CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION

Adaptation is the name given to the process lived by people and communities in order to adjust to the adverse impacts of climate change. An effective adaptation process has to increase both, resilience and adaptive capacity, of peoples and livelihoods involved. For the purpose of this research, resilience is understood as the level of flexibility of people and livelihoods to withstand variations and/or unexpected situations. Their adaptive capacity refers to their capabilities to implement the changes needed to those variations and new conditions.

“Adaptation requires empowering people, building their resilience, securing livelihoods, and putting in place or strengthening the physical infrastructure to protect against extreme weather events as well as the institutions and systems needed to cope with their consequences. Effective adaptation will require not only effective local action but also national coordination, supported by vigorous international cooperation and, in the case of vulnerable developing countries, by adequate resources from developed countries.” (UN General Assembly, 2009)

Living and working in Latin America, however, where current climate change impacts are already threatening food security of entire regions, I have learnt that the concept of adaptation has very negative connotations in some circles. The process is often understood as imposed in order to adjust to a very difficult present -and a very uncertain future- worsening by the day due to inaction by developed countries to efficiently reduce GHG emissions to a safer level for all. In my opinion this is definitely something to keep in mind when researching on climate change in Latin America. Having said that, as a social scientist I understand the need to have a unique term encompassing the numerous and diverse activities taken place to enhance resilience and adaptive capacity in communities at risk. Nevertheless, I also tend to agree that calling the process adaptation was not necessarily the best choice of words, particularly for an area where resistance movements to foreign intervention have a history of centuries that still goes on today.

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