[ Back to EurekAlert! ] Public release date: 2-Dec-2008
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Contact: David DeFusco
david.defusco@yale.edu
203-436-4842
Yale University

Most US organizations not adapting to climate change

New Haven, Conn.—Organizations in the United States that are at the highest risk of sustaining damage from climate change are not adapting enough to the dangers posed by rising temperatures, according to a Yale report.

"Despite a half century of climate change that has already significantly affected temperature and precipitation patterns and has already had widespread ecological and hydrological impacts, and despite a near certainty that the United States will experience at least as much climate change in the coming decades just as a result of current atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, little adaptation has occurred," says Robert Repetto, author of "The Climate Crisis and the Adaptation Myth" and a senior fellow of the United Nations Foundation.

Repetto says that private- and public-sector organizations face significant obstacles to adaptation because of uncertainties over the occurrence of climate change at the regional and local levels, over the future frequency of extreme weather events, and over the ecological, economic and other impacts of climate change.

In addition, organizations lack relevant data for planning and forecasting, and the data that are available are typically outdated and unrepresentative of future conditions. Other institutional barriers to adaptation are overcoming or revising codes, rules and regulations that impede change; the lack of clear directions and mandates to take action; political or ideological resistance to the need for responsiveness to climate change; the preoccupation with near-term challenges and priorities and the lingering perception that climate change is a concern only for sometime in the future; and the inertia created by a business-as-usual assumption that future conditions will be like those of the past.

"Those organizations in the public and private sectors that are most at risk, that are making long-term investments and commitments and that have the planning, forecasting and institutional capacity to adapt, have not yet done so," says Repetto, who until recently was a professor in the practice of economics and sustainable development at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. "There have been very few changes in forecasts, plans, investment decisions, budgets or staffing patterns in response to climate risks."

The report cites:

"To say that the United States has the technological, economic and human capacity to adapt to climate change does not imply that the United States will adapt," said Repetto. "Without national leadership and concerted efforts to remove these barriers and obstacles, adaptation to climate change is likely to continue to lag."

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The report, "The Climate Crisis and the Adaptation Myth," is published by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and is available at www.environment.yale.edu/publication-series/climate_change/.



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