Adaptation is in our DNA

The flood barrier is closed. The Delta Works are completed. Zeeland is safe. With these words Queen Beatrix opened the Easter Scheldt storm surge barrier (Oosterscheldekering) in 1986. It was the biggest, most expensive and challenging task of the battle of the Dutch against the sea. For many centuries the Dutch have innovated to protect their homes from the storms and incoming floods. The oldest Terp (mound) was built 500 B.C. and the first water board was founded in the 13th century. So, adaptation is not new.

Paris agreement

In 1992, the Earth Summit in Rio made us aware of the enormous importance of climate and the need to act collectively. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was launched, resulting, among other things in the Paris agreement in 2015. Since then, global and national efforts aim at reducing the greenhouse gasses (mitigation). In parallel, the impact of climate change on agriculture, nature and cities has entered our daily lives: we experience extreme weather, heat waves, drought and flooding.


Mitigation or adaptation

While emission reduction efforts must continue over time, the urgent issue at hand is adaptation. Every new situation provides new challenges and opportunities. In the Netherlands we’ve always seen the sea as a danger, but at the same time it was an essential source of food, a gateway for transportation and source of energy. Research shows promising opportunities for harvesting marine biomass for multiple uses varying from fodder to airplane fuel.

Climate solutions

Future adaptation solutions for food and agriculture must encompass the entire food chain and be based on solid research. Sometimes adaptation and mitigation may go hand in hand, e.g. when better agricultural practices increase yields per hectare, therefore minimise energy use and promote CO2 capturing in crops and soil organic matter. Biobased economy where materials like plastics, building materials, fuels and even asphalt show promising result reducing our dependency on fossil sources. Reducing food and feed waste forms another promising area. I cannot think of an area in WUR that is not linked to the climate. This magazine shows promising pathways to a sustainable, climate resilient future. Please join us in the search for smart climate solutions and provide more exciting examples!

Louise O. Fresco

President of the Wageningen University & Research Executive Board