A new term for our mission: MITIGAPTATION. No, I don't expect that I'll ever actually pronounce it in conversation, but it makes my point here, which is that we cant' afford to abandon either of the two approaches to climate change. We must learn to practice both mitigation and adaptation simultaneously.
Mitigation is critical to lessen the future impact of global warming and prevent feedback processes from setting off runaway deadly (to humans) overheating of the environment. Adaptation is essential because there's no way - no matter how effective our mitigation - that we're going to escape the impacts of the current growing carbon concentration in the atmosphere.
If the impacts catch you now, you'll have your hands full adapting. Just ask the folks affected by Katrina and last summer's floods in the Midwest. Those of us who have not been fully impacted by climate change must insist that both our governments and the companies that provide us with products and services make drastic changes to reduce carbon emissions. In our own lives, we must make the same kinds of changes in our buying and living habits. These are both mitigating and adapting behaviors. Get used to it or be prepared to scramble aboard what might be a comparatively uncomfortable adaptive bandwagon.
I've just been introduced by Rick Piltz of Climate Science Watch to a new consulting group called Adaptation Network , a project of Earth Island Institute (which, as many of you know, was founded by the late environmental pioneer David Brower.)
I like how the Network describes adaptation.
Adaptations we make to climatic change need to be aimed at making systems more resilient and healthy now and in the long run. Resilient, healthy systems can better withstand perturbations of all types than systems that are unbalanced or at the edge of their survival. Making a system more resilient could mean reducing pressures that are already stressing the system. It could mean providing greenways and migration routes for plants and animals that need to move to better match the environment that is best for them. It could mean restoring natural floodways to allow the natural system to better protect the built environment. It could mean investing in long-term projects that reduce vulnerability (of people, infrastructure, or even investments) rather than increasing it. It could mean investing in educating the public to increase their awareness and availability of more environmentally friendly choices and options open to them. In short, adaptation action can vary greatly from one location to another. That is also why adaptation may require a significant level of planning and feedback prior to and following implementation.