Friday, March 1, 2013

Is acceptance of climate change adaptation an admission that mitigation has failed?

Lisa Anderson in AlertNet:  The question of whether accepting and acting on climate change adaptation amounts to an admission of defeat for climate change mitigation was the most pressing topic discussed by climate experts on a panel this week at an event sponsored by The Earth Institute.

The debate around applying climate change science to urban environments has been reinvigorated in the wake of the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Sandy on New York City and its 500 miles of coastline in October 2012, as well as on the coastlines of neighbouring New Jersey and Long Island.

The work to mitigate the factors that contribute to climate change is not over, said Lisa Goddard, director of the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) and a professor at New York's Columbia University, which hosted the panel event.

“But, at the same time, the climate is changing,” said Goddard. “We need to adapt to climate change.  Period. Just because we have a growing population and growing infrastructure, adaptation is not a debatable topic. It’s not an either/or.” “Just because you’re adapting to climate change doesn’t mean you’ve given up on mitigation,” she added.

Panelist Adam Sobel, a professor of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics and of Earth and Environmental Sciences, agreed. Even if we reduced carbon dioxide emissions dramatically some of the damage has already been done and must be dealt with, he said. “Even under the most optimistic scenarios, we’re going to see some warming and it’s unrealistic not to recognise it,” he said, speaking of adaptation strategies.

Meanwhile, Sergej Mahnovski, director of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, said adaptation and mitigation go hand in hand: “I think the answer is you have to do both.”...

The FDR Drive flooded by Hurricane Sandy, shot by David Shankbone, Wikimedia Commons,  under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license

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