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Adapting to a Wounded Climate


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06 September 2011, 12:04 PM
Is acknowledging the problem selling out?
Maureen Mitra

There’s an interesting piece in the latest Earth Island Journal titled “Ready or Not: Climate Change is Coming; Time to Adapt.” The author, Maureen Nandini Mitra, argues that, whether we like or not, the climate is already on the way to significant changes and we have no choice but to figure out how to adapt—as we continue to fight to reverse the trend.

She writes that there is some resistance to this notion from people who argue that acknowledging the need for adaptation is giving up on the primary fight.

It reminded me of an argument I had with a colleague here at Earthjustice (then Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund) many years ago. She said the organization shouldn’t support the idea of environmental restoration (rescuing rare species, replanting clearcut forests, healing degraded wetlands) because, by doing so, we were giving a green light to the despoilers: if you can fix it, no need to protect it.

It struck me as fatuous at best, and that theory never took hold. The argument over climate adaptation strikes me as similar. Climate change is coming—is here already—and is going to get worse. We must adapt as best we can, but that doesn’t mean we mustn’t also, at least as urgently, get off fossil fuels so we can get the climate back to where it ought to be.

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