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Is adaption the future of effective climate policy?

Climate change has been a well-known natural phenomenon for decades – yet the direct impact global warming has on our society has never been so strong and clear as in the most recent past. Droughts, floods and fires were just three out of many forms of climate change enhanced phenomena we could experience in the past few months.

While the global community´s central aim is, as stated in the Paris Agreement in 2016, to limit temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels – national governments already seem to struggle with meeting nationally set goals, some even question the Agreement itself.

Thus rises the question if, instead of trying to reach ultimate goal of limiting temperature increase by controlling carbon dioxide emissions, governments should concentrate on the concept of adaptation in order to combat climate change more efficiently.

Adaptation is defined by the IPCC as “The process of adjustment to actual or expected climate and its effects (…) to moderate or avoid harm or exploit beneficial opportunities”. How such a concept of adaption should look like, is rather a national, if not even a more regional or local question, although sharing knowledge and skills might prove useful to the whole global community. Germany for example adopted the “Germany Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change” (“DAS”) in 2008, a multilayer plan for assessing a concrete adaptation strategy in all kinds of fields, such as water management, tourism and construction industry. But given the most recent droughts of Summer 2018, which had impacts on all kinds of areas, but especially on farming, it seems questionable if Germany was well enough prepared to overcome drought-related obstacles. 

Facing the biggest polluters like China, India or the US – should smaller countries just accept that in comparison to those previously mentioned their efforts to minimize national emissions will never be enough to create a global balance? Are thorough national adaptation concepts the smarter strategy in the long run?