What is adaptation

When our climate changes we need to make adjustments. This could be making changes to our buildings so they keep cool during hotter summers or are less at risk of being flooded.

It could be using scarce water resources more efficiently or making changes to the crops we grow or trees we plant in our forests so that they are less vulnerable to new pests and diseases or to storms or wild fires.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) defines adaptation as: "In human systems, the process of adjustment to actual or expected climate and its effects, in order to moderate harm or exploit beneficial opportunities. In natural systems, the process of adjustment to actual climate and its effects; human intervention may facilitate adjustment to expected climate and its effects."

Adapting to climate change will be necessary regardless of how much we manage to cut our carbon emissions. This is because historic emissions have already changed our climate and will continue to do so in the decades to come.

This section explores what is involved in an adaptation process and key principles that are commonly recognised to support good adaptation.

To learn more about why adaptation is important, see our Why adapt page. To understand how you can work through an adaptation process, see our How to adapt page.

See IPCC's full climate change glossary