Mitigation and adaptation
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.
Various technical measures are available for AGW mitigation including decarbonising energy and changing land use practices to improve carbon sequestration, but putting these measures into practice requires making personal, political, economic and/or legal actions.
Rising sea levels
This Entire Island May Have to Be Raised Up to Counter Rising Sea Anne C. Mulkern; Scientific American / E&E News; 29 Mar 2018
- An aqua-blue bay filled with white boats surrounds Balboa Island, an exclusive enclave with water views from multimillion-dollar homes.
- The bay is a major reason that 3,300 people live on the island. It’s also increasingly treacherous. In recent years, the bay has gushed over an aging sea wall when major storms strike at high tide.
- The island, built on dredged sand and silt, sits below high tide. Projections for sea-level rise estimate the water here will climb 6 inches by 2035 and 1.4 feet by 2050, according to researchers at the University of California, Irvine.
- “They’re facing the possibility of chronically flooded streets within the decade,” said Brett Sanders, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at UC Irvine. “Without actions, you’re going to have chronically flooded streets and neighborhoods that are unlivable unless steps are taken.”
- By 2050, floodwater could rise above residents’ ankles, or even their knees, on a regular basis, he said.
- The city, located about 40 miles south of Los Angeles, closes floodgates on the island before high tide to keep bay water from backing up through storm drains and inundating the streets.
- That has consequences. When it rains, “water has nowhere to go, and it stays in the street,” said Newport Beach Assistant City Engineer Bob Stein. The city can’t reopen the valves until water levels fall.
- In the future, when storms hit at maximum tide, “Balboa Island will probably be one of the most impacted on the West Coast,” he said.
- To alleviate those impacts, the city plans to spend $2 million in the short term, and potentially much more in coming years, to protect the island and other parts of Newport Beach. Workers have started adding a 9-inch topper on the sea wall that buffers island homes from rising seas. Planners had wanted an 18-inch supplement, but residents argued that much would ruin waterfront views.
- The 9-inch addition—a compromise—will only work as a short-term barricade. It might resist the waves for 10 to 15 years, given projections about sea-level rise, Stein said.
- There’s a bigger plan afoot. That one, currently under development, is to lift the island. Homes, streets and sea walls would be raised.
- Changes are already underway. When residents redevelop using revised codes, they must put the first floor of the residence roughly 9.2 feet or more above mean sea level. That is about 3 to 3 ½ feet above the current street level.
- The city plans to install a tide gauge in the bay to track how quickly waters rise, and adjust plans as needed. For now, Stein anticipates Balboa Island streets would be raised within 30 to 40 years. The drainage system that runs under the streets must be refurbished at the same time.
- “The whole island is going to jack up by 2050,” Stein said. “I expect the roadways will be 2 feet higher. Then depending on sea-level rise, by 2100 they will be another 2 feet higher or more.”
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.”
How Phoenix Is Working to Beat Urban Heat Keridwen Cornelius; Scientific American; 13 Feb 2019
- Phoenix has launched two revolutionary initiatives: HeatReady—the nation’s first program of its kind—treats heat readiness like hurricane readiness and heat waves like temperature tsunamis. It will alert residents with text notifications and offer emergency cooling centers. Another project, Nature’s Cooling Systems, is redesigning those low-income neighborhoods hit hardest by heat to remove some of the sting. Both programs emphasize close cooperation with residents and could provide a model for other cities.