4 March 2018

Smart adaptation in an era of rising climate risks

Around the globe, the number and cost of weather-related events that cause financial losses have been increasing rapidly, in parallel with growing evidence for the effects of climate change. Yet surprisingly, since 1980 – when global-scale data become reliable – the strongest driver of the trend in costs is increasing wealth and not increasingly severe or frequent hurricanes. In fact, there is no strong evidence pointing to an additional role for climate change in the trend of increasing financial losses for weather disasters. Recognizing that disasters are always complex, should this be interpreted to mean that climate change has not been a major factor in disaster losses? Will it be a major factor in the future? How can we use historical experience as a guide to building climate-change proof infrastructure? Understanding climate change and its links to weather-related extremes is one key to answering these questions. Another is appreciating the role of human actions in amplifying or suppressing the impacts of weather-related extremes. As climate change impacts become more frequent and severe, we need smart adaptation that builds on science, integrates experience from history, capitalizes on opportunities for win-win solutions, and is designed to accommodate new information as it becomes available. Read this article in the March/April digital Journal.