Adaptation to Climate Change

Apart from a greater diversity of plant species and plant communities, cultivating a broader range of plant varieties of a species with different resilience to heat, drought and moisture plays a decisive role. In some climatic zones, maize and wheat are already being cultivated close to the upper temperature limit at which they can successfully grow or in areas with low rainfall. Farmers in these areas will soon have to seek alternatives, which can frequently be found in the local traditions of the respective regions. Irrigation and cultivation methods, as well as plant species and varieties, which over the past decades or centuries have been neglected or displaced due to modernisation and the breeding of high-yielding varieties, could become a rich source of urgently needed innovation.
Reforestation, the protection of existing forests and timely changes in the composition of tree populations could stabilise local water balances, protect soils against erosion and increase biodiversity, thus strengthening resilience. Agroforestry systems, which combine trees, shrubs, farming and animal husbandry, as well as other forms of intercropping, have also proved successful.

Joint preparations for the inconceivable

What inhabitants of the “global village” in information society already know about climate change is still unfamiliar to many inhabitants of rural areas in those regions which will be severely affected by climate changes. Not only knowing but actually comprehending that nothing will be as it used to be, is also difficult for modern city dwellers living in industrialised societies that are usually hungry for change. For many traditional farmers, the IAASTD’s message “business as usual is not an option” does not create hope for change but is rather radically challenging their reality and threatening their world view. There is not only a huge demand for education and information but also for practical and timely adaptation strategies to changes which are still impalpable and difficult to imagine. This is basically a matter of communities’ and social networks’ ability to learn and act.

In areas where the impact of climate change is already being felt, locally organised and well-functioning early warning systems can save lives. In order to be able to cope with disasters and make a fresh start, poor smallholder families depend on easily accessible and cheap insurances against crop failure that react quickly in the event of loss."Linking early warning to more effective response re­quires a people-centered approach to climate change. The quest for early warning must be more than just an 'exercise in understanding how what is happening over there comes be known by us over here'. Instead, the international community should focus on the real stakeholders and add to their capacity for social resilience. On the policy front, the lack of institutionalized early warning systems that survey the localized impact of climate change on ecological and political crises inhibits the formula­tion of evidence-based interventions.” (Global, p. 417)
Enormous investment is needed to enable rural communities to rise to the challenges of climate change. The earlier these investments are undertaken, the more effective and less expensive they will be. It is undisputed that the rural poor will not at all be able to pay for that and their governments only partially. The funds so far provided by the international community are not even a drop in the ocean."Adaptation has a cost and often requires investments in infrastructure. Therefore, where resource endowments are already thin, adverse impacts may be multiplied by the lack of resources to respond. Farmers are masters in adapting to changing environmental conditions because this has been their business for thousands of years. This is a knowledge base farmers will need to maintain and improve, even if climate change may pose challenges that go beyond problems tackled in the past." (Global, p. 41).


Civil Society


Videos: Adaptation to Climate Change

Click on the image to watch the video playlist

Summary of the IPCC report


  • UNEP Trends in natural disastersUNEP Trends in natural disasters
  • UNEP Forest distributionUNEP Forest distribution
  • UNEP Emissions from agricultureUNEP Emissions from agriculture
  • Cereal productivity under IPCC scenarioCereal productivity under IPCC scenario
  • Agriculture in 2080 due to climate changeAgriculture in 2080 due to climate change
Share |


Donors of globalagriculture Bread for all biovision Bread for the World Misereor Heidehof Stiftung Hilfswerk der Evangelischen Kirchen Schweiz Rapunzel
English versionDeutsche VersionDeutsche Version