Observed Impacts, Future Risks, and Adaptation Solutions

An overview of testimony by Robert J. Lempert presented before the Minnesota House of Representatives Committee on Climate and Energy Finance and Policy on March 10, 2022.


Robert J. Lempert, Principal Researcher

Hello, my name is Rob Lempert. I'm a principal researcher at the RAND Corporation, where I focus on climate risk management and decisionmaking under uncertainty. I'm also a coordinating lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group II Sixth Assessment Report. I recently testified about this report's findings on observed impacts from climate change, projected future risks, and adaptation solutions. We found that the impacts of climate change have arrived and are widespread, pervasive, and in some cases, irreversible. Current impacts are being felt in every corner of the world and are hitting the poor and disadvantaged the hardest.

Adaptation planning and implementation are increasing around the world. There are many examples of adaptation that successfully reduces risk, enhances resilience, and generates co-benefits. For instance, restoring wetlands and riverbanks, along with land use planning that moves development out of floodplains, can reduce flood risk while also providing recreational areas and enhancing biodiversity. But current adaptation is not adequate to the challenge. Most adaptation to date has been incremental, focused on current rather than future climate and fails to keep pace with accelerating change.

My testimony also described how adaptation might become more effective. First, without controlling greenhouse gas emissions, the challenge becomes increasingly unmanageable. Second, it is more effective to work with nature than against it. For instance, using natural systems as a supplement or alternative to structural flood control measures can benefit both people and nature. Third, finance, governance, knowledge and capacity building, and technology, are key enabling conditions that can help accelerate adaptation and move it from incremental to more comprehensive solutions.

This is an all-hands-on-deck problem. Effective solutions will only emerge from collaboration among all levels of government, the private sector, civil society, tribal groups, and others. Fundamental climate-induced change in human and natural systems is now inevitable. Rather than suffer through the adverse transformations already unfolding, inclusive participatory processes and evidence-based risk management can help guide transformation along pathways more consistent with our goals and aspirations.