After a summer of weather horrors, adapting to climate change is an imperative
We live in a rapidly changing climate, rapid change will continue, and we are not going back to the climate of our childhoods.
This summer, the extraordinary heat in the Pacific Northwest, floods across the Northern Hemisphere and Hurricane Ida’s swath across the country have awakened more people to the dangers of climate change. As professionals working on climate change, we receive many requests for comments and interviews. More telling, perhaps, have been panic-tinged personal letters from family and friends as well as colleagues working in the field awakening to the real-world consequences of our warming climate.
Public messaging on climate change is dominated by the discussion of reducing carbon dioxide emissions to limit the warming and to stop the “worst effects” of climate change. This is the mitigation of global warming. Headlines range from declarations of climate despair to the measured voices of those who insist that there is still the time and wherewithal to limit warming to the goals aspired to by the United Nations.
Amid this cacophony of mitigation panic and sought-after patience is another discussion that has been going on for more than a decade. Namely, that we are not likely to meet emission-reduction goals such as those of the Paris agreement. This is complemented by the fact that we live in a rapidly changing climate, rapid change will continue, and we are not going back to the climate of our childhoods.
When we consider how we will address our climate future, it is worth considering our past behavior and choices. We have had the ability and the roadmap to make major strides in reducing carbon dioxide emissions and mitigating climate change for many years. In many cases, these mitigation tactics are “no regrets,” with very quick monetary payback for expenditures — the insulation of houses and choosing fuel-efficient vehicles, for example.
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