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Adapting to our own mistakes--are you serious?

This is in response to an article published in The Conversation, entitled “We can’t prevent climate change, so what should we do?” (see below), an article that suggests that it is perhaps time to give up on climate change prevention and move towards adaptation.

The article in question makes what I would call crude assumptions, among them is the claim that we have, for the last 30 years, tried to ‘prevent’ climate change, “Prevention is no longer an option”, it asserts. But, before we exchange prevention for adaptation should not we ask whether our governments have seriously worked toward prevention?

If Australia takes no action by 2020 our carbon pollution could be 20 per cent higher than in 2000, not 5 to 25 per cent lower as the Australian Government intends. [1]
Symptomatic of the lack of efforts is that many of our politicians (embarrassingly recent) and sections of the public still do not believe that climate change is largely human induced. Surely we can address and analyse how our governments, themselves ‘governed’ by the market, have failed to comply with the minimum demands as set by international agreements in the struggle to curb climate change.

Efforts to prevent climate change have and are still feeble gestures designed to fall short and deaf to the concerns of the community. And, this is the case in the so called developed world that not only bears the highest level of responsibility for CO2 emissions, but that also has the potential and resources to do something about.
Punta Arenas, Chile. Image by Omar García.
El Mercurio on Line. [2] 
Tallygaroopna, Australia. Image by Simon O'Dwyer Read. The Age. [2]

The notion of adaptation to climate change—benign as it may sound and in a way, not dissimilar to the notion of evolving—conveys ideas of a gradual and natural process of acclimatisation to new conditions. However, the climate conditions to which we need to ‘adapt’ are human induced, detrimental and largely not natural. It is therefore somewhat misleading to say that we should adapt to climate change, unless we also believe that we should adapt to our blunders instead of addressing them. Shouldn’t we then be addressing, confronting, reflecting and challenging the ideology that prompts such destructive behaviour?

I can’t help thinking of adaptation (at the expense of prevention) as an opportunistic, lazy and expedient way of doing nothing while pretending to do something—in fact, a more sophisticated and perhaps worse form of ignoring the root causes of human-made disasters.

‘Adapting’ by itself fails to address the real issues at hand, and will not help us to prevent future disasters. Having said this, it is of course too late to disregard the need for some forms of preparation and accommodation of the new circumstances. Yet, in order to learn from the experience and to face the future in a more constructive and ecologically responsible manner, adaptation needs to go hand in hand with challenging the intrinsically harmful ideology of the system responsible for the ecological damage. Prevention therefore requires political will, the political will that is absent in most of the rhetoric by advocators of adaptation.

1. See Note that the rebates and incentives mentioned, and many not mentioned in the article, were ill conceived and have since been withdrawn or considerably reduced.
2. As I write this note, in Chile, a thin and long country, with a climate that varies from deserts in the north to glaciers in the south, is suffering from torrential rains at its two extremes. A similar situation is affecting Australia where, from large parts of the tropical Queensland to the milder south in Victoria is also undergoing massive flooding.

Author: Beatriz C. Maturana
Architects for Peace

We can’t prevent climate change, so what should we do?

Climate change is coming – do we plan to just carry on regardless?AAP

When thinking of the challenges we face in responding to climate change, it is time to admit that our political focus has been fairly narrow: limiting emissions and moving beyond carbon-based energy systems. For 30 years, prevention has been the stated goal of most political efforts, from UNFCCC negotiations to the recent carbon tax.

For anyone paying attention, it is clear that such efforts have not been enough. And now we have entered a new era in the human relationship with climate change, with a variety of broad and different challenges.
From prevention to adaptation

The first of our current challenges is to admit that we will not stop climate change. Prevention is no longer an option. The natural systems that regulate climate on the planet are already changing, and ecosystems that support us are shifting under our feet.

... Continue reading, go to the original article at The Conversation


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