To tackle global warming, most countries of the world have signed an international treaty – the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) – in June 1992. Till October 2009, 192 parties became members of the UNFCCC. The main purpose of the UNFCCC is to consider what can be done to reduce global warming, and to cope with whatever temperature increases are inevitable. The UNFCCC Secretariat supports all institutions involved in the climate change process.

The UNFCCC highlights two fundamental response strategies to address climate change.

While adaptation aims to lessen the adverse impacts of climate change through a wide-range of system-specific actions (Fussel and Klein, 2002), mitigation looks at limiting climate change by reducing the emissions of GHGs (greenhouse gases) and by enhancing ‘sink’ opportunities. We will understand adaptation and mitigation in more detail later in this topic.

For now, let us look at the following figure which shows the various ways in which human systems respond to climate change.