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The Disaster of Climate Tyranny

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorMarch 13, 2009 12:45 AM


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In the orthodox house of climate change advocacy, adaptation is the abused stepchild. It sleeps in the attic, is denied sunlight and proper nourishment. This ill-treatment owes largely to the mitigation brood, who have the run of the house. They ridicule and beat up on adaptation whenever he tries to sneak into the pantry for some food. Mitigation doesn't like to share. If only adaptation could somehow contact the outside world, get word to his cousin, Natural Hazards & Disasters. But I just learned from Kathleen Tierney, the Director of the National Hazards Center at the University of Colorado, that this is unlikely to happen. "The climate change community has a different terminology than [the discipline of] Natural Hazards," she explained today, at the weekly Center for Environmental Journalism seminar (where I'm a visiting Fellow). Mitigation, she said, means one thing in the climate change community and another in the Natural Hazards world. In the former, mitigation is narrowly defined as a policy or action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. To Natural Hazards & Disasters scientists, mitigation is the whole enchilada. "It means preparedness, response, and recovery," said Tierney. "By mitigation, we mean things you can do in advance." Language barriers aside, why can't climate change advocates take this larger perspective and embrace both sides of the AGW problem? Why must adaptation be ostracized and treated like an outcast? If the impacts to climate change are already being felt, then it makes sense that adaptation be part of the equation. I mean, if nothing else, all our new gadgetry has taught us how to multi-task.

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