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March 24, 2008

Why no candidate positions on adaptation?

Posted to Author: Gilligan, J. | Climate Change

Over at the NY Times, Nicki Bennett makes a guest post on Nicholas Kristoff's "On the Ground" blog about climate change and Dhaka Bangladesh. After some fairly boilerplate stuff about how climate change is likely to affect people there, she raises an important point that we don't see reported sufficiently:

Back at the office, feeling curious, I decide to conduct a quick (and totally unscientific) experiment to check how much people in the United States actually care about the issue: I log onto the websites of the main U.S. presidential candidates to see if they have a position on climate change. Some of them talk about cutting greenhouse gas emissions. None talk about paying money into the climate change “adaptation” fund. And none are talking about the impact of climate change on poor people – or what they might do about the fact that places like Bangladesh and New Orleans are already being bashed by climate-related disasters and slowly losing land to rising sea levels.

This makes me think about how we seem to hear from many proponents of adaptation policy only when they are setting mitigation and adaptation against each other as slices in a zero-sum climate policy pie.

It would be nice to hear more discussion of adaptation independently of mitigation. I wonder whether separating the two issues more in public discourse would make it easier to press for adaptation policy by making it harder for candidates to say in essence, "I gave at the office with my mitigation policy."

Posted on March 24, 2008 10:26 AM


Outside of climate research, the US government has spent remarkably little on either adaptation or mitigation. As numerous scientists (for example, Gerald Meehl, who testified before Congress on the issue last year) point out, it's not a case of either/or; we are going to need both adaptation and mitigation. And if the government ignores the issue, then it is simply leaving matters up to fate and private industry -- neither known for a sense of fair play.

So yes -- we need more advocacy of adaptation for its own sake, not as a club to bash those who want to reduce emissions. And such spending may be even more vital internationally than in this country.

Posted by: Kit Stolz [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 24, 2008 01:58 PM

Thanks for commenting. You're exactly right: we need to be spending and doing lots more on BOTH adaptation AND mitigation, not fighting over how finely to slice an undersized pie.

Posted by: Jonathan Gilligan [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 25, 2008 09:03 PM

Especially since New Orleans, Bangladesh, etc will sink, wash away, and be pounded by climate change regardless of whether it warms or cools.

Posted by: aaron [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 25, 2008 09:16 PM

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