Adapting toClimate Change

The impacts of climate change are noticeably worsening. Researchers and experts have confirmed that extreme weather events around the world are becoming increasingly frequent and more severe. At the same time, global water and air temperatures are rising steadily.

The impacts of climate change are already quite apparent, especially in less-developed countries. And they are intensifying in Germany, too, with periods of drought and heatwaves as well as heavy rainfall and flooding occurring much more frequently and lasting longer. That is why it is essential that we as a society adapt to these consequences of climate change. 

The federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia has already been responding, passing Germany's first Climate Change Adaptation Act back in July 2021. This was followed by a corresponding national law, which was promulgated by the German Federal Government in November 2023 and is set to be accompanied by a new Climate Change Adaptation Strategy for Germany. By taking these steps, the German government aims to increase society's overall resilience to the intense, short-term impacts of climate change as well as its slow, gradual consequences, thereby fulfilling its duty to look after the public interest. The European Union has also developed new guidelines within its Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change in order to support its member states in developing coordinated climate change adaptation policy in the future.

Adaptation at local level: municipalities prepare for the impacts of climate change

Because the impacts of climate change are generally region-specific, adaptation measures are most effective when they are tailored towards local circumstances. This makes equipping municipalities to protect their populations against the consequences of climate change uniquely challenging, as towns, cities and municipalities are affected by climate change in a particular way. Their infrastructure and buildings often exacerbate the effects of climate change, contributing to the formation of heat islands in summer or flooding following heavy rainfall, for instance. As a result, the provision of public services to all residents, especially vulnerable groups, is vital. 

"Sponge city" concepts, such as permeable surfaces and rainwater retention ponds, can help, as can nature-based solutions like green façades and pocket parks. Desealing measures prevent flooding, while urban greening provides shade and protection from UV radiation. In addition, many nature-based solutions help by gradually absorbing water when there is heavy rainfall – and then releasing it back into the urban environment on warm days through evaporative cooling.

When developing approaches like these at municipal level, it is especially important that climate change adaptation and mitigation are considered in tandem and thus put into practice on an integrated basis. After all, there is immense potential for synergistic effects here.

How business is tackling the impacts of climate change

However, businesses also need to adapt. It is not only a matter of buildings and infrastructure being destroyed by extreme weather events; rising levels of climate-related loss and damage in supplier countries are also affecting aspects such as the supply of raw materials, leading to production losses. The increasing effects of climate change are being felt in the form of rising employee health costs, too. Climate change risk analyses enable companies to address their specific vulnerabilities and, where necessary, take preventive action.

Bosco Verticale
Green landmark: Around 900 trees grow on the balconies of these two skyscrapers in Milan. In this way, nature is helping to soften the impacts of climate change – even in densely populated metropolitan areas.
Research into the impacts of climate change: Wuppertal Institute projects

As part of the dynaklim project back in 2009, the Wuppertal Institute advocated for a platform for dialogue between representatives from business, society, public administration and urban and regional planning bodies in order to improve the dynamic adaptability of regions in development and planning processes. This was followed by projects including Max Kelvin, which investigated the active cooling of buildings and neighbourhoods, and Resilient City. In 2015, the Wuppertal Institute was commissioned by North Rhine-Westphalia's Ministry for Climate Protection (MKULNV) to provide scientific support for its Climate Action Plan, which also included measures aimed at adapting to the impacts of climate change.

Our research into climate change adaptation currently ranges from the transformation of individual streets in NRW into attractive, climate-adapted places to live (LesSON I, LesSON II and LesSON III) to the development of integrated municipal concepts. This serves to incorporate climate change mitigation and climate change adaptation into urban planning in equal measure, right up to international level. For example, in the WISIONS of Sustainability project, researchers are developing nature-based solutions for micro-hydro plants in Nepal, the operation of which is increasingly jeopardised by landslides and floods caused by climate change.

Wuppertal Institute academics also monitor developments in international climate change adaptation policy – for example, during annual Conferences of the Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change – and analyse the results.

Impacts of climate change and consequences for health

Health in a changing climate is becoming an increasingly important issue. That is why the Wuppertal Institute has carried out an exploratory study in collaboration with health insurance provider BARMER to analyse the health consequences associated with climate change. The Wuppertal Institute has also worked with North Rhine-Westphalian hospital association KGNW to develop a Blueprint for Climate-Neutral Hospitals, which provides hospitals with practical advice on how to adapt to the impacts of climate change.


Here you find research activities in the field of climate change adaptation.

Related projects

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