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Pushed to the limit: Evidence of climate change-related loss and damage when people face constraints and limits to adaptation

Research report assessing climate change related loss and damage and evidence of subsequent societal impacts.

Climate change related loss and damage undermines adaptation, and can impede progress in improving human well-being. Yet there is currently a lack of empirical evidence of the circumstances under which households manage climatic stressors, the resulting societal impacts, and the loss and damage that results from not being able to adjust sufficiently. This research report by the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security seeks to remedy this, and provide policy-makers with better information, empirical data and analysis of both the challenges and the potential solutions. The methodology of the study included qualitative and quantitative research tools, meteorological data, and other relevant data sources, compared to local perceptions of climatic threats. In addition, over 3000 household surveys and 100 focus group workshops were conducted. The sites for the case studies conducted were chosen to cover a wide range of ecosystems, geographic regions, and climate stressors. In total, nine countries were included: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Gambia, Kenya, Micronesia, Mozambique, and Nepal. The central question guiding the research in each case study was how the impact of particular climate stressors (both extreme weather events and slow-onset climatic changes) on society lead to loss and damage among households, including on livelihoods, physical assets, housing, health and human well-being. The report concludes that loss and damage is already a significant consequence of inadequate mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change. Many of the households surveyed reported that they are ‘just getting by’, suggesting that some communities are in a precarious position. Managing the risk associated with loss and damage is deemed as crucial to avoid the irreversible threats such losses pose to sustainable development. Addressing loss and damage is about capturing opportunities to ameliorate climate change impacts in ways that help to improve human well-being. By failing to deal with loss and damage, there is a danger that affected societies will be unprepared and unable to smoothly transition and adjust to negative climate change impacts.