Brad points out that much of my discussion for a research agenda in climate change informatics focusses heavily on strategies for emissions reduction (aka Mitigation) and neglects the equally important topic of ensuring communities can survive the climate changes that are inevitable (aka Adaptation). Which is an important point. When I talk about the goal of keeping temperatures to below a 2°C rise, it’s equally important to acknowledge that we’ve almost certainly already lost any chance of keeping peak temperature rise much below 2°C.

Which means, of course, that we have some serious work to do, in understanding the impact of climate change on existing infrastructure, and to integrate an awareness of the likely climate change issues into new planning and construction projects. This is, of course, what Brad’s Adaptation and Impacts research division focusses on. There are some huge challenges to do with how we take the data we have (e.g. see the datasets in the CCCSN), downscale these to provide more localized forecasts, and then figure out how to incorporate these into decision making.

One existing tool to point out is the World Bank’s ADAPT, which is intended to help analyze projects in the planning stage, and identify risks related to climate change adaptation. This is quite a different decision-making task from the emissions reduction decision tools I’ve been looking at. But just as important.

4 Comments

  1. One has to wonder if non-SEers Al Gore and David Suzuki (alphabetically listed!) would think of discussing mitigation vs adaptation. Anyway, should anyone who might be interested in witnessing chance to click on this comment:
    What: approx 20 min (an experience-tamed guess) with Al Gore and David Suzuki
    Where: on CBC Radio 1’s “Q” with Jian Ghomeshi
    When: Wed, Nov 25th, starts at 10:00 am and pm – 1 h show
    If the above-defined visitor swings around post-event, the podcast should be here:
    http://www.cbc.ca/q/pastepisodes.html (“Q” is on YouTube as well)

  2. Not to poke a stick into a hornet’s nest, but Joe Romm would not agree with you that adaptation is just as important as mitigation. I know because I asked him, in a comment on his blog, why he didn’t give more ink to adaptation, and his terse response was something along the lines of (I’m paraphrasing because I can’t find the original comment) “we’ll have plenty of time to adapt if we miss our mitigation targets.”

    I interpret that as: it’s much easier to adapt to a crash energy diet than to catastrophic climate change.

  3. If you’re talking to policymakers (which is where most of Romm’s efforts are devoted), then yes, we have to hold their feet to the fire and keep them focussed on mitigation – anything else is a dangerous distraction. But for researchers, laying the groundwork for the knowledge and tools we’ll need in the next couple of decades, we need both. I’ve even heard arguments at the AGU meeting this week that the research on mitigation is done – more research isn’t going to add much to what we now know needs doing. Whereas on the question of impacts and adaptation, we don’t know enough and we’re way behind where we should be.

  4. That’s very interesting, and shows just how far behind the public ‘debate’ (really the fight to inform the public about what scientists already know) lags behind the scientific discussion.

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