While the situation surrounding global climate change is in serious need of our attention, it is important to realize that many scientists, leaders, and concerned citizens are making solutions to climate change part of their life’s work. The two solutions to the problems caused by climate change are mitigation and adaptation, and we will likely need a combination of both in order to prosper in the future.
We know that climate change is already occurring, as we can see and feel the effects of it. For this reason, it is essential to also adapt to our changing environment. This means that we must change our behaviors in response to the changing environment around us. Some adaptation strategies are discussed in the required article reading.
Adaption strategies will vary greatly by region, depending on the largest specific impacts in that area. For example, in the city of Delhi, India, a dramatic decrease in rainfall is projected over the next century (Figure 7.6.2). This city will likely need to implement policies and practices relating to conservation of water, for example: rainwater harvesting, water re-use, and increased irrigation efficiency. Rain-limited cities near oceans, such as Los Angeles, California may choose to use desalination to provide drinking water to their citizens. Desalination involves taking the salt out of seawater to make it potable (Chapter 8).
Cities with low elevations near oceans may need to implement adaptation strategies to rising sea levels, from seawalls and levees to relocation of citizens. One adaptations strategy gaining use is the creation or conservation of wetlands, which provide natural protection against storm surges and flooding.
In general, a strategy to mitigate climate change is one that reduces the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere or prevents additional emissions. Mitigations strategies attempt to “fix” the problems caused by climate change. Governmental regulations regarding fuel efficiency of vehicles is one example of an institutionalized mitigation strategy already in place in the United States and in many other countries around the world. Unlike some other countries, there are no carbon taxes or charges on burning fossil fuels in the United States. This is another governmental mitigation strategy that has been shown to be effective in many countries including India, Japan, France, Costa Rica, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
In addition to government measures and incentives, technology can also be harnessed to mitigate climate change. One strategy for this is the use of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). Through CCS, 80-90% of the CO2 that would have been emitted to the atmosphere from sources such as a coal-fired power plant is instead captured and then stored deep beneath the Earth’s surface. The CO2 is often injected and sequestered hundreds of miles underground into porous rock formations sealed below an impermeable layer, where it is stored permanently (Figure 7.7.1).
Figure 7.7.1: Carbon capture and sequestration schematic with landmarks shown to scale for depth reference. Source: US EPA.
Scientists are also looking into the use of soils and vegetation for carbon storage potential. Proper management of soil and forest ecosystems has been shown to create additional carbon sinks for atmospheric carbon, reducing the overall atmospheric CO2 burden. Increasing soil carbon further benefits communities by providing better-quality soil for agriculture and cultivation.
Technologies related to alternative energy sources (Chapter 5) mitigate climate change by providing people with energy not derived from the combustion of fossil fuels. Finally, simple activities such as energy conservation, choosing to walk or bike instead of driving, and disposing of waste properly are activities that, when done by large numbers of people, actively mitigate climate change by preventing carbon emissions.
Take a moment to identify ways that you personally can be involved in the mitigation of or adaptation to climate change. What changes can you make in your own life to prevent excess carbon emissions? Similar to your ecological footprint, which you should have already calculated in lab, you can also calculate your carbon footprint. Use the EPA’s carbon footprint calculator to do so, and investigate the Reduce Your Emissions section to find ways to decrease your carbon footprint.
Belt, Don. “The Coming Storm.” National Geographic Magazine, May 2011. http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/pr...desh/belt-text
IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007 Synthesis Report. 4. Adaptation and mitigation options https://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and.../en/spms4.html
NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program: Climate Change http://coralreef.noaa.gov/threats/climate/
NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory: Will the wet get wetter and the dry drier? http://www.gfdl.noaa.gov/will-the-we...-the-dry-drier
Ontl, Todd and Lisa Schulte (2012) Soil Carbon Storage. Nature Education Knowledge 3(10):35 http://www.nature.com/scitable/knowl...orage-84223790
US EPA Carbon Dioxide Capture and Sequestration http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ccs/
US EPA Carbon Footprint Calculator http://www3.epa.gov/carbon-footprint-calculator/
US EPA Climate Change Indicators in the United States http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/sci...ors/index.html
Carbon capture and sequestration