variety of insurance mechanisms create net social benefits by spreading risk over a risk-averse population, and many public investments in infrastructure, public health, and hazard management programs effectively reduce climate-related damages. However, some individual or community-level risk-management or crisis response activities can have adverse impacts on other parties, so that the actions do not necessarily improve overall societal well-being.
There have been many studies of the ways particular social systems cope with particular kinds of climatic variations, but there is as yet no general theory of such coping. This chapter begins to develop a framework for analyzing coping systems by distinguishing between ex ante and ex post strategies, identifying some subtypes within these, and distinguishing among the actions of individuals and of public and private organizations, the behavior of markets or informal exchange relationships, and the roles of legal and other institutions. The chapter examines available knowledge about coping systems for climate variability in order to characterize the state of knowledge; identify ways in which coping strategies may shape the impacts climatic variations have on the people and groups that use them; and define gaps in knowledge that, if filled, could help increase the usefulness of climate forecasting for humanity.
We first examine human coping mechanisms in several weather-dependent. sectors of human activity, including agriculture and water management. We then briefly discuss some systems of human activity that have a primary function of coping with climate variability, such as insurance and emergency preparedness. The chapter shows the wide variety of coping strategies and identifies some of the factors that determine the coping strategies available to particular actors and that shape the outcomes they experience from climate variations. These factors include the availability of insurance and insurance-like systems for making up for losses, integration into global markets, the cognitive and economic resources available to actors engaged in an affected activity, and the ways in which these resources are distributed.
Human activities are sometimes affected directly by climatic events, such as when great floods destroy lives and property. Many of the important effects of climatic events are indirect, however, operating through biophysical processes on which human welfare depends. Examples include the effects of climate on crop production, fisheries, forests, water resources, and the ecology of pests and diseases. This section illustrates the variety of systems that humanity has developed to cope with the