What is the Global Goal on Adaptation and How Should We Measure It?

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Submission Summary
Carbon emissions must be halved over the next decade to hold the global average temperature increase to the range in the Paris Agreement, “recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.” But even this bold mitigation will not eliminate the risks humans face from climate change. In the coming years we expect to see increased climate change disruptions related to rising sea levels, extreme droughts, intensified tropical cyclones, and terrestrial and marine heat waves. These climate change hazards interact with increasing vulnerability and exposure of human societies, compounding risks in complex ways over time. Because of this, the Paris Agreement also established “the global goal on adaptation of enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience and reducing vulnerability to climate change, with a view to contributing to sustainable development and ensuring an adequate adaptation response in the context of the temperature goal.” But what exactly does this goal consist of? It isn’t specified and is an active topic of debate and negotiation. While there have been substantial advances in attributing extreme weather to climate change and in understanding risk dynamics, it remains difficult to specify concrete goals for reducing these climate risks. In contrast, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C and working group III’s contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report provided four global mitigation pathways detailing how many gigatons of CO2 emissions needed to be eliminated and the timelines for doing so to avert dangerous anthropogenic climate change. But nothing like this exists in relation to climate change adaptation, neither in terms of precise adaptation goals nor in terms of prospective scenarios to minimize and address adverse climate impacts at the global scale, hence many unresolved questions. This paper is an exploration of the state of adaptation science, understand from the global perspective, and develops a new formation of the global goal on adaptation which is tied to the burning embers and sustainable development frameworks. This formulation of the goal is one that, if followed, will assure sustainable development remains obtainable and is measurable, providing guidance to countries trying to make policies to reduce climate risk.
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University of Pennsylvania

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