This chapter’s main objective is to provide the context of the book and to introduce the subsequent chapters.
The physical basis of the global climate change challenge is briefly outlined and the consequences for the societies primarily at the local scale are discussed. A short overview of how the international policy level responds to the challenge of global climate change impacts and risks is provided. Key terms related to different types of adaptation are also introduced and reasons for the complexity of climate change adaptation discussed. Then, the evidence for the importance of mountain ecosystems and adjacent downstream areas, which are critically linked through water, is briefly reviewed. Finally, each chapter of the book is introduced, followed by key conclusions we can draw from the book concerning the state and experiences of adaptation in upstream and downstream areas.