27 May 2020

Science for Loss and Damage and Limits to Adaptation: New insights and ways forward

A new paper led by Risk &Resilience Program staff synthesizes recent scientific evidence on adaptation limits and points out ways forward for the climate policy debate on Loss and Damage.

Sjors737 © | Dreamstime

Sjors737 © | Dreamstime

The article Loss and Damage and limits to adaptation: recent IPCC insights and implications for climate science and policy in Sustainability Science reviews insights and presents implications for science and policy derived from recent publications by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and two multi-authored books of which one, Loss and Damage from Climate Change, has been co-led by IIASA Risk and Resilience Program researchers Reinhard Mechler, Thomas Schinko and Joanne Linnerooth-Bayer. 

The discussion shows how emerging evidence on hard and soft adaptation limits in various systems, sectors and regions holds the potential to further build momentum for climate policy to live up to the Paris ambition of stringent emission reductions and to increase efforts to support the most vulnerable. In terms of policy recommendations, the authors suggest that Loss&Damage policy may want to consider actions to extend soft adaptation limits and spur transformational, that is, non-standard, risk management and adaptation, so that limits are not breached. This could mean extending financial, technical, or legal support to affected communities or countries for instances where hard limits are transgressed.  

Overall, the authors suggest that research is increasingly getting ready to provide robust evidence on critical and relevant risks in the most vulnerable countries and communities as well as evaluate options for reducing barriers and limits to adaptation. Many of the contributors to the paper are authors for IPCC’s upcoming 6th assessment report, which means that further insight can be expected from the report scheduled to be released in late 2021.

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Last edited: 28 May 2020


Reinhard Mechler

Research Group Leader

Systemic Risk and Resilience Research Group|Advancing Systems Analysis Program

T +43(0) 2236 807 313


Thomas Schinko

Acting Research Group Leader

Equity and Justice Research Group|Population and Just Societies Program

T +43(0) 2236 807 467


Joanne Linnerooth-Bayer

Emeritus Research Scholar

Equity and Justice Research Group|Population and Just Societies Program

T +43(0) 2236 807 308

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
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