]“Climate Adaptation and Drought.” N.D. Environmental Protection Agency Climate Change Research Center. Available at: https://www.epa.gov/arc-x/climate-adaptation-and-drought

[1]“Adaptation to climate change.” N.D. European Comission on Climate Action. Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/adaptation_en

[2]“Ecosystem-based adaptation.” N.D. UN Environment. Available at: https://www.unenvironment.org/explore-topics/climate-change/what-we-do/climate-adaptation/ecosystem-based-adaptation

[3]“Climate Mitigation and Adaptation.” N.D. University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. Available at: https://scied.ucar.edu/longcontent/climate-mitigation-and-adaptation

[4]Timberlake, Howard. 2017. “How artificial islands could help us adapt to climate change.” BBC Future. Available at: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20171027-how-artificial-islands-could-help-us-adapt-to-climate-change

[5]“Disaster Risk Reduction.” N.D. UNESCO. Available at: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/natural-sciences/special-themes/disaster-risk-reduction

[6]Image credit: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/f0/United_Nations_Office_for_Disaster_Risk_Reduction_Logo.svg/500px-United_Nations_Office_for_Disaster_Risk_Reduction_Logo.svg.png

[7]Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Climate_change_adaptation_icon.png

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