Coping with climate change

What are the strategies for coping with climate change?


Key Definitions

Mitigation - mitigation strategies aim to reduce how much climate change occurs e.g switching to renewable energy sources, such as wind power

Adaptation - adaptation strategies aim to change lifestyles to better cope with a new environment e.g developing drought resistant crops 

Adaptive capacity - the extent to which a system can cope with climate change, in human terms dependant on human, physical and financial resources

Climate vulnerbaility - the degree to which a natural or human system lacks the ability to cope with climate change, vulnerability is a result of the magnitude the change, its onset speed, the sensitivity of the the system

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Mitigation Strategies

Carbon tax - taxing companies or people who produce CO2, increasing tax discourges overconsumption of energy

Changing energy mix - using other energy sources as well as fossil fuels e.g nuclear power

Modified agricultural practices - cut methane generation from farm animals e.g developing new types of feed

Tree planting - planting new trees can create carbon sinks which will store more CO2 as organic matter

Waste strategies - increasing the amount of recycled waste should directly cut methane emissions from landfills

Carbon-neutral development - companies balance out emissions by paying for strategies that take up an equal amount of carbon e.g tree planting

Carbon capture development - storing carbon using methods such as deep sea or geogical burial

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Adaptation Strategies

Land use planning - preventing development on floodplains and vulnerable coasts, removal of urban scrubland to prevent the spread of fire

Agricultural technology - drought resistant farming, the use of urban waste water on fields

Flood adaptations - building physical defences such as flood barriers to reduce the impacts of flododing, and having better flood warning systems

Lifestyle adaption - people adapting to suit new conditions e.g planting crops that will flourish in new climatic conditions 

Water resource management - using freshwater resources more efficiently to cope with drought conditions e.g installing water metres in home to discourage people from using a lot of water

Community awareness - educating local communities on potential impacts of climate change, adaptions can be tailored to specific communities

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Mitigation and Adaptation strategies

Limitations - e.g building physical defences such as the thames barrier will always have a limited capacity as sea level continues to rise

Side effects - e.g changing energy mix would reduce emissions, but nuclear power would lead to nuclear waste, expensive and dangerous to dispose of

Ability to adapt is linked to development levels, most adaption strategies will be local in scale as adaptions need to be tailored to local impact of climate change.

Mitigation strategies occur at levels from local to international, when on an international scale individual governments should decide how to implement the strategies e.g the UK governement target is to recycle 30 % of domestic waste by 2010, this is within the UK owns strategies linked to the Kyoto Protocol targets.

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Tuvalu - adapting to climate change

Tuvalu is a small island state in the Pacific Ocean, between Australia and Hawaii. Its population of 10,500 is spread over 9 small islands, none of which are more than 5m above sea level. It is too remote for significant tourism and its economy relies on semi substinence farming and fishing as well as foreign aid. Tuvalu lacks adaptive capacity, it is a developing nation with a stin GDP of $12 million. 

How can Tuvalu adapt to the threat?

Relocate - In 2001, New Zealand agreed to accept 75 Tuvauans per year as environmental refugees possibly until 2050

Change behaviour - In 2000, Tuvalu joined the United nations with the aim of bringing its climate issues to the worlds attention, it was hoped that other counries would take action to mitigate

Modify the threat - beach mining is being regulated to reduce erosion risk 

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Kyoto Protocol

an international agreement formed in 1997 between 190 countries, the main idea was to reduce GHG emissions between 2008 and 2012 to be 5.2% lower than 1990 levels. Developed countries have agreed to cut emissons by 5%, developing countries don't have to cut emissions, but need to monitor and report their countries. During negotiations the treaty became increasingly complex:

- For treaty to enter force, 55 countries had to ratify it (including countries accounting to 55% of emmisions) This wasnt achieved until 2005 when Russi signed it.

-Complex systems were introduced allowing trading of carbon credits, carbon sinks were allowed as carbon offsetting (some argue this allows polluters to carry on polluting)

- The protocol was undermined by the USA in 2001, when it pulled out of the protocol stating that the costs were too high and would damage the US economy

Success: progress has been made in some countries, it shows a united global front, allows flexible ways of meeting targets and somewhat adapts to countries needs, examples of success such as Denmark, further agreements such as EU carbon trading have been made

Failures: there are no real consequences for not meetng intended levels, many countries have made no progress - global emissions have infact risen by 38% betwwen 1992 and 2007, targets are often considered too low, the time scale is too short - obama is holding off til the next global agreement, carbon trading distracts for the main purpose, it may take many years for forests planted to absorb emissions

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Key Players in climate change

Governments - develop strategies on an international, national and local scale.

Businesses - can be responsible for contributing to climate change, or can help slow it down, they may lobby governments to reduce restrictions and allow them to continue producing greenhouse gases, or the may help by investing in new technologies to combat climate change. (TNC's such as Exxon-Mobil, BP, Shell, Ford and General motors funded the Global Climate Coalisition between 1989 and 2002, this opposed action on climate change, and funded research to counter the warnings about global warming) Companies are however beginning to change their views, could be through: moral and public pressures to protect, fears about energ supply, increasing taxes by governments, demands from investors, new markets created by environmentally sound technologies e.g hybrid cars

NGO's - can have many roles and views depending on what they're se up to do and who their members are, e.g Greenpeace is an environmenal pressure group that tries to persuade governments to recognise and take action against climate change.

Communities and individuals - strategies developed on a larger scale are carried out at a local level, e.g a government may decide to encourage recycling, but the recycling is actually done by individuals. Without local strategies it is hard for individuals to do their bit. (London's climate change strategy, in 2007 the mayor of London launched the 'Action Today to Protect Tomorrow' commiting the city to reducing carbon dioxide emissions to 30% of 1990 levels by 2025 e.g clean efficient public transport systems - all 8,000 London buses to diesel electric hybrids)

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Act Local, Think Global

International agreements help at the largest scale, but changes need to be co-ordinated at all levels, individuals can make small changes that can help the global problem, e.g reducing their carbon footprint.

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Why is progress on mitigation not faster?

Uncertainty - We cannot say for sure how the climate will change in the future, the counter argument is that uncertainty makes it all the more neccersary to do something 

Costs - the costs of mitigating are high, and would damage economic growth. Against this we have evidence such as the stern review which suggests the costs of mitigation will be lower than not doing anything

Political inertia - mitigation policies, such as carbon taxes, are vote losers. This is one reason why progress is likely to be gradual, and based on consensus

Economic systems - business and inevitably pollute. Major investment is needed to implement clean systems and businesses are reluctant to invest in something which does not make profit for them

International agreements - these take time to negotiate, and not all countries agree. However, the Montreal and Kyoto agreemets have partially worked. Does ever country in the world need to sign up for an agreement to work? China, the USA and the EU account for over 50% of all carbon emissions.

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