Adaption not Mitigation

There’s a lot written about climate change on web 2.0 – and there’s about to be a lot more written about it over the coming weeks. The impending release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 4th Assessment Report is going to have plenty for the commentators and bloggers to chew on. If you were so inclined it would take you quite a while to get through it all. But if there is one thing I think you should read about climate change in the light of the latest IPCC report it’s Maragret Wente’s piece (re)posted on Seeker.

The important point raised is that although much gets written about climate change mitigation, it is at the expense of discussion about climate change adaptation.

This is not a new point – Rayner and Malone wrote about it in Nature a decade ago, and I even got the message in my third year undergrad climate modelling course. Although reducing carbon emissions is important it may not halt what has already started, and we would do well to get thinking about the best adaptation strategies to the consequences of a changing climate. Of course, we should continue working to reduce our carbon emissions. But we need to accept that, regardless of whether the change is human induced or not, in all probability the climate is changing and we need to be prepared for the consequences.

I’ve posted what I think is the more relevant section below, but the whole thing is very interesting: read the whole article;


The climate debate focuses almost entirely on mitigation (how we can slow down global warming). But climate scientists and policy experts say that in the short term ā€” our lifetimes ā€” our most important insurance policy is adaptation. Nothing we do to cut emissions will reduce the risk from hurricanes or rising seas in the short term. But there are other ways to reduce the risk. We can build storm-surge defences, stop building in coastal areas and make sure we protect our fresh-water supplies from salination. We also can develop crops that will do well in hotter climates.

‘Adaptation’ is not a word that figures much in climate-change debates. Activists (and much of the general public) think it sounds lazy and defeatist. But the experts talk about adaptation all the time.

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