The Disaster of Climate Tyranny

In the orthodox house of climate change advocacy, adaptation is the abused stepchild. It sleeps in the attic, is denied sunlight and proper nourishment.

This ill-treatment owes largely to the mitigation brood, who have the run of the house. They ridicule and beat up on adaptation whenever he tries to sneak into the pantry for some food. Mitigation doesn’t like to share.

If only adaptation could somehow contact the outside world, get word to his cousin, Natural Hazards & Disasters.

But I just learned from Kathleen Tierney, the Director of the National Hazards Center at the University of Colorado, that this is unlikely to happen. “The climate change community has a different terminology than [the discipline of] Natural Hazards,” she explained today, at the weekly Center for Environmental Journalism seminar (where I’m a visiting Fellow).

Mitigation, she said, means one thing in the climate change community and another in the Natural Hazards world. In the former, mitigation is narrowly defined as a policy or action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. To Natural Hazards & Disasters scientists, mitigation is the whole enchilada. “It means preparedness, response, and recovery,” said Tierney. “By mitigation, we mean things you can do in advance.”

Language barriers aside, why can’t climate change advocates take this larger perspective and embrace both sides of the AGW problem? Why must adaptation be ostracized and treated like an outcast? If the impacts to climate change are already being felt, then it makes sense that adaptation be part of the equation. I mean, if nothing else, all our new gadgetry has taught us how to multi-task.

3 Responses to “The Disaster of Climate Tyranny”

  1. Tom Yulsman says:

    I cross-posted this at our blog. And I also provided more commentary about Kathleen Tierney’s talk today. See the comments section.

  2. gravityloss says:

    I’ll outline a few immediate reasons that pop to mind:
    1) Because adaptation is used as motivation to not do anything. That’s because of the significant time delay between actions and consequences when humans change the climate. I don’t think people are fundamentally against adaptation. Who would be against building a wall if your house is going to be going under water. But using the possibility for adaptation as the motivation to do nothing is not always a good thing.
    2) Because different people have to adapt, compared to those who reaped the benefits from burning the fossil fuels. This is a question of responsibility for ones actions, and causing harm to innocent people who have nothing to do with the thing.
    There are many others, these two just popped to my mind.

  3. Eli Rabett says:

    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.

    gravityloss has it right, we have to adapt because we have taken no mitigation actions, so we are stuck with it, but we should not forget, nor forgive the people who told us there was no problem, we only have to adapt.

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