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Global climate change adaptation lacks coordination

Governments and organizations around the world are dealing with the challenges posed by global warming. Yet, there is a significant lack of coordination, according to a recent study led by the University of Hamburg.

The study reveals that individual households are the primary agents of climate change adaptation. However, a systematic networking of the various groups is lacking. 

Global overview

The research involved 30 experts who analyzed more than 1,400 academic articles. The result of their work is the first-ever global overview of which groups are actively involved in climate change adaptation.

The researchers found that there is a notable absence of cohesive strategies designed to bolster societies, infrastructures, and risk management against the challenges posed by climate change. 

Furthermore, collaborations between diverse governmental and non-governmental entities remain scarce.

Isolated efforts

“Our study indicates that climate change adaptation continues to be largely isolated and uncoordinated,” said study co-author Dr. Kerstin Jantke..“That’s disproportionate to how pressing and vital this challenge is.”

Study first author Dr. Jan Petzold highlighted the need for comprehensive and inclusive solutions.

“Comprehensive, just and forward-thinking adaptation can be considered to be successful when not only official organizations but also a broad range of groups at all levels are involved.” 

Community involvement 

The experts noted that in the Global South, individual households are initiating measures against the effects of climate change, with minimal integration into institutional frameworks. 

While individual households are leading climate adaptation efforts in rural areas, governments play a more dominant role in cities. 

Governments tend to focus on ratification, planning, and funding for adaptation. However, it’s the smaller households that are mostly responsible for the technical implementation. 

According to the study, the scientific community’s involvement in adaptation measures is limited, while that of the private economy is virtually non-existent.

Sustainable solutions 

“If, around the globe, it’s predominantly individuals like farmers and smallholders who are doing the heavy lifting, it also shows us the lack of cooperation between different groups of actors – which is a prerequisite for sustainable adaptation projects,” said Dr. Petzold.

Such collaboration is crucial for initiatives such as the climate-aware restructuring of forests, urban infrastructure planning, transforming farmlands into floodplains, and relocating coastal populations.

The study also highlights the importance of a comprehensive approach to climate change adaptation, aligned with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

Dr. Jantke pointed out potential pitfalls of singularly-focused measures, explaining how measures like levees and dams might damage coastlines and wetlands, thereby compromising biodiversity and natural CO2 storage capabilities. 

“If I only design a given measure to address a single, pressing problem, it could make the situation worse in other areas,” said Dr. Jantke. 

Therefore, for long-term efficacy, it’s imperative to envision solutions that are sustainable and holistic.

The research is published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

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