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Climate Change:
Adaptation critical as global warming accelerates

The Guatemalan Congress votes in favour of a legal reform proposed by the International Commission Against Impunity. The Commission has proposed reforms including changes to the law on immunity and to laws on criminal procedures and organized crime. 2008. Photo/CICIG
Saving Lake Chad. Once the sixth largest freshwater lake in the world,
Lake Chad used to cover more than 10,000 square miles. Today,
it is one-fifth of its original size due to extremely warm temperatures
and changed rainfall patterns. 2008. UNTV

Scientists are reporting alarming new evidence that the earth is warming faster than previous studies have projected. Studies expanding on the 2007 findings of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) now suggest most of the Arctic ice could melt away in 30 years. While there is wide international recognition that greenhouse gas emissions must be drastically reduced, climate experts say greater attention must be devoted to creating strategies to adapt to a rapidly warming planet. Adaptation programmes launched by the UN in 2008 have set in motion various approaches to reduce the destructive impact of climatic shifts already under way.

The Story

Millions of people are already experiencing the impact of climate change, as extreme weather conditions trigger more frequent floods, droughts, forest fires, and catastrophic storms. Some small island-nations and coastal regions confronted with the prospect of losing land to rising sea levels have begun contemplating ways to relocate their citizens. Farmers in regions prone to drought and typhoons are adjusting planting schedules to adjust to changing rainfall patterns and shortened growing seasons. Countries hardest hit by typhoons and hurricanes are making substantial investments to improve warning systems, disaster education and evacuation plans to try to minimize the impact of extreme weather events on their lives and livelihoods. 

Recent studies suggest climate-related changes are occurring at more rapid rates than previously suggested. Scientists now say global warming is likely to bypass a 2-degree Celsius rise above pre-industrial levels that has been regarded as the maximum level to avoid dangerously high sea levels, floods, and heat waves. Temperatures are already up 0.7 Celsius.
Since the landmark IPCC report in 2007 established scientific consensus that climate change is driven by greenhouse gases linked to human activities, there has been consistent evidence that weather patterns are indeed changing and resulting in more floods, droughts and higher temperatures. The year 2008 is likely to rank as the 10th warmest year on record in the last 150 years. Adaptation strategies to lessen the impact of climate change will be more critical than ever to save lives and bolster our resilience to natural disasters and other environmental changes caused by global warming.

As the world looks ahead to the December 2009 negotiations in Copenhagen for a new climate change agreement that would enter into effect after the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012, scientists and climate policy experts are increasingly emphasizing the need for adaptation strategies to reduce the impact of climate-related disasters. The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), a group of key UN and non-UN aid agencies, is pushing for the Copenhagen negotiations to address the humanitarian impacts of climate change and the special needs of vulnerable communities already suffering from poverty, hunger and disease. 

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged governments to boost adaptation efforts, stressing adaptation should not be seen as an added cost, but as an essential investment in our collective future. Various UN initiatives are under way to support developing countries with information and technology to bolster disaster risk reduction efforts, a first line of defense against the impacts of climate change.


The Context


United Nations Department of Public Information (UNDPI):
Dan Shepard, Senior Information Officer for Climate Change
Tel: +1 212 963 9495


Gateway to the UN System's Work on Climate Change

UN News Centre