Adaption to climate change

Sandsäcke wurden vor einer Haustür aufgestapelt, um das Haus vor Hochwasser zu schützen
© highwaystarz / Fotolia.com

The climate change is noticeable in Germany, too. Extreme weather events such as heat waves or heavy precipitation have become more frequent and severe. The hot and extremely dry summer of 2018 is just one of many examples. This trend is bound to increase in the future. Climate change adaptation enables to deal with climate change impacts and benefit from its potential opportunities.

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What does "Climate Change Adaptation" mean?

The climate is changing. Even though we often only become aware of climate change after torrential rains and severe storms, in the long run, the more subtle changes will have a particularly large impact on our country. Greenhouse gases that by now are already in the atmosphere will continue to have an impact for several decades or centuries and affect our climate. Even if we successfully protect the climate, it will continue to change.
The consequences are manifold as climate change impacts our housing situation, employment and health. Here are some of the questions that arise in this context:

  • How can we protect ourselves against exposure to excessive heat? Will Germany have to equip all buildings with air conditioning? How much energy would be needed for this?
  • How can we prepare cities to cope with future heavy rain and flooding? Will it be necessary to adapt sewage systems? Are there other ways to collect the excess water and divert it out of the cities?
  • What impact does climate change have on our health? How does it affect various diseases and disease vectors to which we are exposed now already or in the future?

The good news is: there is something we can do. We can deal with the already visible effects of climate changes and effectively prepare for future impacts. However, this requires immediate action. Timely and active adaptation to climate change can reduce or even prevent damages. Adaptation can also mean to take advantage of opportunities that result from climate change. What opportunities arise in, for example, the construction industry if future winters are milder and the construction does not have to be interrupted as long as before during frost? How can tourism in Germany benefit from rising temperatures but stay sustainable at the same time?

 

Who has to adapt?

In order for us to adapt successfully to climate change and its impacts all societal actors have to take action: Politics, municipalities, companies and individuals.

  • Politics: Adaption to climate change is an important political issue which is pursued through various measures at the federal level: The German government adopted the German Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change (Deutsche Anpassungsstrategie an den Klimawandel; DAS) in December 2008. In 2011, the Adaptation Action Plan (Aktionsplan Anpassung; APA) followed. It determines the measures needed to further develop and implement the DAS. In 2015, a progress report concerning the implementation of strategy was published. In addition, several federal states have already delivered adaptation strategies. The EU Strategy is implemented since 2013.
  • Municipalities: Municipalities play an important role in the adaption to climate change as many measures are implemented at the local level. Central components of our infrastructure such as roads, sewage systems, public buildings and hospitals are often owned by municipalities. Thus, they have many opportunities to advance climate change adaptation on a local level.
  • Companies: Companies are also affected by climate change. Rising temperatures change production conditions. Extreme weather events can disrupt supply chains and damage the infrastructure. Heat affects the well-being and productivity of the companies' staff. Different economic sectors have to deal with different climate impacts. Therefore it is important to develop industry-specific strategies and measures to deal with such impacts.
  • Individuals: Last but not least, everyone can adapt to climate change. We can, for example, shade houses if they heat up too much in the summer and adapt our holiday habits or daily routines to the changing climate.
 

Tools for Climate Change Adaptation

The above-mentioned examples show that there are manifold ways to adapt to climate change. KomPass - Climate Impacts and Adaptation in Germany therefore provides different tools for climate change adaption with information and concrete recommendations for different audiences.

 

Does that mean that we have stopped protecting the climate?

No. Despite having several ways of dealing with climate change, we can absolutely not stop to protect the climate. Climate is a complex system and we are unable to predict with certainty what will happen if we continue to emit more and more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Especially crossing the climate system’s so-called tipping points may have irreversible consequences and cause further reactions of the climate system Apart from that, climate protection is also a question of economic viability: the stronger the impacts of climate change, the more expensive the adaption measures.
Climate protection measures that foster adaption at the same time can be considered especially favorable. Insulation for example does not only lower the energy consumption of buildings, it also reduces the impact of extreme heat caused by climate change during the summer.  Other measures, however, can lead to conflicts between climate protection and adaption to climate change. While air conditioning improves well-being during heat, which makes it an effective adaption measure, it does also account for a higher need of electricity, which has negative impacts on the climate. That is why it is important to consider possible synergies and conflicts when planning both, climate protection and adaption measures.