Climate change adaptation actions too uncoordinated worldwide

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A new comprehensive survey of more than 1,400 scientific studies has shed light on the challenges of climate change adaptation. The study reveals a critical issue: systematic networking of various actor groups has generally been insufficient. Notably, the main burden has been borne by individuals and households affected by the consequences of climate change. University of Twente’s associate professor Diana Reckien is one of the co-authors of the paper published in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change.

Global climate change affects us all. But who are the actors, when it comes to reducing the risks of climate change, such as droughts, floods, and forest fires? How are governments, organisations, companies, and individuals dealing with the impacts of global warming? And where and how are they already working together in a systematic fashion?

A new study provides the first global analysis of actors engaged in climate adaptation and the roles they are playing. For the publication, an international team of scientists assessed more than 1,400 scientific studies on the subject of climate change adaptation. Diana Reckien, associate professor at the department of Urban and Regional Planning and Geo-Information Management (PGM; Faculty of ITC) is one of those scientists.

Lack of collaboration The results show that there are, across the globe, many gaps in distribution of roles and responsibilities for adaptation. Above all, there is a lack of adaptation that profoundly transforms societies, infrastructure, and risk management to address the massive impacts of climate change. Further, there is a lack of comprehensive collaborations between various state and non-state actors.

"As we have already seen in a study that I conducted across New York City neighbourhoods , the perception of who is responsible for what kind of adaptation or mitigation differs widely across social groups and people that are differently affected. Different people have different ideas about who should do what to tackle climate change.", says Reckien.

Addressing Disparities To date, the regular people and households that are affected most by the consequences of climate change have been left to do the heavy lifting of implementing actual adaptation. This is particularly so in the Global South, where individuals and households have had to carry the principal burden of adaptation. However, these groups are hardly involved at all in the design and implementation of institutional changes.

It should be noted, however, that the situation differs in urban and non-urban areas. Whereas in rural areas, individual households are the prime actors and there is little in the way of coordination, state actors tend to organise adaptation much more frequently in cities. According to the study, the private sector has engaged in comparatively little adaptation to date and is scarcely involved in joint measures with other actors.

"Our responses to counter climate change need to be more targeted and in line with the perception of people’s roles, abilities, and responsibilities in order to harness the power of collective action and allow administrations and authorities to support actions most efficiently and where needed", emphasises Reckien. "For example, we saw that respondents who were significantly more affected in the past-women and the elderly-perceive the community in charge to help them adapt to, for example, heat waves and heavy rains. However, previous experience also plays a role. For example, in New York, Hispanic and African American respondents perceived adaptation as more of an individual task-potentially related to previous experience with (a lack of) local government services in their areas."

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