Gristmill Scorecard

Given David Roberts’ apparent conversion to the view that simply everyone who matters in the climate change community agrees that the need to adjust to the problems being caused by climate change (“adapt”, in the lingo) shares equal importance with the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (“mitigate”), I thought a scorecard of Gristmill’s coverage of this vital issue might be of value.

Gristmill has become an enormously successful and valuable community gathering place for discussion about climate change issues, so this seems like a worthwhile exercise in plumbing the thinking of what David describes as “green commentators”.

Gristmill gets a bit repetitive, but if the last 96 hours of posts is in any way representative, I think I’ve detected a statistically significant trend:

  • mitigation: 29 posts
  • adaptation: 2 posts

One of those adaptation posts was a video of Dean Kamen on Colbert talking about water. (TLDW*, but I think it was probably about adaptation – I got as far as the bit where Colbert left the water running.)

The other was Roberts lecturing the journalistic community about how of course everyone who matters in the climate change community already agrees that adaptation is of great importance, and therefore talking about the importance of adaptation is not at all newsworthy, even though we don’t really talk about it all that much, but we all know it’s really important, so there’s really no need for the mainstream media to talk about it. Because pointing out this problem would be “banal”.


* too long, didn’t watch


  1. To repeat myself endlessly, adaptation without mitigation has infinite procrastination penalties. Perforce we have to adapt, because we have already bought into significant man made climate change, but to simply adapt is the drunkard;s strategy.’

    J. Willard Rabett has sent Eli a set of laws to guide climate change policy makers

    1. Adaptation responds to current losses.
    2. Mitigation responds to future losses
    3. Adaptation plus future costs is more expensive than mitigation,
    4. Adaptation without mitigation drives procrastination penalties to infinity.

    J. Willard points out the similarity with the laws of thermodynamics, you can’t win, you can’t break even, things will get worse before they get better and who says they will get better.

  2. To repeat myself endlessly, Eli, no one is talking here about adaptation without mitigation. That’s a straw man.

  3. John, as Eli siad more pithily, an emphasis on mitigation is entirely appropriate since insufficient mitigation will add to the subsequent requirement for adaptation. As well, people who don’t understand the problem well enough to want to engage in mitigation are similarly unlikely to approach adaptation very well. Land use policies throughout the Western U.S. are a good illustration of this.

    Let’s not forget the First Law of Holes: If you find yourself in one, stop digging.

  4. Steve B –

    You’re a smart guy. Maybe you can help me here. Why is it so hard to grasp that no one is arguing here for less attention to mitigation? How am I failing to communicate that point? How much more clear to do I have to be?

    The complaint here – with concrete examples – is that there is vanishingly close to zero attention to the accompanying problems of adaptation. And ever time I bring that up, people can’t seem to get past the argument that mitigation is really, really important. I get it! I agree, mitigation is really really important!

    The only way the argument you and Eli made above makes any sense is if you believe this is a zero sum game. But over and over again, every time I bring up adaptation, people say, “It’s not a zero sum game.” I agree. It’s not. So why do y’all keep making this same argument?

  5. Maybe because what I hear is people arguing ADAPTADAPTADAPTADAPTADAPTADAPTADAPTADAPT and then maybe in very small print down in paragraph 23 well maybe mitigate a bit but it won’t help. Read the LA Times article John, and then remember that in other papers that picked it up, the mitigate a bit got cut. So yes, people are arguing adapt without arguing mitigation, or burying the mitigation part so deep that it is only effectively there for cover.

    Just because I am reading papers about it now and the report itself, let me point out that this old ten steps adapt and one step mitigate started back in the 80s with William Nierenberg. Right now because we listened to those guys we HAVE to adapt more then is going to be comfortable.

    I do not believe that this is a zero sum game. At this point mitigation and adaptation are both needed. I do believe you are being played for a mug.

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