What is “No Regret” Climate Adaptation?

What is “No Regret” Climate Adaptation?
The world poor is primarily made up of small scale subsistence farmers who often struggle to produce enough to feed their families. When they do produce a surplus, they sell it for profit. These small scale farmers are often living in hot climates in Central American and African countries. As such, global climate change is affecting them, often making their environment hotter and arider, which affects their production levels. Recent record levels of drought in places such as the Horn of Africa exemplify the impact that climate change can have on agriculture in the developing world.

There seems to be a simple solution to this problem: If people know that climate change is happening, then methods of production in agriculture simply need to be adjusted to reflect what the climate will change into. Sound easy? It would be, but the problem lies in a lack of accurate climate prediction models. Regional climates are incredibly complex, and no reliable model has been created to predict the path that climate change is going to take, especially in the short term. Farmers can’t afford to adjust their growing practices to changes in climate that don’t actually occur, and then lose out on production as a result.

No regret climate adaption is a way around such an issue. No regret climate adaptation strategies are practices that are beneficial even in the absence of climate change, and where the costs of adaptation are relatively low when compared to the results of the adaptations. Actions such as controlling water pipe leakages and scaling back groundwater use to sustainable levels qualify as no regret adaptations. Regardless of climate change, such practices yield results in the communities and have little to no negative impact. In Central America, for instance, increasing temperatures can make coffee production not feasible for low altitude farmers. These farmers instead can switch to growing cocoa, which will be similarly productive but lacks as much risk associated with these higher temperatures.

However, these adaptations only present a short term solution to climate change. In the long term, farmers will need to know what new climates they are dealing with in order to produce significant crop yields. Experts recommend a marrying of both approaches: no regret adaptations are very useful when facing a lack of reliable information, but it does not replace adaptations fitted to more specific and certain climate changes.

– Martin Drake
Source: IRIN News, European Climate Adaptation Platform
Photo: Ecologist