Multiple measures are available to mitigate, and adapt to, climate change. Those measures generally have a range of benefits, according to the IPCC report. The current pace and scale of adaptation and mitigation are insufficient to adequately reduce the impacts of climate change. The acceleration of mitigation and adaptation could reduce the impact. Delay will lead to more emissions, an exacerbation of the consequences for the climate and a higher risk of ‘stranded assets’.

Our choices now determine the future. Every small increase in warming results in greater consequences and a reduction in the opportunities for adaptation. For some ecosystems and in some places, the limits to adaptation have already been reached (they include some tropical, polar, mountain and coastal areas). Temporarily exceeding 1.5C will lead to some irreversible consequences.

Climate change leads to an increase in weather extremes, such as droughts lasting several years and extreme precipitation. We are already seeing the consequences, and – in addition to urgently mitigating climate change – we will also have to adapt.

Bart van den Hurk (Deltares climate expert and IPCC author

Water plays an important role in the consequences for the climate and measures. The restoration and protection of natural wetlands and rivers, water storage and spatial planning (such as no-building zones) can reduce flood risks. Warning systems and dikes have already mitigated consequences. Integrated water management can help to ensure that enough fresh water is available for everyone. Combining natural and infrastructural measures can reduce adaptation costs and contribute to flood risk management and freshwater supplies. Protecting and restoring ‘blue-carbon’ ecosystems such as mangroves and peatlands can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and stimulate uptake and storage. However, with increasing climate change, limits may be reached.

The science is clear: there are measures available to limit the climate consequences. We have to accelerate our commitment now to robust and flexible measures that take into account the long term in order to prevent the wrong investments.

Marjolijn Haasnoot (climate and water researcher at Deltares and IPCC author)

The following Deltares scientists collaborated on the IPCC Sixth Assessment:

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