Although negligibly, climate change is happening, and addressing the issue in the short-term may prevent drastic future effects. When determining how to actually address climate change, two main strategies exist: mitigation and adaptation. While these two may appear similar, a nuanced difference distinguishes the two. Mitigation addresses the causes of climate change, while adaptation addresses the effects of climate change. Even though adaptation is a form of mitigation, it attempts to mitigate the harmful effects, not the causes. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), adaptation strategies can be either protective (guarding against the negative impacts of climate change) or opportunistic (taking advantage of any beneficial effects of climate change).
While an exact range is not agreed upon, most studies predict that the global mean in temperature has and will continue to rise. Some predict marginal gains, while others predict a drastic spike. Nevertheless, most agree that climate change is happening, and the evidence clearly reveals a trend in increasing temperatures. However, even though a consensus exists with regards to the veracity of climate change, no consensus exists on its causes. If the exact causes are unknown, nations spending money on mitigation strategies are taking shots in the dark at trying to stop climate change. Thus, nations may find adaptation measures more economically sensible than mitigation, as these strategies are a guaranteed way of protecting society.
As adaptation clearly appears the appropriate method of addressing climate change, many different strategies have been proposed to protect various sectors and industries. However, while the strategies may differ, the process of planning effective adaptation strategies tends to follow a similar, cyclical pattern for most nations. Here are the most common and effective six steps, according to the National Research Council:
- Identify current and future climate changes relevant to the system.
- Assess the vulnerabilities and risks to the system.
- Develop an adaptation strategy using risk-based prioritization schemes.
- Identify opportunities for co-benefits and synergies across sectors.
- Implement adaptation options.
- Monitor and reevaluate implemented adaptation options.
With this established methodology for discovering and implementing adaptation strategies, the EPA has given various examples of policies for each sector.
|Agriculture and Food Supply||
Often times, an effective strategy takes the dual-mandate approach, implementing adaptation and mitigation processes. However, with mitigation looking less effective each day, going all in on necessary adaptation strategies seems to be more appropriate. While mitigation strategies may buy a little more time in the long-run, adaptation strategies must take precedence as they will have definitive positive impacts. Rather than implementing new regulations to curb carbon emissions or regulate business, the federal government should work to prioritize the protection of these industries.
Tanner Davis is a research associate at the National Center for Policy Analysis.