IPCC Fifth Assessment Report. Chapter 20: Climate-resilient pathways: adaptation, mitigation, and sustainable development

IPCC Fifth Assessment Report. Chapter 20: Climate-resilient pathways: adaptation, mitigation, and sustainable development

Climate change calls for new approaches to sustainable development that take into account complex interactions between climate and social and ecological systems. Climate-resilient pathways are development trajectories that combine adaptation and mitigation to realize the goal of sustainable development. They can be seen as iterative, continually evolving processes for managing change within complex systems.

This chapter as part of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report integrates a variety of complex concepts in assessing climate-resilient pathways. It takes sustainable development as the ultimate goal, and considers mitigation as a way to keep climate change moderate rather than extreme. Adaptation is considered a response strategy to anticipate and cope with impacts that cannot be (or are not) avoided under different scenarios of climate change. In most cases, sustainable development will also involve capacities for implementing and sustaining appropriate risk management. Responses may differ from situation to situation, calling for a multi-scale perspective that takes the socioeconomic, cultural, biophysical, and institutional context into account. Nonetheless, most situations share at least one fundamental characteristic: threats to sustainable development are greater if climate change is substantial rather than moderate. Similarly, opportunities for sustainable development are greater if climate change is moderate rather than substantial.

The authors note that although the findings from this chapter are based on a high level of consensus in source materials and in the expert communities, the amount of supporting evidence is relatively limited because so many aspects of sustainable development and climate change mitigation and adaptation have yet to be experienced and studied empirically. This chapter suggests options to be considered for decision-making, both now and in the future, as elements of the evolving processes for a variety of locations and scales.

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