To be able to take responsibility, you need some background knowledge about …

Emission scenarios

Global emission scenarios are used to develop climate models and climate scenarios for your region. A scenario is generated by different inputs of greenhouse gas emissions, which are more or less affected by economic growth, population development, technology, energy production and consumption, as well as agricultural development.

Climate models, climate scenarios, and the uncertainties of projections

Climate models help you to understand climate change. They generate different scenarios of climate change. With numeric climate models using climatic inputs like the atmosphere, land area, ocean, lakes and ice, professionals can calculate the prospective climate of your region. These regional climate change projections, mostly developed for the timeframe of the next 100 years, can help you to plan for the potential impacts of climate change and, as policy makers, to develop strategies in your region. While you have to ask your regional or national climate and meteorological experts to provide you with climate change scenarios, this toolkit provides examples of regional projections.

Most likely, you have had to make decisions under similar circumstances in the past. However, in the case of dealing with climate change impacts, you have to be aware of the specific uncertainties associated with emission scenarios. Climate models and climate scenarios are fraught with uncertainties because of their underlying assumptions. Many different models exist and give different results. However, by combining different models, you can get the results that are more reliable than by looking only at one model.

It is important to be aware that climate change projections have uncertainties. However, the projections are a guide about future climate development and provide answers about possible changes. Please do not use uncertainties as an excuse to postpone responses to climate change. Strategies and management processes increase the robustness, attractiveness and competitiveness of your area – therefore, do not fear uncertainties, but work with them instead!

Main types of responses to climate change

There are two main types of responses to climate change that make a base for acting responsibly:

Mitigation is a strategy to prevent future impacts of climate change on a global scale. If you decide to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote mitigation measures (e.g. energy savings and higher efficiency, use of renewable energies), climate change will not stop immediately, but the future impacts on human systems (e.g. infrastructure, settlements, business) and the environment (e.g. soil, vegetation, biodiversity) may be decreased.

Adaptation is also needed, as climate change is already taking place. Climate change impacts such as heat waves, heavy rainfalls, flash floods and storms are unpredictable and increasingly call for technical adaptation in infrastructure and land-use (e.g. dykes, more open space to absorb floods, and air conditioning systems), as well as partly institutional adaptation to re-arrange capacities. On a global level, strong mitigation measures taken will lessen the need for adaptation.

There is a close relationship between mitigation and adaptation and an integrated view is more efficient than tackling them separately. Possible synergies and conflicts between adaptation and mitigation are often overlooked, potentially resulting in mal-adaptation. Also, it is often the case that the strategies are managed by different groups of decision-makers (e.g. policy makers, administrative units, business managers).

It makes sense to integrate and embed mitigation and adaptation into the familiar and widely-used context of sustainable development. By performing an impact/vulnerability assessment you can ensure that economic, environmental and social aspects of your region are considered in your planning.

In case you have further questions regarding climate change, please see our list of answers to some frequently asked questions about the topic here.

In the Examples box on the right you can find an example of methodology for territorial adaptation to climate change. 

Further to Getting into action.