Why adaptation to climate change misses the mark – resilience – Resilience

Insight and inspiration in turbulent times.
By Kurt Cobb, originally published by Resource Insights
July 7, 2024
The climate change deniers frequently offer three contradictory responses as their position becomes more and more untenable in the face of mounting evidence, to wit: 1) There is no climate change, 2) it’ll be cheaper to adapt to climate change than prevent it, and 3) climate change is good for us—it will improve agriculture and open the Arctic to resource exploitation.
It is the second of these that I wish to discuss. There is no solid evidence that adapting to climate change will be cheaper, nor do the deniers provide a clear picture of what adapting would mean. In other words, they have no comprehensive plan; they are simply trying to muddy the waters to stall efforts at addressing climate change because the business interests behind them do not want to bear the costs.
The number one reason adaptation will be so costly is that climate change is a moving target. Sea level, temperature, and severe weather are not going to simply reach a new constant level to which we can adapt for the long run. On the contrary, these are all moving targets. Infrastructure improvements made today which are meant to last 20, 30, even 50 years are unlikely to address the ever-rising sea level, temperatures and severe weather in those periods. We have been consistently surprised by the pace of climate change. There is no reason to believe that the surprises will magically cease.
Take as an example Miami’s attempts to adapt to climate change. In the face of so-called “rain bombs”—a recent one dropped 9 inches in 11 hours in one location and 20 inches in another—and rampant sea-level rise, the city is having a hard time keeping up. Consider this: “[T]he National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasts that south Florida could see almost 11 extra inches of ocean by 2040.”
Which leads us to a second reason adaptation will be costly: It doesn’t easily lend itself to cookie-cutter solutions. The specifics of any location and infrastructure will dictate what needs to be done and custom work always costs more. In Miami’s case sea-level rises compromise the area’s ability to drain water into the sea. The drainage system relies primarily on gravity to do that job. Gravity will be less effective as waters from drainage canals meet ever-rising sea waters that encroach further and further inland.
The article linked above states:
Miami Beach has spent about a decade raising roads, installing pumps and improving its infrastructure in a multimillion-dollar effort to buy time.
But the amount of rain that did fall last week [the “rain bomb” in June] is the sort of extreme-weather event that infrastructure planners don’t design for, if only because it would be too expensive to construct stormwater systems capable of moving that much water that quickly.
What the infrastructure planners are already telling us is that adaptation as a sole strategy will be too expensive and may always lag the ever-greater demands put on water and other infrastructure.
Tags: climate adaptation
By Eliza Daley, By my solitary hearth
If we were to demand our fair share, if we were to refuse to give away our lives and bodies and freedom to choose, if we were to abandon this class to a real and true independence with nothing taken from us, then this culture would end. It is that fragile. It is that unreal. It is a sham.
July 8, 2024
By Geoff Dembick, Ellen Ormesher, TJ Jordan, DeSmog Blog
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called on governments to ban fossil fuel advertising and warned creative agencies to stop working for the industry.
July 8, 2024
By Rob Lewis, Resilience.org
On this planet, life is central, as breath by breath we are reminded. So it is with Earth’s climate. Our language, our science, our conversations, our media reports, our poems, our songs, our demands should reflect that.
July 8, 2024
Resilience is a program of Post Carbon Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the world transition away from fossil fuels and build sustainable, resilient communities.
Reposting Policy | Privacy Policy