Climate Change - Adaptation requirements from the point of view of civil defense

Background and Goals

Hot summers with periods of drought, heavy precipitation with flooding, severe winter storms with damage in forests and cities - these are the scenarios that the field of civil defence and thus the Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance (BBK) deal with.

The scenarios described could have huge long-term effects on civil defence. In the medium to long-term, it is essential to adapt emergency and rescue services and disaster protection to the anticipated climatic changes and their consequences. This also applies to the "critical infrastructures" such as energy supplies, drinking water supplies and healthcare. Here, as well as risk management issues, important issues in structural civil defence come into play.

However, the population also needs to be prepared for possible new hazards by improving self-protection and self-assistance capabilities. New climate-related extreme events, such as flooding or heat waves, could last considerably longer and be more widespread than ever before in the future. In such cases, citizens will need to have basic knowledge of self-protection and self-assistance.

At its centre for "Protecting critical infrastructures", the BBK is developing basic knowledge and central questions and discussing these with other specialist bodies and academic experts. The objective is to come up with appropriate measures for protecting important infrastructural facilities. An initial step towards this has already been taken: At the "Protecting critical infrastructure" centre, numerous academic sources on climate change have been studied to determine their significance in terms of civil defence. In parallel, analysis of civil defence and infrastructure-specific effects of climate change has begun. The findings will be published and shared with other authorities and institutions.

It will also involve cooperation with relevant partners and planning and organisation of information events, workshops and conferences. The overall objective is to develop adaptation strategies for civil defence and disaster protection.

Content time


Research area/region

  • Germany
Region of implementation (all German federal states)
  • Baden-Württemberg
  • Bavaria
  • Berlin
  • Brandenburg
  • Bremen
  • Hamburg
  • Hesse
  • Mecklenburg Western Pomerania
  • Lower Saxony
  • Northrhine-Westphalia
  • Rhineland Palatinate
  • Saarland
  • Saxony
  • Saxony-Anhalt
  • Schleswig-Holstein
  • Thuringia

Steps in the process of adaptation to climate change

Step 1: Understand and describe climate change

Approach and results 

Climate scenarios and IPCC socio-economic development scenarios with SRES emission scenarios A1B, A2 and B1. German climate calculations are carried out using global models from the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg. The model is made up of the ECHAM 5 atmospheric and land surface model and the MPI-OM ocean model. Results for regional climate change are derived from the REMO and WETTREG regionalisation models.

Parameter (climate signals)
  • Heat waves
  • Sea level rise und storm surges
  • Extreme precipitation (incl. hail, snow)
  • Storm
  • Dry periods
Further Parameters 

water balance

Time horizon
  • short term = next year’s / decades
Further times 

30 to 100 years

Step 2a: Identify and assess risks - climate effects and impact

Approach and results 

The regional effects of climate change, such as increasing drought for Brandenburg and rising sea levels and increased storm floods for coastal areas, will be analysed. Overall, effects for climate-sensitive systems will be analysed in respect of civil defence.

Step 2b: Identify and assess risks - Vulnerability, risks and chances

Approach and results 

The analyses include the sensitivity, adaptation capacity, urgency, potential conflict and sustainability for the population and the critical infrastructure.

The sensitivity of the population is considered to be high, taking into account the climate scenarios and for certain social groups (e.g. heat waves for older and younger people). The sensitivity of infrastructure is viewed as between low and high (e.g. it is high in terms of the energy supply with sustained drought or dry periods).

The adaptation capacity of the population is considered to be between low and moderate, taking into account the climate scenarios and for certain social groups (e.g. heat waves for older and younger people). The adaptation capacity of the infrastructures is viewed as low to moderate.

Urgency and priorization of adaptation needs 

The urgency of adaptation measures for the population and for infrastructures is moderate to high.

Step 3: Develop and compare measures

Measures and/or strategies 

Adaptation strategies will be developed for civil defence, in disaster assistance, in disaster protection and for critical infrastructure. Adaptation strategies include changed methods of behaviour for the population, improved facilities and equipment for disaster assistance and, for critical infrastructure, protection and ensuring supplies under extreme conditions by utilising alternative supply concepts.

The objective is to mitigate the effects of climate change on the population, e.g. by reducing supply failures.

More time information and explanations 

The first adaptation measures developed will be ready for implementation in a period of 3 to 10 years.

Conflicts / synergies / sustainability 

Future concepts for adaptation in the population must be sustainable. In some cases, economic efficiency and safety represent competing issues, but future concepts must also be sustainable.


Funding / Financing 

Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance (BBK)

Project management 

Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance (BBK), Centre "Critical Infrastructure Protection"


Cooperation with relevant partners at government and state (Länder) level;

strategic cooperation agreement between Federal Environment Agency (UBA) and BBK;

other potential partners include the German National Meteorological Service (DWD), the authorities of the Länder, disaster control and the operators of critical infrastructure systems.


BBK - Bundesamt für Bevölkerungsschutz und Katastrophenhilfe
Provinzialstraße 93
D-53127 Bonn

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Fields of action:
 agriculture  civil protection  energy sector  financial services industry  human health  transport, transport infrastructure  water regime, water management