Handbook of Sustainable Development
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Handbook of Sustainable Development

Second Edition

Edited by Giles Atkinson, Simon Dietz, Eric Neumayer and Matthew Agarwala

This timely and important Handbook takes stock of progress made in our understanding of what sustainable development actually is and how it can be measured and achieved.
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Chapter 29: Climate change adaptation: a risk-management approach

Gary W. Yohe


In the contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2007a), authors focused their attention on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability of and to climate change – impacts and vulnerabilities that we either cannot avoid by adaptation or choose not to avoid. In other words, these authors made the case that contemplating adaptation to climate change should no longer be dismissed as evidence that society is giving up on trying to ameliorate the problem at its source (emissions of greenhouse gases). Rather, adaptation must be included as an essential part of society’s portfolio of responses to growing risks. Their case has since been reinforced – in the panel reports on adaptation to climate change released by the National Research Council of the United States (NRC, 2010b) under the rubric of ‘America’s Climate Choices’, for example, and the evolving adaptation strategies of governments at all levels around the world. It is easy to expect that their message will be highlighted with even more confidence when the IPCC submits its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) in 2014. Many of the impacts of climate change are noticed by society by detecting increasingly intense and/or more frequent extreme weather events and attributing the observed change in weather to climate change.

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