Climate Change Adaptation

Enabling people living in poverty to adapt

Published: 29 April 2010

Climate change is fast pushing communities, particularly the poorest and most marginalized, beyond their capacity to respond. Across the world, subsistence crops are approaching the limits of their viability as temperatures change; erratic rainfall patterns and changing seasons are upsetting agricultural cycles and leaving many struggling to feed their families; and rising sea levels are causing the inundation of crops and the contamination of water supplies with salt water.

This report draws on case studies from around the world and Oxfam’s experience working with rural communities to set out what is needed and a range of interventions that are available, to enable people living in poverty to adapt to climate change. Nonetheless, there are limits to adaptation, and without rapid and significant global mitigation, these options will be quickly lost.

Oxfam’s approach brings together experience in the areas of livelihoods, natural resource management, and disaster risk reduction. Uncertainty and risk can be managed using robust decision making in order to build adaptive capacity from household to national and global levels. Climate change forces us to draw the strands together, not only to lift people out of poverty, but also to enable them to manage risk and uncertainty and to shape, create, and respond to changes throughout their lives.

Poverty, more than any other factor, determines vulnerability to climate change and limits adaptive capacity. This report identifies the combined need for a combination of bottom-up and top-down processes in order to create the enabling conditions needed for people living in poverty to adapt to climate change.