Adapting to our New Climate
Human caused climate change is real and its impacts are already being felt all around the world. As well, according to the latest studies, maintaining our current trend of greenhouse gas emissions is a grave risk to our organized global society, not to mention a large fraction of wildlife on this planet.
So, what do we do?
If you were to listen to the political debate on this issue (what little there is in North America), you would come to the conclusion that we must reduce our greenhouse gas emissions in order to avoid catastrophic climate change. This is what is known as the mitigation of climate change. Mitigation is extremely important because “business as usual” (no changes in our trend of emissions) scenarios are projecting that the planet will warm to somewhere around 6 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. This is something we must avoid at all costs. In fact, a even a warming of 2 degrees Celsius is to be avoided. At all costs.
However, mitigation is only half of the answer. The other half, the half that seems to be completely missing from our public discourse, is adaptation. We must adapt our way of life to the climate change we are already experiencing and to the climate change that is on the way.
Adaptation is critical because even if, by some miracle of global cooperation, we stopped emitting greenhouse gases tomorrow, our planet would continue to warm for several decades. This is due to the fact that there is a delay (of several decades) between our emission of greenhouse gases and the actual increase in global temperature (and the change in our climate). And so, no matter what we do to mitigate climate change, the oceans will continue to rise, heat waves and droughts will continue to get hotter and longer and storms will continue to become more frequent and more powerful. At least for the next several decades.
This brings me to a Ted Talk by Vicki Arroyo titled “Let’s prepare for our new climate”. Vicki Arroyo is a lawyer who “uses environmental law and her background in biology and ecology to help prepare for global climate change.” She is the director of the Georgetown Climate Centre and she works with American policymakers to develop “planetary management” strategies. Her talk highlights the importance of adaptation and gives concrete examples of what needs to be done in order to “prepare for our new climate.