Understanding Climate Change and Causes
Climate change refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns. Though some of these shifts occur naturally and over decades due to variations in weather elements such as temperature, rainfall, and wind, human activity has been responsible for unprecedented shifts and changes in recent decades. Increased greenhouse gas emissions from human activities due to industrialization, such as the burning of fossil fuels, increased livestock farming, and deforestation has caused an increase in the greenhouse effect and global warming. Human-induced global warming is presently increasing at a rate of 0.2°C per decade, with the global average temperature reaching 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels in 2019. Scientists warn that an increase of 2°C above the temperature in pre-industrial times is associated with severe harmful effects to the natural environment as well as human health and well-being.
Impact of Climate Change
Climate change globally impacts human lives, health, and livelihood in several ways. The world has seen an increase in extreme weather events such as heavy rainfall, floods, heatwaves, and drought. These in turn affect yield and viability of agricultural products and livestock and availability of potable water, all of which are necessary to sustain life and good health. Climate change also increases the risk of infectious diseases through creation of conducive environments for vectors to thrive and increases human contact with animals as their natural habitats are destroyed. Some populations are more vulnerable to the risk and effects of climate change by virtue of where they live and their agricultural practices, preparedness, and coping capacity.
Responding to Climate Change: Climate Mitigation and Adaptation
Effective climate change response requires a two-pronged approach and utilization of climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies. These work hand-in-hand and are both essential elements to successfully addressing climate change.
Climate change adaptation refers to changes in processes, practices, and structures to moderate potential damages or to benefit from opportunities associated with climate change. The aim of adaptation is to increase the resilience of people, communities, and natural ecosystems to climate shocks and stressors. Some examples of climate change adaptation include farming drought resistant crops and relocating a community away from a coastline.
Moreover, the world cannot curb additional damage unless it is willing to address root causes of climate change, such as greenhouse gas emission. Experts refer to this as climate change mitigation. Examples of climate change mitigation strategies include increasing access to and use of clean energy sources, natural climate solutions such as restoring coastal wetlands and forests, and promoting a circular economy by reducing wastes and reusing/recycling resources. When developing climate adaptation and mitigation strategies, stakeholders should consider how climate change disproportionately affects vulnerable populations such as low income communities to ensure strategies are both effective and equitable.
The Role of Social and Behavior Change in Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation
Effective climate adaptation and mitigation strategies require individuals and communities to modify existing behaviors or adopt new ones regarding energy sources and utilization, settlement patterns, agriculture, and natural resource management. In this regard, climate change mitigation and adaptation programs can draw parallels from the field of social and behavior change (SBC), which possesses a significant body of knowledge on the subject, to design effective interventions. Behaviors around energy utilization, settlement patterns, agriculture, and natural resource management are often driven by complex personal and social dynamics, including community norms. Integrating SBC into climate change adaptation and mitigation approaches allows for an in-depth exploration of these dynamics and building an understanding of how these and other factors interact and influence the adoption or modification of desired behaviors.
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- What is climate change? (n.d.). United Nations.
- Causes of climate change. (n.d.). European Commission.
- National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases. (2022, August 2). Climate change and infectious diseases. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/ncezid/what-we-do/climate-change-and-infectious-diseases/index.html
- United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Climate Change Adaptation. (2022). Social vulnerability assessment tools for climate change and DRR programming. UNDP. https://www.adaptation-undp.org/Social-Vulnerability-Assessment-Tools
- What do adaptation to climate change and climate resilience mean? (2022). United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
- Mitigation. (n.d.). United Nations Environment Programme.
- Climate change and social vulnerability in the United States. (2021). U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
- Chemonics for the Climate Change Adaptation Thought Leadership and Assessments. (2019). Integrating social and behavior change in climate change adaptation: An introductory guide. USAID Climatelinks.