Massive increases in human activity this past century have led to the degradation of large parts of continents via deforestation, agricultural land conversions and generally the unsustainable use of natural resources. Concurrently, the rise in various greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere due to industry expansion, population explosion and other emitting factors has exacerbated the rate of change within our climate system. This has led to the widespread agreement that the earth is entering a “new era” of global temperature increase that has not been seen before in recorded history. Although an increase of 0.76 degrees Celsius since 1850 appears to be relatively insignificant, it carries with it major consequences for the earth system, and societies worldwide are already beginning to experience both the positive and negative impacts associated with this change. Rising sea levels, increased temperatures, increased risk of droughts, floods and fires, stronger storms and increased storm damage, changing landscapes, forced environmental migrations and food insecurity are but a few of the issues linked to a changing climate.
However, while a large proportion of climate change impacts will be negative, some will be positive, too. For certain societies these will include, among others, increased agricultural growing periods and lower winter mortalities (warmer winters), although it is generally accepted that the negatives will significantly outweigh the positives. Given the severity of these impacts, various adaptation and mitigation measures are being used in the fight against climate change. The effective targeting of these measures across different sectors such as water, agriculture, tourism, infrastructure development and others requires the use of both practical and innovative strategies. Adaptation measures fall within a broad range, from expanded water harvesting, storage and conservation techniques to the diversification of tourism activities.
IHDP’s involvement in addressing the climate change issue is significantly important, given widespread agreement on the fact that it is essentially a human induced phenomenon. This fact, coupled with both IHDP’s research mandate and the far-reaching impacts of climate change, means that the human dimensions research community is at the forefront of knowledge generation on this and other global change issues.
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