Is Climate Change Now More About Mitigation?

Is Climate Change Now More About Mitigation?

The climate change conversation has shifted from prevention to mitigation and adaptation, focusing on the feasibility of strategies and expert opinions on reversing the worsening crisis amidst rising temperatures and more frequent extreme weather events.

Most of what people know about climate change today are things they already knew 30 years ago. Yet, it seems not much has changed. Global temperatures are still rising, as are sea levels. If anything, the situation appears to be getting worse.

Floods, droughts, wildfires and other climate-driven disasters have become more frequent and intense through the years. As things stand, addressing the climate crisis is more about mitigation measures than prevention.

Is it Too Late to Reverse Climate Change?

Expert opinions vary on the matter. Scientists at NASA believe the effects of anthropogenic climate change are irreversible, at least in the lifetime of humans alive today. Others think there’s still ample time to fix things. Perhaps more worrying is the growing belief that nothing can be done to tackle climate change.

In 2015, world leaders and stakeholders agreed to substantially reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and limit temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. However, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is skeptical about the world reaching net-zero emissions in time. What’s abundantly clear is that, without major action to reduce emissions, it will be too late to avoid the worst effects of the crisis.

How Bad Is Climate Change Now?

Rising temperatures are an urgent concern and have far-reaching implications. 2023 was already the warmest year on record and there’s a good chance that subsequent years will be even hotter. As a result, sea ice and glaciers are melting faster than ever, disrupting normal ocean circulation patterns and raising sea levels.

Extreme weather events have been occurring more frequently too, leading to increased instances of disaster displacements. Without decisive action, around 1.2 billion people could be displaced worldwide by 2050.

Regions previously affected by droughts will likely experience even worse conditions over the coming years. Around 11 percent of the contiguous U.S. is already facing severe to extreme drought as of February 2024. This means a significant part of the population is exposed to depleted water supplies and food production, among other effects.

Climate change threatens more than human life. Various animal species across the planet have had to flee their natural habitats as spontaneous shifts in weather patterns have degraded the environment. Ecosystems are also no longer following their natural cycles.

Mitigation and Adaptation Measures

To have a meaningful impact, addressing climate change requires a two-pronged approach: mitigation and adaptation.

What Does Mitigation Entail?

Mitigation primarily involves actions to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. It encompasses a wide range of efforts across several industries that seem relatively straightforward in theory but are incredibly difficult to implement. For example, agriculture accounts for roughly 30 percent of global carbon emissions, mainly from poor resource management and energy-intensive processes. However, without this level of food production, humanity couldn't survive.

Another sector where drastic mitigation efforts are necessary is transportation. Burning petrol, diesel and jet fuel to transport people from one place to another is causing considerable environmental harm. Electric vehicles are a promising solution, but they’re currently pricier than regular cars and trucks. So widespread use is not likely to occur anytime soon.

What about power generation? Fossil fuels like oil and coal account for a huge chunk of global carbon emissions. Switching to renewable energy sources like solar and wind is a great mitigation measure but is cost-prohibitive and therefore challenging to implement worldwide.

Despite these glaring limitations, humanity cannot afford to slack off on current GHG reduction efforts. Even the smallest actions can make a big difference. For instance, personal vehicles alone are responsible for around 58 percent of transportation-related emissions, meaning opting to walk, bike or rideshare can significantly mitigate climate change in the industry.

What Is Climate Adaptation?

Adaptation is the process of adjusting to the current and future effects of climate change. The goal is to reduce the risk of exposure to the harmful impacts of the crisis, such as extreme weather events, coastal flooding and heatwaves.

It also covers innovative solutions to climate-driven problems. For instance, soil nailing can stabilize the ground in coastal areas and other challenging terrains, facilitating safer constructions.

Given the slow pace of mitigation efforts, society has little choice but to adapt to existing climate conditions. Proper measures must be smartly implemented with due consideration to secondary benefits, such as ensuring displaced people have access to temporary shelters.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), funding remains a critical challenge to climate change adaptation. Developing countries — which incidentally need these efforts the most — would need between $140 billion to $300 billion in adaptation funding by 2030.

So… Is Climate Change Really More About Mitigation?

It would appear so. Prevention is no longer an option, seeing as the world is already suffering the effects of the climate crisis. As such, mitigation and adaptation are the best two measures in humanity’s arsenal. Even then, these actions may be insufficient, but every effort counts and there’s no reason to stop trying.

About the Author

Jane Marsh is an environmental writer. You can keep up with her work on her site

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