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Adapting to climate change. A question for our society

We all now understand that climate change is taking effect and that the impact of these changes will become ever more acute in the future. We must act today then, putting concrete strategies and measures in place so we can adapt to the changes while mitigating their impact.
Humankind has evolved throughout history, constantly adapting to shifting environmental conditions. The ability to evolve quickly is all the more vital as the climate is changing at an unprecedented rate.
Adaptation is one of the most promising options to strengthen ecological and social systems and ensure they are more resilient to climate change.

Drylands represent more than 41% of the Earth’s land surface and are home to more than two billion people, mainly in developing countries (UNCCD, 2011). Well adapted to climate constraints, dryland ecosystems have long provided the ecosystem services, such as food, wood, textiles, freshwater and so on, required to meet the needs of communities. However, increasing demand linked to population growth has led to overexploitation of natural resources, leaving ecosystems insufficient time to regenerate. Combined with the effects of climate change, this overexploitation has led to the continual degradation of terrestrial ecosystems, resulting in their decreased resilience.
Today, due to desertification and drought, almost 12 million hectares of arable land disappear every year. Land on which 20 million tonnes of cereals could have been grown. Over the next 25 years, land degradation could reduce global food crop production by up to 12%, leading to a potential 30% increase in the world market price of food products (IFPRI, 2012). As Franklin Roosevelt said: “A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself”. It is essential to act quickly, before
it becomes too late to reverse the trend, to stop the degradation process and help already degraded land recover. After a brief reminder of the challenges related to land degradation and climate change, we will consider the adaptation strategies that need to be adopted and the critical success factors for these strategies.

As referred to in Articles 5 and 6 of the Paris Agreement, adaptation must help ensure sustainable development and environmental integrity. Recognizing that 74% of the world’s poor are directly affected by land degradation and that land is their only source of wealth, it is crucial to improve land use. To that end, sustainable land management (SLM) can be a decisive solution to respond to the challenges of food security, forced migration, climate change adaptation and human well-being. Protecting healthy land is not only necessary but is also the most cost-effective way of addressing the increasing vulnerability of communities living in regions where there are insufficient resources (WB, UNCCD, 2016).
SLM techniques are numerous, diverse and cost-effective. Implemented all over the world, they provide many benefits by protecting and increasing land productivity. ( Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)

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Adapting to climate change and global change have become vital goals for all societies. These same societies are faced at times with unexpected meteorological phenomena that are becoming increasingly frequent and intense, including flooding, droughts and tornadoes. They are also having to wrestle with rising temperatures and the follow-on effects on the balance of ecosystems, the evolution of species, and animal and plant life, not to mention the development of human populations, their living conditions and social organisation. Although the capacity of ecosystems to adapt or convert has been demonstrated by studies on climate variations over time, the growing pace of some phenomena may well lead to a point of no return. In fact, with the global rise in temperature — caused by human activities in particular — we might already have reached this stage.

 

This book, which consists of some fifty articles by scientists and experts,is unique. It makes us think about what lies behind the notions of adaptation and maladaptation, drawing on several disciplines, sectors and regional fields. It also highlights the checks and limitations of adaptation, as well as reflecting and suggesting ways of acting and adjusting.

"Adapting to climate change. A question for our society".This book is the result of a partnership between the CNRS and Comité 21. It was jointly edited by Agathe Euzen (deputy scientific director at the CNRS Ecology and Environment Institute); Bettina Laville (state councillor and Comité 21 chair); and Stéphanie Thiébault (director of the CNRS Ecology and Environment Institute).