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Impacts and adaptation – key insights

A villager fills the foundation for his new house to elevate it and protect it from the rising sea

Curbing global greenhouse gas emissions (what we call ‘mitigation’) is an urgent priority, but some impacts are now unavoidable, affecting citizens and communities around the world in a range of increasingly visible ways.

 Climate impacts are affecting people’s health, their livelihoods, and decisions about where to live and work. Engaging and supporting communities affected by climate impacts must be done sensitively and in an evidence-based way.

Policies to adapt to climate risks and build resilience are now becoming increasingly important. As with policies on mitigation, efforts to adapt will not succeed unless they are based on an understanding of public attitudes around climate risks and strategies for reducing our vulnerability to them. In addition to the technical, environmental and economic factors underlying decisions about future adaptation options, supportive public opinion – obtaining a social mandate – is crucial.

Key insights from our work

    • In many countries around the world, climate change concern is surging as climate impacts become more salient and visible. This opens up important new fronts for engaging the public, but efforts must be done sensitively and with empathy and compassion.
    • Climate impacts are disproportionately impacting poorer and more vulnerable communities and countries, so building public support for helping these communities and increasing their resilience is vitally important.
With DFID’s help, grandmother Pagli Mallik, from the village of Khushkhali, has now started supporting her family by breeding ducks as well as chickens – ducks are far less prone to water-borne diseases and are able to swim when the floods come.

Pagli Mallik, from the village of Khushkhali, has started supporting her family by breeding ducks, which are less prone to water-borne diseases than chickens and are able to swim when the floods come. Photo credit: Department for International Development / Rafiqur Rahman Raqu

    • There is growing evidence that adaptation policies are supported across the political spectrum – practical steps to build resilience are not polarising or controversial in the way that some mitigation policies are.

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Further Reading

Reports & guides

Communicating climate impacts in our communities through adaptation

    • Climate impacts make for powerful visual symbols – but must be used sensitively, and coupled with imagery/narratives that build a sense of efficacy to avoid overwhelming or disempowering audiences.
    • Communicators should not avoid adaptation messages for fear that they will undermine mitigation messages: there is no evidence that this will happen, and people are likely to perceive mitigation and adaptation as two sides of the same coin.

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