Climate change mitigation and adaptation (both, not versus)

February 24, 2007 at 1:06 am | Posted in Answer, Climate challenge, Climate change, Economics, Environment, Global warming, IPCC, Irresponsible, Royal Society, Science | 4 Comments

why shouldn’t we wait, from financial (future vs. present cost)?

Hello again John, I answered your financial question with a suggestion that you read an independent report entitled “The Economics of Climate Change” and you responded with a suggestion that I read a book by a policymaker. Hmmm …

Furthermore, I interpreted your use of the word mediation as a typo for mitigation. Then I explained here that your preferred reference, Mr. Indur Goklany, denies the value of mitigation though, in my judgement, both adaptation and mitigation are necessary.

I would never base my judgement on the words of one person. However, the following is a relevant quote from Martin Rees, a man far more qualified than I to summarise the climate change situation for the general public.

Martin Rees, the President of the Royal Society, who is a scientist, not a policymaker, said in reaction to the publication of the IPCC WGI SPM:

We need both to reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases and to prepare for the impacts of climate change. Those who would claim otherwise can no longer use science as a basis for their argument.”

  • ‘reduce our emissions of GHG’ = mitigate
  • ‘prepare for the impacts of climate change’ = adapt
  • ‘We need both to … and to …’ = mitigate + adapt

The only trade-off between mitigation and adaptation is that the less we mitigate, the more we will undoubtedly need to adapt.

The Royal Society, the national academy of science of the UK and the Commonwealth, is at the cutting edge of scientific progress.

It supports many top young scientists, engineers and technologists. It influences science policy, it debates scientific issues with the public and much more. It is an independent, charitable body which derives its authoritative status from its 1400 Fellows and Foreign Members.

Yet you still say:

So, mitigation vs. adaptation remains the question. inel, the Stern report is a political answer. I am curious about scientific answers.

Your question using “versus” is another attempt to manufacture an irresponsible debate. It is like learning to drive and asking:

So, taking my foot off the accelerator vs. using the brake remains the question.

To slow down the vehicle you are driving, common sense indicates you need to do both.

If you are looking for practical answers to plan for mitigation and adaptation yourself, I suggest you await the next two IPCC SPMs from WGII (summary of expected consequences of AGW) and WGIII (summary of options for mitigating AGW) that will provide you with the most up-to-date scientific answers on April 6 and May 4, 2007, respectively.



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  1. Hello inel – I know mitigation vs. adaptation is not really a serious debate – but it is interesting how much mitigation has dominated our responses to climate change.

    Virtually all our ideas so far are about reducing carbon emissions, which is essential, of course, but will not prevent climate change that is already inevitable.

    I just had a look on DEFRA and the website only talks about adaptation in the loosest of terms, with no actual policies or ideas for change. And although adaptation was a key element of the Stern review, I didn’t notice any particularly practical suggestions. The most tangible adaptation idea I’ve read recently was in a Jonathon Porritt article in the Guardian (,,1997432,00.html), in which he suggests protecting British agriculture.

    Any thoughts? Perhaps we should move up to the mountains before land there becomes too expensive!

  2. Hi Dan,

    Good question. I’ll think and try to reply in a more useful way tomorrow. My mother told us twenty five years ago to buy a house on a hill instead of in a flood plain 😉

    The problem is that there are sceptics in America who are saying that mitigation is not worth doing from a cost-benefit standpoint. They think nothing should be done now, and we can see what happens and adapt later. That’s what triggered my post.

    P.S. OK. I think my latest post, in relation to the April and May IPCC reports, may suggest a way forward. The Summary for Policymakers (SPM) from each of the Working Groups II and III, though not in any way policy prescriptive, provide information for policymakers to assess and act upon as they think fit. We should all read the SPMs when they come out, and I shall look to tamino and Darmok for added value in terms of digesting the content further for the public.

  3. Dear Sir,
    I am still confused with the two terminologies Adaptation and mitigation in context with the climate change. Can you help me in this regard?

    Thank & Regards

  4. Hello Anita,
    Mitigation of climate change means reducing emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) to minimise the effects of rising global temperatures. To begin with, we need to reduce the rate at which concentrations of carbon dioxide and other GHGs are building up in the atmosphere, and then we must reduce atmospheric concentrations to safe levels (350 ppm per James Hansen), in order to stand a chance of preventing the worst effects of rising global temperatures.
    Adaptation to climate change will become a necessity, whether we choose to mitigate or not. Questions surrounding adaptation relate to the timing and costs of adapting (building or remodelling) infrastructures to minimise harm to populations who might be threatened by, for example, rising sea levels or increasing numbers of extreme weather events in the future.
    The title of my post indicates that we need to mitigate (minimise) climate change to limit harm, and we need to plan to adapt to the impacts of climate change.
    Without mitigation, the requirements for adaptation may surpass humans’ capacity to deal with the outcomes in a cost-effective and tolerable way. The cost of reducing global emissions now (by reducing the carbon intensity of our lifestyles and the economy) will be dwarfed by the costs related to consequential damage and the adaptations required if we were to choose not to mitigate, or we allow mitigation efforts to take effect too late, through our own procrastination and distraction.

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