Challenges and Opportunities for Building Climate Resilience

K N Ninan and Makoto Inoue discuss climate change and the impact it will have on society.


Over time it is expected that climate change will have a profound impact on human and natural systems, and thereby impede sustainable economic growth and development. It thus poses an immense challenge to governments, societies and entities. Evidence collated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) depict a grim picture of the trends in climate variables. These indicate an unprecedented rise in global average land and ocean temperatures, melting of glaciers, rising sea levels, increased frequency and intensity of natural calamities, etc. If current lifestyles and economic activities continue average global air temperature is likely to rise to between 2 to 4.5oC or even more by the end of this century. If this happens it will have disastrous consequences on ecosystems, species, lives and livelihoods. Poor and marginalized people, developing countries and small island states are most vulnerable to the risks posed by climate change. Climate change may also lead to transboundary conflicts or movement of environmental refugees. Keeping the average rise in global temperature to below 2oC above pre-industrial levels and if possible below 1.5oC above pre-industrial levels, has been accepted as a goal by 195 countries that approved the Paris Climate Agreement which came into force in November 2016. However, prospects for this are dim given the current pledges for reducing emission levels and more so now after the Trump administration announced US’s intention to withdraw from the pact.

The adverse effects of human-induced climate change on socio-economic sectors, such as food and water security, human settlements, human health, and biodiversity and ecosystems have already been observed, and even if the 2oC target is met, which is unlikely, then further adverse consequences would occur. Unless human-induced climate change is addressed urgently, many of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals will be undermined, especially in developing countries, which are most at risk due to their limited technological and financial capability to adapt.

Understanding the synergies and trade-offs, the economic costs and benefits, and the social acceptability of climate adaptation and mitigation strategies is essential.

What may be a beneficial policy for addressing climate change may be beneficial or detrimental to another issue such as biodiversity and ecosystems, or may lead to distributional effects with one part of society benefitting while another part of society being adversely affected.

In Building a Climate Resilient Economy and Society – Challenges and Opportunities leading experts from around the world identify a range of options to adapt, reduce vulnerability and increase resilience to human-induced climate change for both terrestrial and marine systems. It addresses key sectors such as agriculture, fisheries, water quantity and quality, energy and coastal cities, and key issues such as terrestrial and marine biodiversity, and Small Island States. It also addresses key issues associated with mitigation, including carbon pricing, REDD+, role of communities, economic implications of climate policies, and financing at the local level.

Popularising crop varieties and practises that can tolerate water stress and other climate risks, sustainable use and management of resources and ecosystems, providing safety nets to vulnerable people, investing in green infrastructure to mitigate urban heat stress in our cities and in infrastructure such as cyclone shelters, sea walls and coastal barrages to cope with extreme weather events, rising sea levels that threaten coastal areas and cities, and shifting from a fossil fuel-led growth to one based on renewable energy are the various adaption options to address the risks posed by climate change, disasters and extreme weather events.

Building climate resilience also requires an enabling environment in terms of appropriate incentives, governance, institutions and policies. Shifting public policies from a carbon subsidizing to carbon taxing regime, giving incentives and effective implementation of initiatives such as REDD+ for adapting to climate change, appropriate institutional and governance reforms, giving favored access to climate finance and clean technologies will enable developing countries to transit to a low carbon economy and society


K N Ninan is Chairperson, Centre for Economics, Environment and Society, Bangalore, India and Co-Chair, Methodological Assessment of Scenarios and Models of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), United Nations, Bonn, Germany. His recent books include: Valuing Ecosystem Services-Methodological Issues and Case Studies (Edward Elgar, 2014); Conserving and Valuing Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity (Earthscan, 2009 and 2011); and The Economics of Biodiversity Conservation-Valuation in Tropical Forest Ecosystem (Earthscan,2007, Routledge, 2016).


Makoto Inoue is Professor of Environmental Sociology, Waseda University and Former Professor of Global Forest Environmental Studies, Graduate School of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the University of Tokyo, Japan. His recent books include: ‘Multi-level Forest Governance in Asia: Concepts, Challenges and the Way Forward’, edited jointly with Ganesh P.Shivakoti (Sage Publications, New Delhi, 2015) and ‘Collaborative Governance of Forests: Towards Sustainable Forest Resource Utilization’, edited jointly with M.Tanaka (University of Tokyo Press, 2015).

Ninan Building

Building a Climate Resilient Economy and Society edited by K.N. Ninan, Centre for Economics, Environment and Society, India and Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, United Nations, Germany and Makoto Inoue, Waseda University and the University of Tokyo, Japan

Read chapter one free on Elgaronline.

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