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Policymakers need to give more attention to adaptation policies to cope with climate-related impacts, regardless of their cause, argue Roger Pielke and colleagues in this article in Nature.

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) pushes mitigation policies, thinking adaptation is only necessary because of climate change associated with rising greenhouse gas emissions.

But there are non-climate factors — such as rapid population growth along coastlines — that make a far more important contribution to people's vulnerability to climate events.

For example, groundwater extraction and subsequent land subsidence in the Philippines has increased the risk of floods more than rising sea levels associated with climate change.

One reason for their absence in climate policies may be the lack of a high-profile international body to promote the broad benefits of adaptation strategies.

The authors say that unless adaptation strategies are given as much attention and investment as other policies promoted by the UNFCCC, the effects of climatic events on vulnerable societies will continue to rise no matter how much greenhouse gas emissions are cut.

Link to full article in Nature