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17Jun 2013

AP: As CO2 zooms higher adaptation becomes Plan A. Mitigation's for another day and another (political) climate.

Charlie Petit
NYC Storm Barrier proposal, Image Arcadis, via AP

  The twin-barrelled strategy for dealing with global warming has for decades not only included mitigation, as in not emitting nearly so much greenhouse gas, but also adaptation by armoring, retreating, economizing, and broadly learning to live on an increasingly unfit planet. For most of that time mitigation got top billing from technical experts and the general media. Many  have felt that a spotlight on adaptation is a perilous step toward resignation, surrender, and steep decline for our species along with many of the rest of them here with us.

   But it gives the trend toward adaptation a big stamp of approval when a leading science writer at the world's most dominant news agency presents a reflective piece on the slow pivot of recent years to it as the only thing that national governments seem willing to endorse. The message: with so many nations too paralyzed to take tough, low-carbon paths, the best bet for a quick and sane response is welter of local duck-and-cover programs.  (This all seems to me, but on a global scale, like having an armed and increasingly deranged citizen wandering around town uttering oaths and making threats. Civic authorities decide  not to detain or disarm the threat for now because he or she is wealthy and well-connected. But they do help citizens get bulletproof vests, build hidey-holes, and advise them to keep a sharp lookout and pack for quick flight.)

    It is a double barreled package. Another story, from a veteran AP general assignment and climate policy writer in Europe, presented a logical followup :

  Associated Press

  • Seth Borenstein (June 15) Climate talk shifts from curbing CO2 to adapting ; The lead angle is New York Mayor Bloomberg's drive to get flood barriers and other devices installed to keep the city and the sea separate. The story's structure is excellent, going from that example to citation of earlier resistance (Al Gore) to letting adaptation overshadow mitigation. It then gets into the brambles, including stark inability in many poorer regions to do much of anything to prepare for droughts, floods, or rising oceans. Mitigation works for the whole thing, pole to pole. But adaptation has to be done separately in every place in between. Borenstein hints at the innate dullness of adaptation compared to the grand-scale heroic efforts that mitigation might require by writing that hte Obama administraiton and local governments have "thousands of eye-glazing pages of climate change adaptation plans and talking about zoning, elevation, water system infrastructure, and most of all, risk."
  • Karl Ritter and seven other writers around the world (June 16) Beyond NYC: Other places adapting to climate, too ; A roundup, with bullets for specific cities to provide examples of how local or national governments are trying to toughen their people against the worse times to come. Three from Europe, two from the US including New York again, two from Asia, one from the Indian Ocean, one from the Caribbean and one from Africa. What, nothing from South America or Australia? The upshot is a punchy list of the variety of tactics that communities are hopefully embracing to get them ready for what global inaction has made locally inevitable.

While we're at it...

Other recent stories on climate adaptation:

  • Sci-Dev.Net - David Dickson: Experts push ethical case for climate adaptation policies ; Dickson sums up a UN report.
  • Nature Magazine (newsblog) Jeff Tollefson: New York releases climate assessment and a plan for urban adaptation ;
  • Dhaka Tribune (Bangladesh): Cultivation of climate-change adapting crops a must for food security ; A hyper-local account of a meeting between farmers and government ag experts, livened with a thumping giant diagram of the '10 human fingerprints on climate change,' some of them inexplicable. "Shrinking thermosphere" won't mean a thing to nearly everybody inlcuding me. And "less oxygen in the air" means something, but had not heard that before as a reason for worry. It's mostly technocratic jargon but one line does fit a nation so prone to flooding by river and sea alike. It says the meeting was organized in part "to educate the farmers to cultivate crops in all seasons and keep agro activities movable at any cost all year round..."
  • Time Magazine - Bryan Walsh: Why Dwindling Snow - Thanks Largely to Climate change - Might Dry Out Los Angeles ; Slightly meandering but the yarn has a point, and Walsh makes it in his own voice as the piece closes. We can't really do much individually or at the city level against climate change, but we can "change the way we the country and the world uses energy. And it's energy use that decides climate change - and turns the snow to rain."  That is sort of right, to first approximation.. Less energy use cuts demand at all plants, fossil or renewable. But it is power production and how it's made, not use, of power that matters. An ower-intensive town hooked to big solar farms hasn't the same effect on climate as does one wired to a coal-fired station.
  • Sacramento Bee - Kevin Johnson (city mayor, former UC Berkeley and NBA basketball player): Sacramento can lead the way in response to climate change;  Pretty good background for topics Borenstein goes through for the AP, and which also happens to mention Johnson. I hope Johnson wrote this himself becuase 1) It's to the point and effective, good things for mayors to be able to do with words. But if he didn't write it he should talk to his speech writer. The column misuses the modifier "virtually" rather badly. A professional writer should know better. Literally would be a bit closer, but still would not fit. "Hardly any" would work. His sentence is "Virtually no community in America has been untouched by a major storm, hurricane or flood, a major power outage, a scorching heat wave or a withering drought." That's an effective sentence with a few technical problems. That again is why I hope the mayor wrote it. No pro should turn that out. It is however easy to grasp, which is all a mayor needs from his or her words.   
  • Washington Post (opinion) Dana Milbank: Bloomberg's race to protect NYC from climate change;   Key phrase: 'In the race to prevent disaster, it's already too late."
  • Inter Press Service - Desmond Brown; Caribbean Looks at Financial Aproach to Combat Climate Change ;


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