The sea level is already rising, the temperature is already changing, and extreme weather is already becoming more frequent. Even if tomorrow, we stopped all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, we can’t erase the consequences of the fossil fuels we’ve burnt or the ecosystems we’ve destroyed. Scientists and experts are advising that just as we need to mitigate harms by decreasing our carbon footprints and consuming sustainably, we also need to adapt to a changing climate.
Climate adaptation can take all shapes and forms. New Jersey’s Coastal Resilience Plan outlines its strategies for protecting coastal towns from sea level rise. Around the world, planting coastal mangroves can create new habitats for displaced species and also prevent flooding. Homes and businesses destroyed by climate-change-caused wildfires and hurricanes are often rebuilt stronger and more resilient. These strategies are vital for living in a world with climate change
Still, adaptation is no substitute for mitigation. Climate adaptation often requires a form of environmental triage; without unlimited funding, not everywhere can be protected. New Jersey’s Coastal Resilience Plan acknowledges this as its first major policy: “Shore protection engineering will not be financially or structurally feasible in every vulnerable area of the coastal zone.” As such, the plan can’t benefit everyone, and some environments and communities will be left behind.
Climate adaptation for individuals often has additional drawbacks. Air conditioning is an effective way to combat heat waves and temperature rise, but it’s very energy intensive, itself contributing to climate change. Furthermore, adaptation is expensive at all scales, which widens the gap between rich and poor. Around the world, developing countries can’t always afford the same dams and waterworks that protect the coasts of North America and Europe. Here in the US, wealthier residents can afford to fireproof their homes, while others live with greater risk.
So, while adaptation may be necessary, it’s not ideal. As individuals, we need to do everything we can to mitigate the effects of climate change to minimize the amount of adaptation necessary. Explore the rest of this site to discover ways in which you can help.