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Adaptation to climate change: An emerging science


Adaptation to climate change is growing rapidly around the world both in practice as well as in the research community. This was amply demonstrated at the recent International Conference on Adaptation Futures held at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona in the United States of America from May 29 to 31. There were over 700 participants from all over the world, including a significant number from developing countries, and over two hundred papers were presented on various aspects of adaptation.

This was in fact the second international conference on Adaptation Science with the first having been held in Australia in 2010. These Adaptation Science conferences will now be held every two years under the aegis of a major new scientific initiative on vulnerability, impacts and adaptation to climate change called PROVIA, which is jointly supported by Unep, WMO and Unesco. The next conference will be held in Fortaleza, Brazil in 2014.

The Adaptation Futures conference in Tucson signified a rapid development of our understanding of adaptation science in several ways. A few are described below:

Some early lessons from Adaptation Science:
Firstly, adaptation to climate change is no longer seen as only something that concerns poor developing countries. There is now considerable attention being paid to adaptation in richer countries as was demonstrated by presentations from the US, Europe, Japan and a large number from Australia, which is perhaps taking adaptation most seriously.

The second significant finding was that in order to carry out research on adaptation the academic researchers cannot do it alone as adaptation is a learning-by-doing process and hence there needs to be close collaboration between the researchers and practitioners. The Arizona conference had many more practitioners than the previous meeting in Australia.

The third emerging issue is the potential for genuine collaboration on an equal footing between researchers from developed and developing countries as the former have access to higher levels of technology but the latter have the experiential knowledge. Adaptation science thus has the potential to find synergies between top-down and bottom-up research.

Bangladesh’s role:
It was interesting to note that Bangladesh featured in significant ways at the conference in Tucson.

There were a number of papers presented on Bangladesh by a combination of Bangladeshi researchers studying or working in USA, Europe and Australia, foreign researchers who had done their field work in Bangladesh and Bangladeshi researchers working in Bangladesh from Buet and Khulna University.

The organisers of the conference in Arizona provided funding for fifty young researchers from developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America on a competitive basis depending on the quality of the abstracts submitted. The largest cohort from a single country was from Bangladesh.

Thus, Bangladesh is beginning to make its mark on the global adaptation science scene. With continued support to carry our research on adaptation to climate change Bangladeshi researchers have the potential to make an even bigger contribution to the next Adaptation Science conference.



  1. Palash.shuvo says:

    Enabling environment at local, regional, national and even at international levels is pre-requisite for climate change adaptation. If the parties (both supply and demand side)are not ready or equipped with necessary legal instruments it is difficult to ensure. In order to plan effective adaptation actions, scientific climate change analysis is vital for broad contexts. However, at local level, the most relevant information and knowledge often already exists or can be generated through local stakeholders’ own analysis. Local knowledge also has a credible authority for informing and influencing policy. We need to blend science and local knowledge in this regard.

  2. Rezaul Maksud Jahedi says:

    thanks Palash. Comment is solicited.

  3. Salehuddin says:

    As the Govt. of Bangladesh is becoming more and more conscious about climate changes and its impacts on national economy and environment. More and more Bangladeshi people from home and abroad need to do research on Climate Change Adaptation for a better economy and sustainable development. Also hope, Researcher from DU will participate in the next Confernece to be held in Fortaleza, Brazil in 2014 and contribute to the Adaptation Processes in Climate Change.

  4. Palash.shuvo says:

    CARE has developed a set of tools to assess Climate Vulnerability and Capacity, it is very timely. Its focus on the community level is sharp and salutary. It
    stresses that communities are not homogeneous. It underlines the need to pay special attention
    to those, especially women and the marginalised, who are more at risk and less able to adapt. It
    is about facilitating analysis of vulnerability and adaptive capacity by members of communities
    themselves. In doing this it applies participatory values, processes and methods, to enable local
    people to articulate and enhance their own knowledge and understanding, and to plan action.
    The Handbook can be downloaded from CARE’s climate change website at http://www.careclimatechange.org. The
    CVCA Handbook is a living document. Please send feedback and suggestions to cvca@careclimatechange.org. We would
    be particularly pleased to hear about your experiences using the Handbook and suggestions for its improvement.

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