Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Fighting Climate Change

One thing that is becoming clearer and clearer is that there is often a dissonance between groups of people who talk about "fighting" climate change. Some see it as trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with the aim of decreasing or mitigating the worst effects these gases will have on how quickly and to what extent climates are affected. Others interpret fighting climate change to mean a recognition that difficult and painful changes are underway and we need to prepare for and adapt to these changes the best we can, with special care to look out for the most vulnerable groups.

Perhaps "fighting" is simply a bad metaphor that doesn't convey the complexity of the situation. "Coping" would be a more apt description of adaptation strategies while "debugging" might be a better way of speaking about mitigation.

Much of what people hear about on the news concerns the failure of the UN talks to produce any meaningful reduction in the greenhouse gas emissions that are driving climate change around the world. The main provisions of the Kyoto Protocol were voluntary targets for emission reductions that nations pledged to reach. What was hoped for in Copenhagen last year was a legal agreement that would be able to force nations to live up to those voluntary pledges. Instead, what was accomplished was that everyone agreed that this is a very bad problem that we should all work towards solving at some point. Essentially, that is what the Copenhagen Accord concluded.

In the meantime, there has been a great deal of research and energy invested in adaptation strategies (I'll talk about more in detail later) over the past few years. Advice being generated under the Nairobi Work Programme and the ways in which this work will be implemented by the UN is growing exponentially. These largely fly under the radar screen but will be critically important for many people around the world as mitigation talks continue to be mired in politics and self-interest. The longer we wait to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the harder it will be to contain their effects. The longer we wait to mitigate the driving cause of climate change the more vulnerable certain populations, especially the poorest of the poor, become. Adaptation is a band-aid that will not replace mitigation, but being able to triage and treat those most affected seems like the least we can do in the meantime. BlogBooster-The most productive way for mobile blogging. BlogBooster is a multi-service blog editor for iPhone, Android, WebOs and your desktop

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