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Adaptation 101

How climate change hurts poor communities—and how we can help

Over the course of hundreds of years, poor people have developed ways of coping with changing weather conditions. When torrential rains drench the flood plains surrounding the Mekong River, rice farmers turn to fishing instead. When rainfall levels fall in the Sahel, farmers cultivate drought-resistant crops like millet and black-eyed peas. And where water is always hard to come by in the dry, mountainous areas of the Middle East, local people use traditional, though labor-intensive, techniques to harvest water from the canyons, valleys, and slopes.

Each season is slightly different than the previous one, but having anticipated the changing conditions, generation after generation learns to adapt.

But what happens when the seasons become less predictable and the conditions more difficult to manage? What happens when human activities, like burning coal, oil, and natural gas, change the climate—not just for a season, but for the long-term? Then, lacking the information or resources necessary to understand, prepare for, and respond to increased hazards, many of the world's poorest communities experience unprecedented stress.

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