The Economist published an article this past week titled “Adapt or die” [subscription needed]. It is an informative article and starts to address the issue of vulnerability that has been emphasized on Climate Science (e.g. see).
A focus on critical resources (e.g. energy, food, water, medical support) which is local and regionally focused, is a much more effective framework to assist society in reducing the risks from the diverse range of threats that face society and the environment. This resource based emphasis is a much needed replacement to the almost exclusive focus on downscaling from multi-decadal global models as promoted using the IPCC and CCSP perspectives.
There are a two glaring errors, however, in the Economist article. The first is their statement that two things have changed attitudes towards adapation;
“One is evidence that global warming is happening faster than expected. Manish Bapna of the World Resources Institute, a think-tank in Washington, DC, believes ‘it is already too late to avert dangerous consequences, so we must learn to adapt.’”
“Second, evidence is growing that climate change hits two specific groups of people disproportionately and unfairly. They are the poorest of the poor and those living in island states: 1 billion people in 100 countries.”
The author(s) of the Economist article have ignored that global warming has actually halted, at least for now. The upper ocean heat content data indicates that there has been no warming since 2004 (see), while the tropospheric temperature data indicates no warming for about 7 years (e.g. see Figure 7). Global warming is actually “happening more slowly than expected”.
With respect to the second comment, climate has always affected the poor more significantly than the rich. Climate variability has always been a major issue in those societies in which their food, energy, water and health facility infrastructures are underdeveloped. These poor societies face threats from famine and disease regardless of the role of humans within the climate system! Adaptation is common sense and should be a much higher priority than it has been given. The IPCC emphasis on CO2 as the reason for increased risk ignores the need for a much broader perspective to reduce vulnerability. A more inclusive framework is presented in Chapter E in the IGBP book
Kabat, P., Claussen, M., Dirmeyer, P.A., J.H.C. Gash, L. Bravo de Guenni, M. Meybeck, R.A. Pielke Sr., C.J. Vorosmarty, R.W.A. Hutjes, and S. Lutkemeier, Editors, 2004: Vegetation, water, humans and the climate: A new perspective on an interactive system. Springer, Berlin, Global Change – The IGBP Series, 566 pp
See, for example, the first paragraph in
Pielke, R.A. Sr., and L. Bravo de Guenni, 2004: Conclusions. Chapter E.7 In: Vegetation, Water, Humans and the Climate: A New Perspective on an Interactive System. Global Change – The IGBP Series, P. Kabat et al., Eds., Springer, 537-538.
Thus, while the Economist article is a good start, the authors should recognize that a local and regional focus on societal and environmental vulnerability is a much more effective framework to reduce the threats that humanity and the environment face, than to rely on multi-decadal global model predictions.