A flood of articles about adaptation

The blogosphere has been inundated with a deluge of posts about adaptation to climate change over the last week or so.   Newspapers also seem to be awash with a torrent …(OK, enough of that).

1.  Judith Curry reports on a joint US/UK meeting on adaptation held at her university, Georgia Tech, on “Robust Adaptation Decisions” and the science behind them. The first talk abstract says that adaptation is an increasingly significant policy response.

2. A social science paper about adaptation came out on Feb 14, Communicating adaptation to climate change: the art and science of public engagement when climate change comes home”. I can only get the abstract, not the full text, but it seems to be a review paper. It says “It reveals much”, but the abstract certainly doesn’t. 

3.  John Gummer, aka Lord Deben writes in the Guardian that “The government has to act now on climate change”, but beyond the cliche of the title, the article is all about preparing and adapting, calling for more spending on flood and sea defences, and ending by arguing for a re-organization of government responsibility.

4. At the Klimazwiebel blog, Reiner Grundmann has an article “Hijacking the floods”, commenting critically on a doom-mongering article by Lord Stern, and the Gummer article linked above, saying that politicians are using the floods for point-scoring rather than seriously addressing the adaptation issue.

5.  Leo Barasi says that this is what the next “fight” will be about (adaptation or mitigation). He still seems to think that we need to cut back our emissions to set an example, and still seems to suffer from the Communication Problem Delusion, saying that “people who want action on climate change need to find a new way of talking about it”.

6.  Andrew Lilico in the Telegraph says “We have failed to prevent global warming, so we must adapt to it”.  He argues that if one accepts that global warming is likely to be a serious problem, we should try to adapt to it rather than prevent it.  He first points out that this is an economic question, not a scientific one.  He discusses the failure of mitigation efforts over the last few decades, the pointlessness of the UK taking strong action in view of the rest of the world, the enormous costs and the unlikeliness of getting public agreement. He explains why adaptation is cheaper, more feasible and less risky.

7. Last and probably least, the chap formerly known as Wottsupwiththat  is talking about adaptation and mitigation. As usual he has very little understanding of the issues, but at least he is aware of this (“I don’t fully understand what’s going on”).

Of all these, the “must-read” is the one by Lilico. It is calm, rational, well-argued and beautifully written.

6 thoughts on “A flood of articles about adaptation

  1. I very much agree with you about the Lilico article. I’ve argued for a long time that we should stop wasting time by endless and fruitless bickering about the truth or otherwise of CAGW and focus instead on the absurd policies adopted by the UK in its attempt to prevent it. That way we might actually be able to change something. And that’s Lilico’s approach, and why he opens his article by stating:

    “I’m going to take as a given that global warming does exist and has many accepted, worrying effects – and try to argue that we should not be attempting to prevent it, but instead be looking to adapt to it.”

    Yet, so far as I could see (I couldn’t bring myself to read them all), most of the commentators just couldn’t stop themselves from yet more bickering – as it’s in the Telegraph, mainly about the iniquities of the CAGW hypothesis. Had it been in the Guardian, it would have been the opposite.

    I despair.

  2. Robin Guenier

    Yes. The Telegraph article by Andrew Lilico pretty much tells it all.

    The debate, which has the greatest impact on most of humanity, is the economic (or policy) debate surrounding AGW, rather than the apparently futile scientific debate on whether or not AGW could possibly become potentially catastrophic for humanity or our environment some day in the distant future.

    Lilico concludes: “Prevention is dead. Long live adaptation.”

    Mitigation efforts to date have all failed and have been very costly, while global average temperature has stopped warming all by itself.

    It is also clear, as you have remarked elsewhere, that most of the world is not going to go along with CO2 abatement or containment initiatives if these in any way harm economic wellbeing or growth.

    Not only should we ignore the scientific debate and forget about mitigation, but IMO we should instead switch the debate to how we could prepare to adapt locally and regionally to whatever climate challenges nature or anyone else throws at us, if and when it becomes apparent that these challenges could become imminent.


  3. Max: good to hear from you again.

    The Lilico approach has seemed obvious to me for a very long time. For example, here’s as extract from a comment I posted following Mark Lynas’s response to David Whitehouse’s groundbreaking 2007 New Statesman article. The comment was dated 21 January 2008 – before I think even you joined that remarkable thread.

    “The environmentalists are strong on telling us how dreadful the problem is and how much worse it could get – see for example pieman Lynas’s blog. There’s some pretty scary stuff there and some attacks on those who disagree with the “consensus”. But there’s no convincing attempt to tackle the enormous problems involved in overcoming the perceived problem. What puzzles me is how people like the pieman expect the world to deal with their problem. The real world, that is: the world where, despite media entreaties, the bulk of voters in the western democracies are not interested or think it’s all a hoax, tax raising scam or left-wing conspiracy; the world where western politicians pay lip service to the issue but, giving priority to economic growth, defer real action for years; the world where the US Senate (under a Democratic President and chaired by Al Gore) voted 95 – 0 against the Kyoto treaty; the world where the rich expect more and bigger airports, more investment in roads – and get them; the world where the poor are desperate for basics such as drinking water and food, basic healthcare, freedom from continual violence etc. – all of which require increased economic growth; the world where China and India are demanding more and more resource to drive their economic growth and are understandably not interested in moderating that demand; the world where the ambitions of increasingly powerful nations such as Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iran depend almost entirely on continued demand for fossil fuels; the world where renewable energy may be proving to be rather less eco-friendly and efficient than had been hoped; the world where the profits to be made by destroying rainforests are overcoming governments’ expressed intentions; the world where the potential for GM crops to overcome the destructive industrialisation of agriculture is ignored or demonised; the world where the views of sceptics such as stargazer are getting increasing attention; the world where the environmentalists are falling out amongst themselves – e.g. about biofuels and nuclear energy; the world where the Bali conference achieved hardly anything except an agreement to hold more conferences; the world where human populations just go on expanding, perhaps to 10 billion people in 50 years time. And so on.”

    It’s amazing how little has changed in six years. And yet warmists and sceptics continue to bicker about the science as if it were the overriding consideration. As I said above, I despair.


  4. I think rather more than that Paul – not so much difficult to combine as impossible. But once again the commentators, instead of discussing that point, are mostly intent on the usual bickering about the science. Groan.

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