Tackling Climate Change Now – and Later

By JP Leous

In a small restaurant a stone’s throw from the Arctic Ocean last week I heard a familiar argument against investing in climate adaptation: focusing on adaptation takes attention away from the critical work of reducing dangerous carbon pollution. This case for “simply” capping carbon emissions (something that has been elusive for decades) has been a bread-and-butter argument of climate activists for years.  However, mounting scientific evidence shows that climate changes are occurring and will continue to occur for years regardless of future pollution reductions.

Rather than the luxury of a “reduction vs. adaptation” debate, decades of inaction on climate pollution forced us into a “both-and” scenario: we must ramp down pollution immediately to prevent the worst case scenarios AND invest now to keep our communities and environment resilient in a warming world. 

Two items in my email inbox this morning are proof positive that the Obama Administration is taking a hard look at adaptation. First, the Fish and Wildlife Service released its Strategic Plan for Adaptation to Accelerating Climate Change. The document outlines the Service’s approach to addressing climate effects, including the establishment of Regional Climate Science Partnerships, Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, facilitating the development of a National Fish and Wildlife Climate Adaptation Strategy, and becoming carbon neutral by 2020. This bold series of goals will demand equally bold budgets and personal commitment from FWS staff from the DC office to each and every refuge across the country.

As if that wasn’t enough to make an adaptation fan perk up, the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) released a statement today giving folks a heads up that they will soon release their National Climate Adaptation Summit Report, following the National Climate Adaptation Summit that took place in May. (More information on the interesting presentations given at the Summit can be found here). As with the FWS document, releasing reports is the easy part of climate adaptation—the hard and important part is ahead of us.

While FWS defines ”adaptation as “Minimizing the impact of climate change on fish and wildlife through the application of cutting-edge science in managing species and habitats”, this will mean different things to different communities.  As I heard during presentations and quiet dinners during the NSSI meetings in Barrow, strategies such migration corridors that allow species to migrate northward to cooler habitat (which could work in much of the Lower 48) don’t work at the top of the continent when there’s no farther north for species to go. However, a common theme emerges: investing in adaptation protects and creates jobs across the country.

These plans and strategies are excellent first steps, but they need to be followed by second, third, and fourth ones so that we continue on the path towards improving the resiliency of our lands in a warming world.  Another needed step right now is to ensure that the agencies like the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Forest Service have the funding they need to begin adapting our lands.



Gates of the Arctic National Park - courtesy of the National Park Service


Carrie H.
Carrie H7 years ago

We have been Waiting and voting and I will continue to vote for Green canidats. Goverment is slow moving we have to take as much Action as we can ourselves. many us have been if only to save a buck. Lets be creative we I live in Alaska I see the change and in the last 10 years it has been dramatic, heart breaking and Sad. Today Be Great Would You Donate KWH, Help a Homeless Teen and Green up America all with a Text.
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Colin Hope
Colin Hope7 years ago

Noted and signed!!

Tori W.
Past Member 7 years ago

I'm really new to this and I have people telling me that global warming is a myth; however, myth or not, the fact is that pollution is rampant on our planet and we need to act with both prevention and adaption. Thank goodness that our government is finally, finally acting, hopefully not too late.

Reka B.
reka b7 years ago


Jonathan Y.
Jonathan Y7 years ago

Adaptation won't be enough if the polar and antarctic ice caps melt away. Then it will be mass migration-not just of animals but humans away from growing desert areas and flooded coastlines (Florida, New York, Bangladesh, the Netherlands, entire island nations).

The economic and humanitarian costs will be immense. The political fallout will be quite dangerous as people start fighting over water and other basic resources. Not a crazy speculation-the Pentagon has been planning triage scenarios for years.

And people still want to argue about whether it's real or not. They obviously haven't studied satellite maps of the poles and mountain ranges which we've had for 40 years now. Whatever you think is causing it, our ice is visibly melting! Doesn't take a Phd to see it-the emergency is NOW.

Carol Cowbrough
Carol C7 years ago

Thank you.

Elizabeth P.
.7 years ago

Unless we make significant changes in the way we are treating the earth, then maybe with any luck the human race will "adapt" itself into extinction before it completely destroys the planet.

Stephen A.
Past Member 7 years ago

A flat increase in the price of energy does not come anywhere close to impacting everyone equally. A multimillionaire will still be able to do whatever he wants to do. The people who can barely afford a roof over their heads and two-or-three meals a day, however, will lose that roof. For a better discussion, follow the URL I gave below or Google "10 things Environmentalists need to learn Depleted Cranium"

Scott Mc
Its wonderful e7 years ago

Its simple, $10 a gallon gas and 10x your electricity bills reduces carbon emissions dramatically. Its efficient, fair as it impacts everyone equally, its visible and if you take action you reduce your own costs rather than have to pay whether you reduce your usage or now.
The problem is people want others to reduce and pay, just not themselves, look at Gore, did he reduce?? No way, he produces 20x more than anyone posting on this board, and he wants you to pay for his excesses.

Terry King
Terry King7 years ago