Why we can no longer afford to ignore the need to adapt to climate

As an area of ​​expertise, climate change adaptation remained neglected, misunderstood, and minor until the early 2000s, when Lara Hansen, a trained ecotoxicologist, began working on this topic for the World Wildlife Fund. Hansen and her colleagues joke that all of the world’s adaptation experts and researchers “could fit in an elevator”. But soon, the fields began to sprout like mushrooms. For one thing, it has become clearer that emissions are not falling – especially after the George W. Bush administration announced in 2001 that it would not implement Kyoto Protocolanother international agreement to push nations to rein in atmospheric carbon.

The president’s inaction threw a wrench into international negotiations; partly as a result, when the United Nations forged another treaty called Agreement of Marrakesh, they cover more things about adaptation than before. If America continues to emit carbon into the sky without limits, then the whole world will have more to adapt.

But environmental groups are often hesitant to delve into the subject – a missed opportunity, Hansen thinks. “I have long said that adaptation is the gateway drug to mitigation. Because once you see how big the problem is going to be for your community and how much your way of life is going to have to change,” she said, “all of a sudden it’s like, “Wow, that’s it,” she said. so bad. It would be a lot easier to just stop releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. ‘”

In 2006, in a hotel ballroom in Florida, she led a panel for several hundred people to talk about reef conservation, including commercial fishing companies and capital tourism businesses. unfamiliar with the effects of climate change. That evening, at a local theater, the conference organizers screened Al Gore’s climate documentary An inconvenient truth and broadcast a video simulating future flooding in south Florida. “I zoomed in on it into the Florida Keys,” recalls Hansen, “and you can see that with two meters of sea level rise and Category One storm surge, the only thing that remains in the Florida Keys are a few bridges. Highway and Key West Cemetery. The audience asked her to repeat the act three times. Later, Hansen said, she heard that people in the area were more interested in mitigation efforts.

In the years since, the ranks of adaptation specialists have continued to grow exponentially. In 2008, Hansen co-founded an organization called EcoAdapt, an agency that compiles reports and lessons on adaptation and brings together experts from around the country. When the Obama administration asked federal agencies to develop adaptation plans, it prompted a host of other organizations to do the same. “It’s really something that’s probably got more local and state governments thinking about it than anything has ever been before,” says Hansen.

But the adaptation may still have some of the limitations it suffered in the beginning. For example, infrastructure is built on a slow timeline, and delays in understanding and adoption mean planners don’t necessarily have to catch up. Burton noted that some rail in the UK are not suitable for dealing with the recent heat wave. “Railways were designed for the climates of the past 50 years, not what the climate is now and what it will be,” he lamented.

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