It's the Environment, Stupid.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Climate change - mitigate or adapt?

Word has gotten out - climate change is real. It is happening. And since it takes a few pages to even just sum up the scientific evidence, mitigation policy, the hockey-stick graphs and new technologies, publications find it necessary to devote entire special issues to the topic.

The Economist is the latest to hop on board. Their take: hey, U.S., act now before it's too late. As I read the write up on the cover story, I kept looking for new information, hoping for a different approach to the dialogue. But it's just the same old story. Climate change is happening, it doesn't matter who or how but we should reduce CO2 emissions soon.

If the American public can latch on to this premise with as much enthusiasm as the low-carb craze we might see some serious pressure put on the administration to start making things happen. But like the low-carb craze, we might get so focused on reducing carbs (CO2) and forget about other stuff we're going to need to keep us healthy.

CO2 has become the enemy. The goal is to get rid of it by any means necessary. Unfortunately (while it is not the highest priority) mitigation is the only policy measure under consideration. Many of these special reports on climate change don't bother to mention the fact that CO2 remains in the atmosphere for about a century, and even if all emissions ceased tomorrow (or yesterday) we're still going to be heating up.

The question missing in this dialogue is HOW we're going to ADAPT to a warmer world. (Well, there are a very few people discussing this such as Frances Cairncross in the UK, the government in the Netherlands, and some small island nations around the world.)

In our CO2 craze we have lost sight of the fact that mitigation and sequestration aren't going to do much to solve soil and agricultural changes. They're not going to do much to reduce drought or help flood victims, nor will it really help solve energy demand issues. But I guess if we start talking about how we're going to begin coping in an increasingly warmer world, we will have admit defeat in the grand (manufactured) debate around climate change.


  • I have just come across your blog and noted some excellent posts. We have written about similar topics in our relatively recent academic related "globalisation and environment" blog (
    We have blogrolled this site if that is OK.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 16:05  

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