Mitigation and Adaptation

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  • Aims
  • To understand how can we limit or adapt to climate change.
  • What are the national and small scale strategies for limiting or coping with climate change?
  • What are the contributions of individuals to help reduce the impacts of climate change ?
  • Enquiry
  • What are the strategies for dealing with climate change?
  • Mitigation
  • Means reducing the output of greenhouse gases and increasing the size of carbon sinks.
  • Examples of mitigation are:
  • Setting targets to reduce carbon dioxide emissions
  • Switching to renewable energy, such as wind power
  • Capturing carbon emissions from power stations and storing them
  • – what do you think?
  • Adaptation
  • Adaptation means changing our lifestyles to cope with a new environment
  • rather than trying to stop climate change .
  • Examples of adaptation include:
  • Managed retreat of coastlines vulnerable to sea level rise
  • Developing drought resistant crops
  • Enlarging existing conservation areas to allow for shifting habitat zones
  • Many scientists argue that climate change would still occur even if we stopped polluting the atmosphere now so even 100% mitigation would require some adaptation.
  • -what do you think?

The UN Environment Programme strategies to climate change

  • Most of these strategies need resources, which many LEDCS lack

There is much disagreement about how to deal with climate change

  • For human systems like the economy mitigation would involve an upfront cost to reduce atmospheric pollution to ‘safe levels’.
  • Adaptation might mean the costs were spread over a longer time scale and were more gradual.
  • For natural systems like ecosystems, mitigation could limit the damage.
  • Adaptation might condemn natural systems which cannot adapt to climate change. Species may become extinct and biodiversity be degraded as threats to ecosystems increased.

The value of natural ecosystems is a strong argument for acting now to reduce the worst impacts of climate change.

  • The value of natural ecosystems is a strong argument for acting now to reduce the worst impacts of climate change.
  • MEDCS may have the resources to act now but parts of the world that are LEDCS lack the adaptive capacity.
  • This means that they do not have the human, physical or financial resources to cope with climate change.
  • To increase climate adaptive capacity they need:
  • To reduce poverty to meet the costs of adaptation
  • Increased access to resources including energy resources and materials
  • Improved education and skills to develop understanding of the challenges and the ability to change
  • Improved health
  • Improved infrastructure such as roads, energy supply and communications
  • So the ability to adapt is linked to development
  • Most adaptive strategies will be LOCAL in scale as they will be tailored to the local impacts of climate change.
  • Mitigation can occur at a range of scales.

Scales of mitigation

  • International agreements are important, but individual governments decide how agreements should be implemented.
  • Often it is the local agencies (eg local councils) who decide how to make individuals to make the right choices.

Climate change coping strategies

  • Mitigation
  • Adaptation
  • Adapting to climate change?
  • Vector Eradication – airborne disease
  • Transit – public transport
  • Where does CO2 come from?
  • Media attention?
  • Is mitigation free?

The costs of cutting carbon emissions in different ways

  • P 50-51 Oxford
  • Wind Turbines
  • Biofuels
  • Improved building insulation
  • Afforestation
  • Large Dams
  • Low-till cultivation
  • Forest conservation
  • Forest pest control
  • Over to you – consider the statements – where would you place them? Think about would it affect biodiversity good or bad
  • Urban tree planting
  • Green rooftops
  • Increased farmland irrigation
  • Species translocation
  • Sea wall defence
  • Flood-control infrastructure
  • Ex situ conservation
  • New desalinisation plants
  • Over to you – consider the statements – where would you place them? Think about would it affect biodiversity good or bad
  • Win-Lose-Win
  • Win –Lose-Lose
  • Lose-Win-Lose
  • Lose-Win-Win
  • Carbon sequestration
  • This is a geoengineering technique for the long-term storage of carbon dioxide or other forms of carbon, for the mitigation of global warming.
  • Carbon dioxide is usually captured from the atmosphere through biological, chemical or physical processes. 
  • It has been proposed as a way to mitigate the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere released by the burning of fossil fuels. CO2 may be captured as a pure by-product in processes related to petroleum refining or from flue gases from power generation. 
  • CO2 sequestration can then be seen as being synonymous with the storage part of carbon capture and storage which refers to the large-scale, permanent artificial capture and sequestration of industrially-produced CO2 using subsurface saline aquifers, reservoirs, ocean water, aging oil fields, or other carbon sinks.


What should be done – think wedges!

  • The idea of stabilisation wedges from Princeton University provides a useful structure to allow a greater understanding to develop.
  • The basic concept is shown here (adapted from ‘the Guardian’). The graph shows the predicted increase in carbon dioxide levels to 2030.
  • An increase to 43.7 billion tonnes equates to a carbon dioxide concentration of 450-500 ppm – in other words about the level considered by many to be ‘dangerous’ (unavoidable increase of 2C).
  • Anglian Water

Thanks, Darling


  • Car tax, or VED (Vehicle Excise Duty) is one the minds of the average 17 year old!
  • The UK government is using VED as one of the key planks of its mitigation strategy.
  • The aim is to use the tax system to change our car buying behaviour.
  • VED linked to carbon dioxide emissions was first introduced in 1998 (see table, right)
  • They have become the fashionable target for environmentalists, but four-wheel-drive vehicles may be less damaging to the environment than the cows and sheep essential to the rural economy.
  • The methane emissions from both ends of cattle and sheep are causing so much concern in government that it has ordered researchers to find ways to cut down on the emissions from livestock, which account for about a quarter of the methane – a greenhouse gas 20 times more powerful at driving global warming than carbon dioxide – pumped into the atmosphere in Britain. Each day every one of Britain’s 10 million cows pumps out an estimated 100-200 litres of methane.
  • This is the equivalent of up to 4,000 grams of carbon dioxide and compares with the 3,419g of carbon dioxide pumped out by a Land Rover Freelander on an average day’s drive of 33 miles.
  • With the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation predicting that methane emissions from livestock could increase by as 60 per cent by 2030, the issue is being treated with some urgency.
  • Scientists attempting to find new foods for cattle have already exploded the myth that most bovine emissions come from the rear. They have found the majority come from belching.


  • Mitigation
  • European Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) p 52 Oxford
  • Shell p 53 Oxford
  • London Congestion Charge p 53 Oxford
  • Bunge, Brazil p 53 Oxford
  • New York p 54 Oxford
  • Nuclear in the UK p 57 Oxford
  • Kyoto Protocol (to come in class)
  • Adaptation
  • Tuvalu p 67 Philip Allan
  • Essay
  • “Mitigation is the only way to manage climate change”. Discuss (15)

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