Mitigation and Adaptation

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We can respond to climate change by mitigating it - reducing its effects - such as by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and adapting to it, by changing our ways of life to cope with hotter (and sometimes colder) temperatures, extremes of rainfall and drought, storms, rising sea levels, changes in agriculture etc.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Working Group III brings together experts to assess the scientific evidence and make recommendations on mitigation and adaptation. The group's remit, like that of the Panel generally, is diplomatically sensitive, given the differing political agendas of the Panel's member countries and possibly even the group's own members (for example nuclear power is generally opposed in Germany and Austria and it is possible that national scientific institutions reflect national biases), and the Working Group's recommendations are intended to be "policy relevant but not policy prescriptive".

Whilst there are predictably claims from AGW denialist that the assessments of Working Groups I and II are "alarmist", there are also criticisms that WG III's mitigation assessments are unduly optimistic and are tailored not to unduly alarm politicians.

IPCC WG III assessments

Adaptation and Mitigation IPCC synthesis report: Topic 4

Many adaptation and mitigation options can help address climate change, but no single option is sufficient by itself. Effective implementation depends on policies and cooperation at all scales and can be enhanced through integrated responses that link mitigation and adaptation with other societal objectives.

IPCC: rapid carbon emission cuts vital to stop severe impact of climate change Damian Carrington; The Guardian; 2 Nov 2014

Most important assessment of global warming yet warns carbon emissions must be cut sharply and soon, but UN’s IPCC says solutions are available and affordable
The report, released in Copenhagen on Sunday by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is the work of thousands of scientists and was agreed after negotiations by the world’s governments. It is the first IPCC report since 2007 to bring together all aspects of tackling climate change and for the first time states: that it is economically affordable; that carbon emissions will ultimately have to fall to zero; and that global poverty can only be reduced by halting global warming. The report also makes clear that carbon emissions, mainly from burning coal, oil and gas, are currently rising to record levels, not falling.
The report calculates that to prevent dangerous climate change, investment in low-carbon electricity and energy efficiency will have to rise by several hundred billion dollars a year before 2030. But it also found that delaying significant emission cuts to 2030 puts up the cost of reducing carbon dioxide by almost 50%, partly because dirty power stations would have to be closed early.
Tackling climate change need only trim economic growth rates by a tiny fraction, the IPCC states, and may actually improve growth by providing other benefits, such as cutting health-damaging air pollution.
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) – the nascent technology which aims to bury CO2 underground – is deemed extremely important by the IPPC. It estimates that the cost of the big emissions cuts required would more than double without CCS.
Linking CCS to the burning of wood and other plant fuels would reduce atmospheric CO2 levels because the carbon they contain is sucked from the air as they grow. But van Ypersele said the IPCC report also states “very honestly and fairly” that there are risks to this approach, such as conflicts with food security.
In contrast to the importance the IPCC gives to CCS, abandoning nuclear power or deploying only limited wind or solar power increases the cost of emission cuts by just 6-7%. The report also states that behavioural changes, such as dietary changes that could involve eating less meat, can have a role in cutting emissions.
  • As part of setting out how the world’s nations can cut emissions effectively, the IPCC report gives prominence to ethical considerations. “[Carbon emission cuts] and adaptation raise issues of equity, justice, and fairness,” says the report. “The evidence suggests that outcomes seen as equitable can lead to more effective [international] cooperation.”
These issues are central to the global climate change negotiations and their inclusion in the report was welcomed by campaigners, as was the statement that adapting countries and coastlines to cope with global warming cannot by itself avert serious impacts.


Mitigation

Economic action

Leading insurers tell G20 to stop funding fossil fuels by 2020 Karl Mathiesen; The Guardian; 30 Aug 2016

Three of the world’s biggest insurers have called on G20 leaders to implement a timeframe for ending fossil fuel subsidies when they meet in China this week.
G20 members contribute $160-$200bn each year to the production of coal, oil and gas, according to the OECD.

Carbon Pricing *

Legal action

Netherlands

Netherlands loses landmark global warming case, ordered to cut emissions Sebastian Anthony; ars technica; 24 Jun 2015

In a landmark case that may set a very important precedent for other countries around the world, especially within Europe, the Dutch government has been ordered by the courts to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent.

Phillipines

World's largest carbon producers face landmark human rights case John Vidal; Guardian; 27 Jul 2016

The world’s largest oil, coal, cement and mining companies have been given 45 days to respond to a complaint that their greenhouse gas emissions have violated the human rights of millions of people living in the Phillippines. In a potential landmark legal case, the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHR), a constitutional body with the power to investigate human rights violations, has sent 47 “carbon majors” including Shell, BP, Chevron, BHP Billiton and Anglo American, a 60-page document accusing them of breaching people’s fundamental rights to “life, food, water, sanitation, adequate housing, and to self determination”.

Peru v. Germany

Peruvian farmer squares up to German power giant in climate lawsuit Sophie Hares; Reuters; 10 Nov 2017

TEPIC, Mexico (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - In Peru’s snow-capped Cordillera Blanca mountains, fast-melting glaciers are pushing the cobalt waters of Lake Palcacocha dangerously high, raising fears it could overflow and send a huge wave of water and mud crashing to the town of Huaraz below.
Huaraz farmer and mountain guide Saúl Luciano Lliuya, who blames the world’s biggest emitters for the warmer temperatures shrinking the glaciers, will appeal his civil case on Monday against German utility RWE, which he thinks should contribute to reinforcing the lake – even though it has no operations in Peru.

USA

New York v fossil fuel companies

New York City sues ‘polluting’ Shell, BP and others Jonny Bairstow; Energy Live News; 11 Jan 2018

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the city’s pension funds will withdraw around $5 billion (£3.7bn) of investments from fossil fuel companies.
It has also launched a lawsuit against the businesses it says have contributed most to the climate crisis – ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Shell and ConocoPhillips.
The city seeks damages for the impacts of climate change on the city. It says this has already amounted to billions of dollars, with billions more needed to prepare for rising sea levels, more powerful storms and hotter temperatures.
Children's case

Judge Denies Motions by Fossil Fuel Industry and Federal Government in Landmark Climate Change Case EcoWatch; 9 Apr 2016

U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin of the Federal District Court in Eugene, Oregon, decided in favor of 21 young plaintiffs in their landmark constitutional climate change case against the federal government. Judge Coffin ruled Friday against the motion to dismiss brought by the fossil fuel industry and federal government.

Climate Change Litigation - The Children Win In Court James Conca; Forbes; 1 Mar 2016

Against all odds, the 21 children, ages 8 to 19, who are suing the government to protect the environment against the harm of global warming in their future, have won in court. Again. In a surprise ruling on Friday from the bench in the ongoing climate case brought by these youths against the State of Washington’s Department of Ecology, King County Superior Court Judge Hollis Hill ordered the Department of Ecology to promulgate a carbon emissions reduction rule by the end of 2016 and make recommendations to the state legislature on science-based greenhouse gas reductions in the 2017 legislative session. Judge Hill also ordered the Department of Ecology to consult with the young plaintiffs in advance of that recommendation.

Children Win Another Climate Change Legal Case In Mass Supreme Court James Conca; Forbes; 19 May 2016

In another surprising victory for children suing the government over climate change, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court last Friday found in favor of four youth plaintiffs against the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. The Court found that the DEP was not complying with its legal obligation to reduce the State’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and ordered the agency to “promulgate regulations that address…greenhouse gas emissions, impose a limit on emissions that may be released…and set limits that decline on an annual basis.” This case is one of several similar cases in federal district courts in Oregon and Washington, and in the state courts of North Carolina, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Colorado. All of these legal cases are supported by Our Children’s Trust, that seeks the legal right of our youth to a healthy atmosphere and stable climate in the future.

Trump could face the ‘biggest trial of the century’ — over climate change Chelsea Harvey; Washington Post; 1 Dec 2016

A few weeks ago, a federal judge in Oregon made headlines when she ruled that a groundbreaking climate lawsuit will proceed to trial. And some experts say its outcome could rewrite the future of climate policy in the United States.
The case, brought by 21 youths aged 9 to 20, claims that the federal government isn’t doing enough to address the problem of climate change to protect their planet’s future — and that, they charge, is a violation of their constitutional rights on the most basic level. The case has already received widespread attention, even garnering the support of well-known climate scientist James Hansen, who has also joined as a plaintiff on behalf of his granddaughter and as a guardian for “future generations.”
The U.S. government under President Obama, along with several others representing members of the fossil fuel industry, filed to have the lawsuit dismissed. But on Nov. 10, federal judge Ann Aiken denied the motion, clearing the case to proceed to trial. According to Our Children’s Trust, the nonprofit representing the youth plaintiffs, a recent case management conference indicated that the case would likely go to trial by summer or early fall of 2017.

Political action

China’s climate actions turn the tables on American deniers Reuters; 26 Sep 2015

How a selfish world can still avoid catastrophic climate change New Scientist; 26 Oct 2015

Each country generally defines “fair” according to what will mean the least effort for them, says Malte Meinshausen at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. Getting them all to agree on that point seems utopian, he says. “Every country agreed to a 2°C or lower climate target, and they all make up their own story about why their own target is fair,” says Meinshausen. But the voluntary pledges to cut national greenhouse gas emissions made ahead of December’s climate summit in Paris aren’t enough to keep warming below 2°C. So Meinshausen and colleagues looked at what is needed to reach the target and how to get nations to agree to them, allowing for every country to define “fair” the way that burdens them the least. The team’s imagined scenario involves one country or group of countries leading with ambitious emissions cuts, and every other country following. But each follower country interprets its fair contribution according to what costs it the least. “If any country wants to claim to be a leader – and they all say that they’re a leader – this is now the first litmus test,” says Meinshausen.

National post-2020 greenhouse gas targets and diversity-aware leadership Malte Meinshausen, Louise Jeffery, Johannes Guetschow, Yann Robiou du Pont, Joeri Rogelj, Michiel Schaeffer, Niklas Höhne, Michel den Elzen, Sebastian Oberthür & Nicolai Meinshausen; Nature Climate Change; 26 Oct 2015

Earth Hour: Turning out the lights plays into the hands of our critics George Marshall; The Guardian; 27 Mar 2009

In my 25 years of environmental campaigning I have seen lots of inspired protests and lots of daft or pointless ones. But the WWF Earth Hour campaign has to be one of the most misguided and counterproductive actions I have ever seen.

What Do the Presidential Candidates Know about Science? Christine Gorman; Scientific American; 13 Sep 2016

Clinton, Trump and Stein answer 20 top questions about science, engineering, technology, health and environmental issues

Military Leaders Urge Trump to See Climate as a Security Threat Erika Bolstad, Climate Wire; Scientific American; 15 Nov 2016

a bipartisan group of defense experts and former military leaders sent Donald Trump’s transition team a briefing book urging the president-elect to consider climate change as a grave threat to national security.
The Center for Climate & Security in its briefing book argues that climate change presents a risk to U.S. national security and international security, and that the United States should advance a comprehensive policy for addressing the risk. The recommendations, released earlier this year, were developed by the Climate and Security Advisory Group, a voluntary, nonpartisan group of 43 U.S.-based senior military, national security, homeland security and intelligence experts, including the former commanders of the U.S. Pacific and Central commands.
The briefing book argues that climate change presents a significant and direct risk to U.S. military readiness, operations and strategy, and military leaders say it should transcend politics. It goes beyond protecting military bases from sea-level rise, the military advisers say. They urge Trump to order the Pentagon to game out catastrophic climate scenarios, track trends in climate impacts and collaborate with civilian communities. Stresses from climate change can increase the likelihood of international or civil conflict, state failure, mass migration and instability in strategically significant areas around the world, the defense experts argue.

Rex Tillerson Suggests The U.S. Should Stay In Paris Climate Agreement Alexander C. Kaufman; Huffinton Post; 11 Jan 2017

Rex Tillerson, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of state, hinted on Wednesday that he would support keeping the United States in the historic Paris climate agreement. Asked during his Senate confirmation hearing whether the U.S. should maintain its commitments in the accord, the former Exxon Mobil Corp. chief executive said the 180-country deal allows the country to influence the necessary “global response” to climate change. “It’s important that the United States maintain its seat at the table with the conversations around how to deal with the threats of climate change,” he said.

How to Resist an Unjust Regime Nonviolently John Horgan; Scientific American blogs; 18 Nov 2016

Gene Sharp advocates nonviolent activism for practical rather than moral or spiritual reasons. He rejects religious exhortations that we should turn the other cheek and love our enemies. People in power often deserve to be despised and fought, he contends, but violence, even in the service of a just cause, often causes more problems than it solves, leading to greater injustice and suffering. Hence the best way to oppose an unjust regime is through nonviolent action.

What does climate change look like through the eyes of a politician? Rebecca Willis; Inside Track - Green Alliance blog; 18 Sep 2017

I’m in a café in the House of Commons, talking to a newly-elected MP about climate change. He’s under no illusions about likely impacts. He points out that where we’re sitting, beside the River Thames, could be under water in decades to come. He calls climate change ‘catastrophic’, and looks for every opportunity he can to raise the issue. But his commitment has come at a price: speaking out on climate is, he tells me, a ‘career-limiting move’.

HFCs - Montreal Protocol

Adaptation

Flooding

A Floating House to Resist the Floods of Climate Change Emily Anthes; New Yorker; 3 Jan 2018

Last June, not long after a catastrophic thunderstorm swept through southern Ontario, bringing a month’s worth of rain in just a few hours, a group of seventy-five architects, engineers, and policymakers from sixteen countries gathered in the city of Waterloo to discuss how humanity will cope with its waterlogged future. The timing of the conference was a fitting meteorological coincidence; in a world increasingly transformed by climate change, heavy rains and major floods are becoming more common, at least in some areas. In the summer of 2017 alone, Hurricane Harvey dumped more than fifty inches of rain over Texas, a monster monsoon season damaged more than eight hundred thousand homes in India, and flash floods and mudslides claimed at least five hundred lives in Sierra Leone. In the past two decades, the world’s ten worst floods have done more than a hundred and sixty-five billion dollars’ worth of damage and driven more than a billion people from their homes.
It was statistics like these that animated the experts who had assembled in Ontario for the International Conference on Amphibious Architecture, Design and Engineering, a three-day event organized by Elizabeth English, an associate professor at the University of Waterloo. Unlike traditional buildings, amphibious structures are not static; they respond to floods like ships to a rising tide, floating on the water’s surface. As one of English’s colleagues put it, “You can think of these buildings as little animals that have their feet wet and can then lift themselves up as needed.” Amphibiation may be an unconventional strategy, but it reflects a growing consensus that, at a time of climatic volatility, people can’t simply fight against water; they have to learn to live with it. “With amphibious construction, water becomes your friend,” English told me. “The water gets to do what the water wants to do. It’s not a confrontation with Mother Nature—it’s an acceptance of Mother Nature.”

International Conference on Amphibious Architecture, Design and Engineering