July 01, 2008
Al Gore Comes Around on Adaptation
Cross posted from Prometheus, by Breakthrough Senior Fellow Roger Pielke, jr.
This week's issue of The Economist has an interesting quote from Al Gore in an article about how environmentalists are coming to embrace adaptation:
"I USED to think adaptation subtracted from our efforts on prevention. But I've changed my mind," says Al Gore, a former American vice-president and Nobel prize-winner. "Poor countries are vulnerable and need our help." His words reflect a shift in the priorities of environmentalists and economists.Gore, of course, was quite vocal in his opposition to adaptation in his book, Earth in the Balance. The image above of Al Gore with fangs comes from the cover of the July, 2000 issue of The Atlantic Monthly issue that carried Dan Sarewitz's and my plea for adaptation to play a much greater role in climate policy (available here in PDF).
For years, greens said adaptation--coping with climate change, rather than stopping it--was a bit like putting out a fire on the Titanic: desirable, no doubt, but the main thing was to change course.
Gore was not pictured in such a manner because he was snarling at adaptation. But he (and many fellow travelers on this issue) very well could have been. Long-time readers of this blog will be very familiar with the abuse that adaptation advocates get from some quarters. Perhaps with Gore's backing adaptation can rightly take its place alongside mitigation as a central element of climate policy.
The Economist article prompted me to send in this letter:
It is wonderful news that Al Gore has changed his views on the importance of adaptation to climate change. However, so long as policies and analyses continue to view funds devoted to adaptation as a cost stemming from the failure to mitigate climate change, then adaptation will persist in its role as an afterthought in international climate policy.
Just about everywhere it is practiced adaptation makes sense on its own merits as a fundamental part of resilient development, both in New Dehli and New Orleans. And what is even better is that effective adaptation policies have the side benefit of reducing vulnerabilities to expected climate changes. Consequently, tying adaptation funding to carbon emissions or any other such narrow linkage with climate mitigation policies, rather than broader agendas of development, will all but guarantee that it remains a poorly funded niche topic. For when we adapt, we adapt not only to human caused climate change, but to climate variability more generally in the context of rapid societal
Roger Pielke, Jr.
University of Colorado