Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 61, Issue 1, pp 9–35 | Cite as

Adaptation to What and Why?

  • A.B. Pittock
  • R.N. Jones


Adaptation in response to anthropogenic climate change seeks to maintain viability by maximising benefits and minimising losses. It is necessary because some climatic change is now inevitable, despite the international focus on mitigation measures. Indeed, the measures agreed at Kyoto would by themselves result in only a small reduction in the climate changes to be expected over the next century.

Discussion of the expected changes and possible impacts leads to the following conclusions regarding climate change scenarios in relation to impacts and adaptation:

• Climate change in the foreseeable future will not be some new stable "equilibrium" climate, but rather an ongoing "transient" process;

• Climate change predictions relevant to impacts on most sectors and ecosystems are still highly uncertain;

• There is a need for a greater focus on developing countries and tropical regions, and on relevant key variables, including the magnitude and frequency of extreme events;

• The focus should shift from single predictions, or extreme ranges of uncertainty, to risk assessment;

• Thresholds critical to impacted sectors and ecosystems should be identified, and expressed as functions of climatic variables;

• Planned adaptations will be necessary to cope with multiple stresses, including those due to non-climatic changes;

• A major task of adaptation science is to identify the limits of adaptation, i.e., to identify "dangerous levels of greenhouse gases" beyond which adaptation becomes impractical or prohibitively expensive.

climate change risk adaptation thresholds limits 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Anthes, R.A.: 1982, ‘Tropical Cyclones: Their Evolution, Structure, and Effects.’ Amer. Meteorological Soc. Monographs, no.41, Boston, MA.Google Scholar
  2. Bazzaz, F.A.: 1990, ‘The response of natural ecosystems to the rising global CO2 levels.’ Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, 21, 167-196.Google Scholar
  3. toc.html>)Google Scholar
  4. Bolin, B.: 1998, ‘The Kyoto negotiations on climate change: a science perspective.’ Science, 279, 330-331.Google Scholar
  5. Broccoli, A.J., Manabe, S., Mitchell, J.F.B. and Bengtsson, L.: 1995, Comments on “Global climate change and tropical cyclones”, Part 2, Bulletin American Meteorological Soc., 76, 2243-2245.Google Scholar
  6. Buddemeier, R.W.: 1994, ‘Symbiosis, calcification, and environmental interactions.’ Bull. Institut Océanographique, Monaco, no special 13, 119-131.Google Scholar
  7. Buddemeier, R.W. and Fautin, D.G.: 1996, ‘Saturation state and the evolution and biogeography of symbiotic calcífication.’ Bull. Institut Océanographique, Monaco, no special 14(4), 23-32.Google Scholar
  8. CSIRO.: 1996, Climate Change Scenarios for the Australian Region. Climate Impact Group, CSIRO Division of Atmospheric Research, Aspendale, issued November 1996, 8 pp.Google Scholar
  9. Cubasch, U., Santer, B.D., Hellbach, A., Hegerl, G., Hock, H., Maier-Reimer, E., Mikolajewicz, U., Stossel, A. and Voss, R.: 1994, ‘Monte Carlo climate change forecasts with a global coupled ocean-atmosphere model.’ Climate Dynamics, 10, 1-20.Google Scholar
  10. Cure, J.D. and Acock, B.: 1986, ‘Crop responses to carbon dioxide doubling: a literature survey.’ Agric. and Forest Meteorology, 38, 127-145.Google Scholar
  11. England, M.H.: 1995, Using chlorofluorocarbons to assess ocean models. Geophysical Research Letters, 22, 3051-3054.Google Scholar
  12. Evans, J.L. and Allan, R.J.: 1992, ‘El Niño/Southern Oscillation modification to the structure of the monsoon and tropical cyclone activity in the Australian region.’ Internat. J. of Climatology, 12, 611-623.Google Scholar
  13. Fairbanks, R.G.: 1989, ‘A 17,000-year glacio-eustatic sea level record: influence of glacial melting rates on the Younger Dryas event and deep-ocean circulation.’ Nature, 342, 637-642.Google Scholar
  14. Fowler, A.M. and Hennessy, K.J.: 1995, ‘Potential impacts of global warming on the frequency and magnitude of heavy precipitation.’ Natural Hazards, 11, 283-303.Google Scholar
  15. Gattuso, J.-P., Allemand, D. and Frankignoulle, M.: in press, ‘Interactions between the carbon and carbonate cycles at organism and community levels in coral reefs.’ American Zoologist.Google Scholar
  16. Gifford, R.M., Barrett, D.J., Lutze, J.L. and Samarakoon, A.B.: 1996, ‘Agriculture and global change: scaling direct carbon dioxide impacts and feedbacks through time’, in B. Walker and W. Steffen (eds.) Global change and Terrestrial Ecosystems. Cambridge Uni. Press, Cambridge, U.K., pp. 399-416.Google Scholar
  17. Glynn, P.W.: 1997, ‘Coral reef bleaching: facts, hypotheses and implications.’ Global Change Biology, 2, 495-509.Google Scholar
  18. Gordon, H.A. and O'Farrell, S.P.: 1997, ‘Transient climate change in the CSIRO coupled model with dynamic sea ice.’ Monthly Weather Review, 125, 875-907.Google Scholar
  19. Gray, W.M.: 1968, ‘Global view of the origin of tropical disturbances and storms.’ Monthly Weather Rev., 96, 669-700.Google Scholar
  20. Gray, W.M.: 1975, Tropical cyclone genesis. Dept. of Atmospheric Sci. Paper No. 234, Colorado State Uni., Fort Collins, CO, 121 pp.Google Scholar
  21. Gregory, J.M.: 1993, ‘Sea level changes under increasing atmospheric CO2 in a transient coupled ocean-atmosphere GCM experiment.’ J. Climate, 6, 2247-2262.Google Scholar
  22. Harrison, D.E. and Larkin, N.K., 1997. ‘Darwin sea level pressure, 1876 1996: evidence for climate change?’ Geophysical Research Letters, 24, 1779-1782.Google Scholar
  23. Henderson-Sellers, A., 1993. ‘An Antipodean climate of uncertainty.’ Climatic Change, 25, 203-224.Google Scholar
  24. Henderson-Sellers, A., Zhang, H., Berz, G., Emanuel, K., Gray, W., Landsea, C., Holland, G., Lighthill, J., Shieh, S-L., Webster, P. and McGuffie, K., 1998. ‘Tropical cyclones and global climate change: a post-IPCC assessment.’ Bulletin American Meteorological Soc., 79, 19-38.Google Scholar
  25. Hennessy, K.J., Gregory, J.M. and Mitchell, J.F.B., 1997. ‘Changes in daily precipitation under enhanced greenhouse conditions.’ Climate Dynamics, 13, 667-680.Google Scholar
  26. Herman, J.R., Bhartia, P.K., Ziemke, J., Ahmad, Z., and Larko, D., 1996. ‘UV-B increases (1979–1992) from decreases in total ozone.’ Geophys. Research Letters, 23, 2117-2120.Google Scholar
  27. Holland, G.J., 1993. The Global Guide to Tropical Cyclone Forecasting. WMO/TD-560, World Meteorological Organization, Geneva, 337 pp.Google Scholar
  28. Holland, G.J., 1997. ‘The maximum potential intensity of tropical cyclones.’ J. Atmospheric Sciences 54, 2519-2541.Google Scholar
  29. Hopley, D. and Kinsey, D.W., 1988. ‘The effects of a rapid short-term sea-level rise on the Great Barrier Reef.’ In: ‘Greenhouse: Planning for Climate Change’, ed. Pearman, G.I., CSIRO Pub., pp. 189-201.Google Scholar
  30. Hubbert, G.D. and McInnes, K.L., in press. ‘A storm surge inundation model for coastal planning and impact studies.’ J. Coastal Research. Google Scholar
  31. IPCC, 1992. Climate Change 1992: The Supplementary Report to the IPCC Scientific Assessment, Houghton, J.T., Callander, B.A. and Varney, S.K. (eds.), Cambridge Uni. Press, Cambridge, 365 pp.Google Scholar
  32. IPCC, 1996. Climate Change 1995: The Science of Climate Change, Houghton, J.T., Meira Filho, L.G., Callandar, B.A., Harris, N., Kattenberg, A. and Maskell, K. (eds.), Contribution of Working Group 1 to the Second Assessment Report of IPCC, Cambridge Uni. Press, Cambridge, 572 pp.Google Scholar
  33. Jackett, D.R., McDougall, T.J., England, M.H. and Hirst, A.C.: in press, ‘Thermal expansion in ocean general circulation models.’ J. Climate. Google Scholar
  34. Jones, R.N.: in press, ‘Climate change scenarios, impact thresholds and risk.’ Proc. Workshop on Impacts of Global Change on Australian Temperate Forests, 25–27 Feb., 1998, Gorman, J. and Howden, S.M. (eds.), CSIRO Wildlife and Ecology, Canberra.Google Scholar
  35. Jones, R.N. and Pittock, A.B.: 1997, ‘Assessing the impacts of climate change: the challenge for ecology.’ In: Frontiers in Ecology: Building the Links, Klomp, N. and Lunt, I. (eds.), Elsevier Science, Oxford, pp. 311-322.Google Scholar
  36. Karl, T.R., Wang, W C., Schlesinger, M.E., Knight, R.W. and Portman, D.: 1990, ‘A method of relating general circulation model simulated climate to the observed climate, Part I: seasonal statistics.’ J. Climate, 3, 1053-1079.Google Scholar
  37. Kinzie, R.A. and Buddemeier, R.W.: 1996, ‘Reefs happen.’ Global Change Biology, 2, 479-494.Google Scholar
  38. Kleypas, J.A.: 1997, ‘Modeled estimates of global reef habitat and carbonate production since the last glacial maximum.’ Paleoceanography, 12, 533-545.Google Scholar
  39. Konishi, T.: 1995, ‘An experimental storm surge prediction for the western part of the Inland Sea with application to Typhoon 9119.’ Papers Meteorology Geophys., 46, 9-17.Google Scholar
  40. Knutson, T.R., Tuleya, R.E. and Kurihara, Y.: 1998, ‘Simulated increase of hurricane intensities in a CO2-warmed climate.’ Science, 279, 1018-1020.Google Scholar
  41. Larcombe, P., Woolfe, K. and Purdon, R., (eds.): 1996, Great Barrier Reef: Terrigenous Sediment Flux and Human Impacts, Second Ed., Nov. 1996. James Cook Uni., Townsville, 174 pp.Google Scholar
  42. Lighthill, J., Holland, G.J., Gray, W.M., Landsea, C., Craig, G., Evans, J., Kurihara, Y. and Guard, C.P.: 1994, ‘Global climate change and tropical cyclones.’ Bulletin American Meteorological Soc., 75, 2147-2157.Google Scholar
  43. Lubin, D. and Jensen, E.H.: 1995, ‘Effects of clouds and stratospheric ozone depletion on ultraviolet radiation trends.’ Nature, 377, 710-713.Google Scholar
  44. McDougall, T.M., Hirst, A.C., England, M.H. and McIntosh, P.C.: 1996, ‘Implications of a new eddy parameterization for ocean models.’ Geophysical Research Letters, 23, 2085-2088.Google Scholar
  45. McGregor, J.J., Walsh, K.J. and Katzfey, J.J.: 1993, ‘Nested modelling for regional climate studies.’ In: Modelling Change in Environmental Systems, Jakeman, A.J., Beck, M.B and McAlcer, M.J, (eds.), John Wiley and Sons, Chichester, pp. 367-386.Google Scholar
  46. Meehl, G.A., Washington, W.M., Erickson, D.J. III, Briegleb, B.P. and Jaumann, P.J.: 1996, ‘Climate change from increased CO2 and direct and indirect effects of sulfate aerosols.’ Geophysical Research Letters, 23, 3755-3758.Google Scholar
  47. Nash, J.M.: 1998, ‘The fury of El Nino.’ Time, March 2, 44-51.Google Scholar
  48. O'Farrell, S.P., McGregor, J.L., Rotstayn, L.D., Budd, W.F., Zweck, C. and Warner, R.: 1997, ‘Impact of transient increases in atmospheric CO2 on the accumulation and mass balance of the Antarctic ice sheet.’ Annals of Glaciology, 25, 137-144.Google Scholar
  49. Parry, M.L., Carter, T.R. and Hulme, M.: 1996, ‘What is dangerous climate change?’ Global Environmental Change, 6, 1-6.Google Scholar
  50. Pittock, A.B.: 1995, 'Climate Change and World Food Supply', and special issues of ‘Global Environmental Change’ and ‘Food Policy’. Reviews in: Environment, 37(9), 25-30.Google Scholar
  51. Pittock, A.B.: in press, ‘Coral reefs and environmental change: adaptation to what?’, American Zoologist.Google Scholar
  52. Pittock, A.B., Dix, M.R., Hennessy, K.J., Katzfey, J.J., McInnes, K.L., O'Farrell, S.P., Smith, I.N., Suppiah, R., Walsh, K.J., Whetton, P.H., Wilson, S.G., Jackett, D.R. and McDougall, T.J.: 1995, ‘Progress towards climate change scenarios for the Southwest Pacific.’ Weather and Climate, 15, 21-46.Google Scholar
  53. Rajagopalan, B., Lall, U. and Cane, M.A.: 1997, ‘Anomalous ENSO occurrences: an alternative view.’ J. Climate, 10, 2351-2357.Google Scholar
  54. Rayner, S. and Malone, E.L.: 1997, Ten Suggestions for Policymakers: Guidelines from an International Social Science Assessment of Human Choice and Climate Change, Battelle Press, 39 pp.Google Scholar
  55. Revell, C.G. and Goulter, S.W.: 1986, ‘South Pacific tropical cyclones and the Southern Oscillation.’ Monthly Weather Review, 114, 1138-1145.Google Scholar
  56. Schimel, D., Alves, D., Enting, I., and 24 others: 1996, ‘Radiative Forcing of Climate Change.’ Chapter 2 in: IPCC, 1996, op. cit.Google Scholar
  57. Schick, J.M., Lesser, M.P. and Jokiel, P.L.: 1997, ‘Effects of ultraviolet radiation on corals and other coral reef organisms.’ Global Change Biology, 6, 527-545.Google Scholar
  58. Smith, I.: in press, Estimating mass balance components of the Greenland ice sheet from a long-term GCM simulation. Global and Planetary Change.Google Scholar
  59. Solomon, A.M. and Cramer, W.: 1993, ‘Biospheric implications of global environmental change.’ In: Vegetation Dynamics and Global Change, Solomon, A.M. and Shugart, H.H. (eds.), Chapman and Hall, New York, pp. 25-52.Google Scholar
  60. Suppiah, R., Hennessy, K., Hirst, T., Jones, R., Katzfey, J., Pittock, B., Walsh, K., Whetton, P. and Wilson, S.: 1998, ‘Climate Change Under Enhanced Greenhouse Conditions in Northern Australia.’ Final Report 1994-1997. CSIRO Division of Atmospheric Research, Aspendale, 49 pp.Google Scholar
  61. Teramura, A.H.: 1983, ‘Effects of ultraviolet-B radiation on the growth and yield of crop plants.’ Physiol. Plant., 58, 415-427.Google Scholar
  62. Tevini, M. (ed.): 1993, UV-B Radiation and Ozone Depletion. Effects on Humans, Animals, Plants, Microorganisms and Materials, Lewis Publ., Boca Raton, Florida, 248 pp.Google Scholar
  63. Trenberth, K.E. and Hoar, T.J.: 1996, ‘The 1990–1995 El Niño-Southern Oscillation Event: Longest on Record.’ Geophysical Research Letters, 23, 57-60.Google Scholar
  64. Trenberth, K.E. and Hoar, T.J.: 1997, ‘El Niño and climate change.’ Geophysical Research Letters, 24, 3057-3060.Google Scholar
  65. Walsh, K.J.E. and J.J. Katzfey, submitted: ‘The impact of climate change on the poleward movement of tropical cyclone-like vortices in the regional climate model.’ Submitted to J. Climate.Google Scholar
  66. Walsh, K. and Watterson, I.G., 1997. ‘Tropical cyclone-like vortices in a limited area model: comparison with climatology.’ J. Climate, 10, 2240-2259.Google Scholar
  67. Watson, R.T., Zinyowera, M.C., Moss, R.H. and Dokken, D.J.: 1998, The Regional Impacts of Climate Change: An Assessment of Vulnerability. A special report of IPCC Working Group II. Cambridge Uni. Press, Cambridge UK, 517 pp.Google Scholar
  68. Watterson, I.G., Evans, J.L. and Ryan, B.F.: 1995, ‘Seasonal and interannual variability of tropical cyclogenesis: diagnostics from large-scale fields.’ J. Climate, 8, 3052-3066.Google Scholar
  69. Whetton, P.H., England, M.H., O'Farrell, S.P., Watterson, I.G. and Pittock, A.B.: 1996a, ‘Global intercomparison of the regional rainfall results of enhanced greenhouse coupled and mixed layer ocean experiments: implications for climate change scenario development.’ Climatic Change, 33, 497-519.Google Scholar
  70. Whetton, P., Pittock, A.B., Labraga, J.C., Mullan, A.B. and Joubert, A.: 1996b, ‘Southern Hemisphere climate: comparing models with reality.’ Chapt. 4 in: “Climate Change: Developing Southern Hemisphere Perspectives”, Giambelluca, T.W. and Henderson-Sellers, A. (eds.), John Wiley and Sons, Chichester, pp. 89-130.Google Scholar
  71. Wigley, T.M.L.: 1998, ‘The Kyoto Protocol: CO2, CH4 and climate implications.’ Geophysical Research Letters, 25, 2285-2289.Google Scholar
  72. Wilby, R.L. and Wigley, T.M.L.: 1997, ‘Downscaling general circulation model output: a review of methods and limitations.,’ Progress in Physical Geography, 21, 530-548.Google Scholar
  73. Wilson, S.G. and Hunt, B.G.: 1997, Impact of Greenhouse Warming on El Nino/Southern Oscillation Behaviour in a High Resolution Coupled Global Climatic Model. Report to Department of Environment, Sport and Territories, CSIRO Atmospheric Research, Aspendale, pp. 19 + 13 figures.Google Scholar
  74. WMO: 1995, Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion: 1994. World Meteorological Organization Global Ozone Research and Monitoring Project-Report No.37, Geneva, 1995, various paginations.Google Scholar
  75. Wyrtki, K.: 1985, ‘Sea level fluctuations in the Pacific during the 1982–83 El Niño.’ Geophysical Research Letters, 12, 125-128.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • A.B. Pittock
    • 1
  • R.N. Jones
    • 1
  1. 1.Climate Impacts GroupCSIRO Atmospheric Research PB 1AspendaleAustralia

Personalised recommendations