Mitigation or Adaptation?

gray mountain, wilderness, hut

June 13, 2020- What does it mean to mitigate or adapt to climate change? These terms are often used interchangeably, but are in fact, quite different.

  • Mitigation: “reducing climate change–involves reducing the flow of heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.” 
  • Adaptation: “adapting to life in a changing climate– involves adjusting to actual or expected future climate.”

NASA’S Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “Responding to Climate Chnage.” Global Climate Change: Vital Signs of the  Planet. Accessed June 12, 2020.

  • Mitigation: “involved attempts to slow the process of global climate change, usually by lowering the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”
  • Adaptation: “involved developing ways to protect people and places by reducing their vulnerability to climate impacts.”

University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. “Climate Mitigation and Adaptation.” UCAR: Center for  Science Education, 2011.

  • Mitigation: “means avoiding and reducing emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere to prevent the planet from warming to more extreme temperatures.”
  • Adaptation: “means altering our behavior,systems, and–in some cases–ways of life to protect our families, our economies, and he environment in which we live from the ompacts of climate change.”

World Wildlife Fund. “What’s the Difference between Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation?” World  Wildlife Fund. Accessed June 12, 2020.  –difference-between-climate-change-mitigation-and-adaptation.

To put it simply, mitigation is the attempt to stop things from getting worse, and adaptation is the attempt to get used to the damage already done. Therefore when people talk about switching to solar and “decreasing their carbon footprint” those are mitigation strategies that are in an effort to manage how bad it could get. And when someone talks about elevating their house, it is an adaptation to higher water, which many areas around the world are already seeing. 

One is not better than the other, mitigation and adaptation are needed, specifically in concert with one another, to create a better future. This is not easy to do of course. Damage to the atmosphere due to increasing production of greenhouse gases in the post-industrial revolution world we inhabit, did not take one day to produce. Therefore it will not take one day to fix. This is an uphill struggle, and one that is not easily accomplished without effort and participation from the majority of Earth’s population. For example, if it were not for lockdowns worldwide during the COVID pandemic, then some of the shifts in nature that were witnessed would have never happened, such as the decrease in smog in major cities. If nothing is done at all, well, that is a scenario no one is ready for. 

It is our job to work for a better future.

So Let’s Take ACKtion!