Sunday, July 4, 2010

Climate adaptation versus mitigation

Matt Cawood in Stock and Land (Australia): Mitigation of greenhouse gases is temporarily in the too-hard basket. Adaptation, a subject that is far more politically digestible, is on the ascendancy in the climate change discussion. Nearly 1000 people turned up to this week’s Climate Adaptation Futures conference on the Gold Coast, where the many options for adapting to a changing climate were on the three-day agenda.

Federal Minister for Climate Change, Penny Wong, opened the conference by venting frustration at the political killing of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. The nation “must invest in adaptation”, Senator Wong said - but, she added, adaptation will “become much more expensive in the future if Australia fails to put a price on carbon”.

Unlike mitigation, which is a “top-down” approach to tackling climate change that ultimately demands changes to the economy, adaptation is “bottom-up” and can be adopted at any scale. Mitigation can only achieve so much anyway, said Professor Martin Parry of the Imperial College of London.

Science indicates that given current levels of greenhouse gases, and their longevity in the atmosphere, several degrees of global warming are inevitable. “We came to realise, perhaps rather belatedly, that even the strongest actions on mitigation would not brush off the climate challenge. We need adaptation just as much as mitigation,” Prof. Parry said. “It is sort of extraordinary that we spent 10 years after Kyoto almost wholly trying to mitigate our way out of the problem. And so we came to this touching realisation that we probably couldn’t do it.”

Professor Stephen Schneider of Stanford University, a pioneer of greenhouse theory in the 1970s and an IPCC lead author, told the conference that adaptation as a response to climate change was being discussed by his colleagues “way back”, but that a “senator from Tennessee, Al Gore”, argued against making too much of adaptation because it would detract from efforts to mitigate greenhouse gases….

From the US National Archives: Slag Heap on Buffalo Creek near Man and Logan, West Virginia. an Earthen Dam Gave Way on This Stream in the Early 1970's During a Rainstorm Creating a Tidal Wave of Flood Water Which Killed 104 People Living in the Valley Below 04/1974. Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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