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German climate adaptation policy after the Covid-19 pandemic Lessons learned

No two crises are the same. Nevertheless, lessons can be learned from the short-term corona crisis management in the first half of 2020 for dealing with the impacts of climate change in the long term - as the authors show based on ten observations.

The social impact of the pandemic is unevenly distributed, which is insufficiently taken into account in implemented political measures. Poor and elderly people are also particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and need more government support, because they lack the resources to effectively protect themselves. They often suffer from previous illnesses, which makes them more vulnerable to heat stress. In addition, they have increased exposure due to their housing and living conditions. The Covid-19 pandemic has shown that the operation of hospitals based on business logic has rationalized away previously existing reserves of staff, beds and protective material. Adaptation to climate change is also hampered by private sponsorship and profit orientation. Suppliers of drinking water, energy and transport are affected by extreme weather events, but invest far too seldom in precautionary measures that could greatly reduce the extent of possible damage.

In the Covid-19 crisis, the scientific search process with errors and setbacks was made public. Science was polyphonic and learning. In spite of the scientific uncertainties, political actors took action. In climate change adaptation, too much attention is paid to the few remaining uncertainties, even though there is a solid scientific basis. Many adaptation measures are flexible and effective for different climate impacts, so that political decision-makers can act decisively even when there is uncertainty.

Politics, civil society and science should jointly negotiate which priorities and goals are important for preventive action. Above all, a stronger role for the federal government and parliaments would be necessary so that climate change adaptation attains the political status that it should have in view of climatic developments. In addition to decisive action in mitigation of climate change, measures to adapt to climate change are required as part of a precautionary strategy in order to be better prepared for future extreme events and slow-onset risks and to avoid future crisis situations.

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