David Roberts and Roger Pielke Jr. took another turn around the adaptation/mitigation block today. Roger argued, as he has for some time, that adaptation to the problems caused by climate change needs to be given the same due in policy discussions as attempts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (“mitigation,” in the parlance of the field.)
David said that of course everyone agrees, and what’s all the fuss about anyway?
In short, the solutions he (Pielke) advocates are the same ones pushed by just about everyone in the climate debate: a mix of adaptation and mitigation.
Down in the comments, David allows as how most of what he calls the “green commentators” focus mostly on the greenhouse gas reduction part, but they really do believe in adaptation too, they’re just not talking so much about it. But they really do believe it, so what’s all the fuss about, anyway?
The fuss, David, is the problem posed by things like this report, which came across my desk today at work. It’s from NRDC, and looks at the problems posed by climate change in the western United States.
The report offers up a compelling litany of reasons why we’re fucked here in the west because of climate change: dwindling snowpack, seasonal runoff shifts, heat waves, more frequent droughts, etc. I turned with interest to Chapter 7, “Policy Conclusions and Recommendations.”
We must immediately adopt comprehensive policies that will reduce emissions of global warming pollutants.
Energy efficiency initiatives. Low-carbon transportation fuels. Carbon capture. Lieberman-Warner. All mitigation. But not one word about the societal changes we in the west will have to undertake to cope with the climate change already in the pipeline, no matter how successful we might be in curbing future greenhouse emissions.
This would be an unfair response to David’s argument if the NRDC report was an exception, but this is the rule. Over and over, I see climate change in the west used as an argument in favor of greenhouse gas reductions, and over and over I have seen the necessary political and policy discussions of what might be needed for adaptation either implicitly or explicitly off the table, most often because of a fear that such discussions will somehow sap the political will needed to change our energy habits.
I’m out here in arid New Mexico, boots on the ground trying to help my fellow citizens understand what we must do in response to climate change, and we’re sure as hell not getting any help thinking about the issue from David’s green commentators. If these people really believe, as David says, that “a mix of adaptation and mitigation” is needed, they sure have a funny way of showing it.