What is Climate Change Adaptation?

"Adaptation is preparing for a future that is different than the past." - Climate Change Science 101 for the Columbia Basin


Climate change adaptation and mitigation are closely related yet have distinctly different goals. Adapting to climate change is about being ready for a future that is different from what the community has experienced in the past due to changes in weather and climate. Climate change mitigation is the act of reducing greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.

Adaptation = reduce the impacts of climate change

Mitigation = reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Resilience = the ability of a system to absorb shock and carry on performing the function that it was designed to do.

Resilience planning is about anticipating future shocks, changes and disruptions and taking the necessary steps to effectively prepare for and navigate those disruptions.

Adaptation planning does not replace the need for greenhouse gas emission reductions. Mitigation is a critical strategy to reduce the climate change impacts to which we will have to adapt. Both adaptation and mitigation are necessary for communities to comprehensively deal with the impacts of climate change and increase overall climate resilience.

CBT Fact Sheet: FAQ for Local Governments on Adaptation  

Some adaptation actions contribute to mitigation and some mitigation actions contribute to adaptation. However adaptation and mitigation are not always complementary. The chart below outlines cases in which adaptation and mitigation are both complementary and conflicting.