Energy & Environment

Adapt to Climate Change, Don’t Prevent It

Contrary to popular belief, prevention may not be the most effective or resourceful way to reduce impacts of global warming.

Living with and adapting to climate change appears to be the more beneficial and less costly way to deal with changes in climate, according to a study released Wednesday by the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA).

“There is no question that focused adaptation beats any form of mitigation, hands down,” said Indur Goklany, author of the NCPA study.

The study, based on information gathered by various UN-affiliated organizations, measures the benefits and costs of adaptation to global climate change with those of proposed prevention methods in today’s world. It predicts these figures for the year 2085.

Advocates of prevention and mitigation–including supporters of the Kyoto Protocol–say if action is not taken, global warming will intensify existing problems such as malaria, hunger, water shortage and coastal flooding as well as pose threats to biodiversity–the effects of which would hit developing countries the hardest.

But results of the NCPA study indicate adaptation to be more certain, cost-effective in reducing these problems–now and in the foreseeable future.

“By confronting problems head on, we can save lives now, especially in developing countries,” Goklany said in a news release.

While adaptation can be applied to current issues, prevention plans are based on future concerns and predictions not yet confirmed. Either way, Goklany says positive figures associated with adaptation consistently come out ahead.

Less than $10 billion a year is needed to implement changes necessary for adaptation in contrast with $160 billion a year estimated to get the Kyoto Protocol, the international treaty on global warming proposed by the United Nations, into full swing. And, according to the study, the benefits of adaptation are more far-reaching in its effects.

While the Kyoto Protocol and other forms of mitigation attempt to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released into the air through reduction of human-caused emissions, adaptation focuses on altering existing problems through construction of coastal barriers and development of economic growth in developing countries.

“Economic growth would help developing countries solve existing problems and adapt to climate change,” Goklany said.

By investing $5 billion a year in agricultural research, world hunger could be reduced by 50%. Whereas, 30 times as much spent on reducing emissions would reduce hunger by 2% at the most, according to the study.

Goklany also said the reduction of malaria through funding will lead to better health and increased economic productivity.

Currently, malaria claims 1 million lives each year but this number could be cut in half for $1.5 billion annually, according to the study.

Although Goklany presents adaptation as the best method available to combat difficulties caused by global warming, he does not oppose what he refers to as “no-regret” mitigation measures–such as the elimination of subsidies for land conversion and energy consumption.


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