Risk, Resilience and Adaptation to Global Change
Background: The significance and threat of global change is increasingly being acknowledged. Understanding and responding to it is of critical importance. Early action is more beneficial than delay. Responding to global change entails both adaptation and mitigation. This chapter focuses on the former. It sets out to contribute to the understanding of what global change is, and its implications for Africa in general and South Africa in particular. Understanding the risks that are present is vital for the formulation and implementation of appropriate responses to such risks. For South Africa, responding to global change is a priority and it is one of the grand challenges that have been identified in its policy documents. The chapter is based on extensive literature review. Methodology: An extensive literature review including policy documents and published scientific literature was conducted. Application/Relevance to systems analysis: Understanding and responding to global change requires the need to acknowledge that processes, risks and the impacts occur in multiple stressor and multiple scale contexts. The complexities associated with global change as well as the potential for maladaptation and unintended consequences motivate the need to apply systems thinking. Policy implications: South Africa as part of the global system, will also be impacted by global change and its associated risks. Hence, the need for the country to be proactive. Some of the factors that can promote resilience and adaptation to global change include: taking a “glocal” approach, promoting information generation and dissemination, enabling relevant and responsive institutions, promoting flexibility and learning, building the asset base of households and communities, promoting stakeholder buy-in and stewardship in programmes, enhancing ecological infrastructure, and forging partnerships and collaborations. The state and other stakeholders should strive to enable the creation of a favourable environment that can foster appropriate resilience and adaptation to global change. Conclusion: Strides are being made in terms of understanding and responding to global change. However, due to complexities involved, more effort is still needed to establish and further understand global change processes. There is need for more multi-disciplinary stakeholder partnerships in order to realise synergies. Continued effort should be directed at creating awareness and building positive perception of the need to adapt amongst various stakeholders. Proper assessment methodologies should be employed to evaluate various adaptation options before their implementation in order to avoid maladaptation. Global change should be embraced at the local level in the context of multiple stressors that tend to increase vulnerability.
KeywordsAdaptation Risk Resilience Global change Climate change South Africa
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