Saturday, April 5, 2014

Why we can’t just adapt to climate change

John Reilly in the MIT Technology Review: This week the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a major report focused on what actions might or could be taken to adapt to climate change. It attempts to describe who and what is especially vulnerable to climate change, and gives an overview of ways some are adapting.

...In the end, the report is a compendium of things that might happen or are likely to happen to someone or something, somewhere. But what does this actually mean for me, or anyone who might read the report? I would avoid beachfront property. If my livelihood depended on a coastal resource, I would try to find a different job, or at least urge my children to pursue another line of work.

That is where a measure of wealth brings some resilience—I have those options, others do not. The report “quantifies” in some sense by establishing an element of “relative risk,” concluding that the poor and marginalized in society are more vulnerable because they do not have the means to adapt. Beyond this, it is not clear that climate prediction is at a high enough level to offer information that I can use to take concrete actions for most day-to-day decisions and investments.

What the report does provide is some documentation of adaptation in action—what different regions, cities, sectors, and groups are doing to adapt—concluding that there is a growing body of experience from which to learn.

However, perhaps the greatest truth in the report is in the following statement: “Adaptation is place and context specific, with no single approach for reducing risks appropriate across all settings (high confidence). Effective risk reduction and adaptation strategies consider the dynamics of vulnerability and exposure and their linkages with socioeconomic processes, sustainable development, and climate change.”...

A grafitto shot by Rabanus Flavus, public domain

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