Tuesday, February 5, 2008

We'll need both adaptation and mitigation

We have to take strenuous and varied steps to adapt to the impact to climate change. This blog is based on that premise. But it's exasperating when denialists and their fellow travelers create a false dichotomy and say adapt, yes, but mitigate, no. A recent press release from the Cato Institute is a specimen of the tired genre.

As an example of its distorted reasoning, The press release says, " Three of the major problems expected to be worsened by climate change are malaria, hunger, and coastal flooding. Holding atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations at 1990 levels would cost more than $165 billion annually, yet address just 4-10% of the mortality associated with these threats. In contrast, Goklany [the study's author] says, "At a cost of less than $34 billion per year, focused adaptation would deliver far greater benefits than would even halting climate change. Moreover, it would do so at one fifth the cost of the ineffectual Kyoto Protocol."

Notice the leap from cutting carbon emissions to cutting the mortality from the threats. Dealing effectively with these threats would be a fine thing, to be sure. But they aren't the only threats, and the future created by carbon-intensive practices could easily overwhelm our capacity to adapt. Note, too, the exaggeration of the costs of cutting emissions.

Illustration of a dichotomy by "selfmade" from Wikimedia Commons

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