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Adaptation or Mitigation to Global Climate Change?

Posted: 1:04PM October 27th, 2016 | Comments

In my Zoology 360: Extinction of a Species class, this week’s discussion topic had to do with how we deal with the Earth’s constantly changing climate. The main points of the discussion had to do with the framework as to how to proceed. We have two options when it comes to dealing with our climate: we can either adapt to life in a changing climate or we can mitigate our use of natural resources.

There are arguments for both viewpoints. Adapting and adjusting our lifestyles to prepare for future climate change is a long-term way to think about the problem. That is exactly how we need to think if we want to stop or slow down the changing environment that we are causing. If we are better prepared for the environment’s sometimes-harsh side effects, then we can live more comfortably within our own world. Better preparation for natural disasters, growing seasons, and more efficient ways to stop pollution are very positive developments that could help us grow as a society.

Nonetheless, will there ever be a point where our climate and our environment will be changing too fast for us to adapt to it? Are we really addressing the issue by simply “going with the flow” or changing with the change? Adaptation is currently the most economically sound method. We already have a lot of quality methods in place and with the way that current technology is going, all signs point toward adaptation.

However, as much as it sounds easier to just change with the change, it isn’t necessarily the best method toward fixing the problem. If adaptation is done right, it can be a part of the long-term solution. Yet, in terms of a successful and effective long-term solution for climate change, adaptation alone will not fix the problem. Mitigation is a more logical argument for conserving and protecting our planet. “The goal of mitigation is to avoid dangerous human interference with the climate system.” (NASA.gov) Using our resources to find ways to stop pollution, lessen our impact on the natural environment, conserve our limited resources and find renewable resources are exactly the ways that we can save the Earth from becoming unsalvageable. I am not saying that the Earth is coming to the point where our climate cannot be saved in the near future, but it is definitely a reality. “So even if we stopped emitting all greenhouse gases today, global warming and climate change will continue to affect future generations. In this way, humanity is ‘committed’ to some level of climate change.” (NASA.gov) We need to realize the problem on a global scale and take action instead of just talking about what might happen. It could actually happen and we won’t be prepared for it.

I am not trying to rule out adaptation as a solution. I think adaptation can be argued as more important than mitigation. However, if we are adapting to unsuccessful mitigation, however, then that is a different story. Obviously, for adaptation to be successful, mitigation needs to be coupled with it. Adapting to the negative impacts that we are stressing the Earth with is the opposite of what we should be doing. Yes, the Earth is changing, but if we are responsible for the change and it is in a non-beneficial way, then adapting to the negatives is just lazy and selfish. If we can combine mitigation with adaptation following, then we will be able to slow negative climate changes and be better at sustaining and living on this planet. 

By Michael Shammo, Program Evaluation Intern


"Responding To Climate Change." NASA. NASA, n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2016. <http://climate.nasa.gov/solutions/adaptation-mitigation/>









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