Published online by Cambridge University Press: 31 August 2009
Almost every day new scientific evidence suggests that the climate is changing due to human action and will continue to change over our lifetimes and those of the next generations. It would be inconceivable that humans, as the most adaptable of species, would not adapt to this challenge. But the state of science about how and whether we adapt and the cost and consequences of such adaptations is nowhere near that of science of atmospheric change. Of course, societies adapt all the time to diverse risks and challenges. So, drawing on theoretical and empirical research, we should be able to discern how adaptation to a changing climate will proceed. Herein lies the impetus for this book.
Until recently, adaptation has been somewhat sidelined, or some would say, actually tabooed, in the climate change discourse. Many argue that investing in adapting to the impacts distracts from the major task of mitigating the causes of anthropogenic climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Others are convinced that adaptation will automatically happen, once environmental changes become visible. But the time for adaptation action has arrived and the demand for information and rigorous science in this area is increasing exponentially. The funding for adaptation research is growing, and so are the questions that need to be addressed. Many of these questions are directly related to the process of adaptation, and to one overarching question: can we live with climate change?