Adapting for Future Resource Challenges
April 12, 2010
To date, efforts to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere to slow and eventually reverse the negative impacts of a changing climate have received most of the political and popular attention afforded to the issue of climate change. These so-called mitigation efforts include activities that reduce the amount of carbon dioxide used in the production and consumption of energy, limit greenhouse gases in major industrial processes, and establish new approaches to agriculture and forestry practices. Adaptation efforts, those which focus primarily on building resistance to and coping with the impacts of climate change, receive a great deal less attention and are often viewed as an alternative, rather than a necessary complement to mitigation efforts. This is a false choice, as both adaptation and mitigation measures (as well as a heightened and sustained commitment to improving our scientific understanding of climate change) are necessary for meaningfully protecting and preparing society for the projected impacts of a changing climate. The linkages between adaptation and mitigation efforts are extensive, and smart policy must consider both when developing a risk management approach to dealing with climate change. Nowhere are these linkages more important than in the already stressed natural resource and infrastructure systems that govern food, water, and energy production. Climate change will undoubtedly have an impact on these systems in three fundamental ways: direct effects of a changing environment, human responses and measures to adapt these systems in the face of emerging stress factors, and the societal efforts to reduce the emissions profile of these activities. In addition, it is important to consider the geopolitical implications of these societal responses. The complex nature of these linkages with climate change and among the three sectors require a careful review and consideration of how companies, policymakers, and society can best prepare to respond to these looming challenges. Read the full commentary.