Thursday, March 12, 2009

If we can't stop change, we must adapt

Ben Caldecott in the Guardian (UK): The consensus reached at today's meeting of climate change scientists is an important one for policymakers. At the conference being held in Copenhagen, in advance of a key meeting of climate change negotiators in December, scientists have said that even after (as yet unachieved) reductions in greenhouse gas emissions we only have a 50:50 chance of preventing a two-degree rise in global temperatures. This is depressing stuff.

….Even with the best will in the world, the risk of significant climatic change taking place is high. In fact, some human-induced climatic change is already occurring and it is likely to get worse because our efforts at prevention are failing. This doesn't mean that we should stop trying to take collective action to significantly reduce global emissions – quite the opposite. It does mean though, that measures to manage the consequences of climate change need to be put in place. Doing this isn't giving up hope, as some green groups and activists would say, it's facing up to the reality of the situation we're in.

…The restoration or rehabilitation of our environment is the forgotten front. It concerns the repair or reintroduction of eco-systems that have been destroyed by human activity. Without restoration there will be fewer eco-system services, such as water and clean air, to go around. It will also be much harder to halt biodiversity loss. If we continue to ignore restoration, the carrying capacity of our planet will fall further, and this will be exacerbated as human population and per capita consumption growth continues. Restoration has additional benefits, as it will also help to reduce emissions, as carbon is sequestered by recreated ecosystems. This is vital work, but is largely ignored and underfunded.

Our strategy to tackle climate change must involve three things: mitigation, adaptation and restoration. Without progress across all three, especially on adaptation and restoration, we will fail to adequately manage the dangers of climate change and continue to witness unrelenting habitat destruction and species loss.

The Shipwreck by Francis Danby, Oil on Canvas, 1859.

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