Adaptation (in the context of climate change) refers to adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harmful impacts or exploits beneficial opportunities.

According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), adequate attention must be given to responding to the impacts of climate change that are already occurring, while at the same time preparing for future impacts. In this regard, it is most urgent to ensure adequate and rapid support to the most vulnerable countries and communities. Increased investment in adaptive capacity, such as strengthening the ability of countries to reduce disaster isk, will safeguard economic progress already made and increase the climate resilience of economies on the way to achieving overall development goals.

Some examples of Adaptation options are:

  • Behavioural change at the individual level, such as the sparing use of water in times of drought
  • Technological and engineering options such as increased sea defences or flood-proof houses
  • Risk management and reduction strategies such as early warning systems for extreme events
  • Promotion of adaptive management strategies
  • Development of financial instruments such as insurance schemes
  • Promotion of ecosystem management practices, such as biodiversity conservation to reduce the impacts of climate change on people.

Developing countries are amongst those most vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change and have to place great emphasis on adaptation. For such countries, however, adaptation can be a major challenge.

According to the IPCC FAR, a range of barriers limits both the implementation and effectiveness of adaptation measures. The capacity to adapt is dynamic and is influenced by a society’s productive base, including natural and man-made capital assets, social networks and entitlements, human capital and institutions, governance, national income, health and technology.

Adaptation needs sufficient and sustained funding so that countries can plan for and implement adaptation plans and projects. Projected global costs for adaptation are estimated at approximately US$75-100 billion per year for the period 2010 to 2050 (World Bank, 2009).

In Guyana for example, major efforts would be required to build capacity for the country to adapt to the anticipated impacts of climate including extreme weather patterns and sea-level rise leading to flooding.