In the climate change research community, ‘Loss and Damage’ is an approach that refers to the assessment and acceptance of the unavoidable negative impacts caused by climate change.[1] Although Loss and Damage was born as a concept as early as the nineties, it wasn’t until 2007 that it would be formally referred to in the Bali Action Plan, and later in 2013 when the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage would be created. Loss and Damage continues to be a hotly debated topic, in part due to the reality that the most vulnerable communities tend to pay the highest price in climate change effects, and there are differing ideas on how to respond to this imbalance.

 “We find that research is increasingly getting ready and able to further develop robust evidence on critical and relevant risks at scale in the most vulnerable countries and communities, as well as options to reduce barriers and limits to adaptation,” says Reinhard Mechler, lead author of the recently published article “Loss and Damage and limits to adaptation: recent IPCC insights and implications for climate science and policy” in Sustainability Science. “Our discussion shows how emerging evidence on hard and soft adaptation limits in various systems, sectors and regions holds the potential to further build momentum for climate policy to live up to the Paris ambition of stringent emission reductions and to increase efforts to support the most vulnerable.”

The article, co-authored by MRI Science Leadership Council member Christian Huggel et al, reviews how Loss and Damage came to be recognized by the UNFCCC and later by the IPCC, explores the varying views held by diverse stakeholders in the realm of climate change research, and outlines emerging evidence on risks and adaptation limits and its implications for science and policy.

“While this new paper is not specifically about mountains, it is relevant for mountain research because it provides the framework and global context mountains need to be embedded in as well,” says Huggel. “In contrast to, for instance, Small Islands, Loss and Damage in mountains has not yet been brought much to the global public and policy. Our recent study[2] on Loss and Damage in mountains as related to the cryosphere has brought evidence of the importance, diversity and scale of the issue at stake.”

With developing science and updated perspectives in Loss and Damage, the authors of the paper aim to encourage climate change policy to reflect this new research so that relevant and effective measures can be taken. 

Read the Article


Mechler, R., Singh, C., Ebi, K. et al. Loss and Damage and limits to adaptation: recent IPCC insights and implications for climate science and policy. Sustain Sci (2020).


[1]  Mechler R, Bouwer L, Schinko T, Surminski S, Linnerooth-Bayer J (eds) (2018). Loss and Damage from Climate Change. Concepts, Methods and Policy Options. Springer: Cham.

[2]  Huggel, C., Muccione, V., Carey, M., James, R., Jurt, C., Mechler, R., 2019. Loss and Damage in the mountain cryosphere. Regional Environmental Change.

 Photo by Pixabay user LNLNLN

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