Dealing with climate change: Adaptation vs. mitigation


There are two approaches to dealing with climatic change: MITIGATION and ADAPTATION.


Mitigation refers to policies that attempt to prevent further global warming and they are strategies which try to get rid of or reduce global warming e.g. using carbon tax to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases being emitted into our atmosphere.


Adaptation refers to policies that attempt to cope/deal with climatic change. They are not strategies which try to get rid of global warming. They are trying to cope with the impacts of climatic change e.g. introducing drought resistant crops.

So Lets look at some of the policies…



Wind Farms – By producing more energy by wind farms we can use renewable fuels less which emit greenhouse gases and try and prevent global warming.

Coastal defence – Through climate change our coasts are increasingly becoming a risk especially as sea levels rise. So coastal defence can include things like a sea wall, rip-rap etc.

Transport reformation – By changing our modes of transports or how they are run e.g. switching to biofuels is another way in which we can cut of greenhouse gas emissions. This also includes creating incentives for people to use more public transport rather than private transport.

Diversify agriculture –  This includes things like exploring different plants to grow and in different areas. Global warming means temperatures in different places are changing so by diversifying crops we are sure to have some which can grow in the new conditions that climatic change presents.

Afforestation –By planting trees/plants we are offsetting the carbon we produce hence reducing the net greenhouse gas emissions. This is known as carbon sequestration.

House Design – Global warming means our houses are continually becoming at risk of a variety of hazards and more than before. So we have to design our houses in such as a way that they can cope with lets say increased flooding risks. Double glazing is one example of how we can protect our homes from increased hazards.

Solar Panel – So as you can see many of these methods include alternate energy productions. This is because this cuts the amount of energy we need from carbon fuels which heavily emits greenhouse gases.

GM Foods –  Just like why we have to diversify our agricultural range, we have to invest in genetically modified crops and plants because this means we can still get a high yield for our exponentially growing population as well as coping with increased risks of lets say droughts.

Congestion Charge – So this is a deterrent for people to stop using there private transport too much – again a method cutting emission of greenhouse gases.

Better warning/forecasting systems – So the key element here is that climatic change means that we all are at risk from increased number of hazards hence we need to be more prepared. One way of doing this is by investing in our warning and forecasting systems. (particularly in LEDCs)

Regulate burning/chopping trees/plant – this is part of carbon sequestration and by using more regulation we can limit the number of trees/plants this happens which 

 also reduce the net carbon emissions.

Emergency plans – This is similar to better warning/forecasting systems except here leaders need to devote time and funds to preparing emergency plans and enforce regulations to ensure people are prepared for any major hazard.

Energy efficient appliances – We can not only encourage the use of energy efficient appliances, we can invest in innovation and R&D of such green appliances.

Domestic efficiency – Again by becoming more efficient we are cutting the amount of greenhouse gas emissions we send to the atmosphere. This type of efficiency including insulation homes, double glazing etc.

So which is better adaptation or mitigation? Lets look at some of the benefits of each strategy…

Pro- Adaptation

Pro- Mitigation 

It is time consuming to get all the countries to multilaterally come to a decision about how to reduce carbon emissions let alone cease them.

We should reduce emissions immediately to avoid being a position where climate change is irreversible.

The time on trying to get countries to mitigate climate change means that it might get much worse before we see green shoots.

Unless we challenge global warming then change will never arise in our energy production and other aspects of our life.

Climate change has already happened e.g. melting Arctic ice so we have to react and manage the situation now.

Policies such as carbon sinks are easily achievable e.g. the government just needs to provide a couple of grants for afforestation.

Even if emissions were to cease today then greenhouse gases already present in the atmosphere would cause changes at least for the next century. CO2 has a life for 100 years!

Mitigation methods are politically recognized in developed nation hence this means they are important and the rest of the world should follow on.

The Earths absorbs CO2 slowly so even with increased carbon sinks ( e.g. afforestation) it will take time for all the excess CO2 to be absorbed.

It is claimed that cutting greenhouse gases adversely affects economic growth. However, this is not true. In Western countries emissions are constant or falling and economic growth is pretty strong so we should seek more mitigation strategies. 

Keeping carbons emissions at where they are at or reducing them is unrealistic especially with BRIC countries such as China and India which have rapid economic growth. Hence we need to adapt as we might be too late to mitigate!


  1. Define Mitigation strategies
  2. Define Adaptation
  3. Give the two main ways in which we can mitigate climate change
  4. What is the main way we can adapt to climate change
  5. Give one advantage of adaptation policies and one of mitigation policies

Suggested Answers 

  1. Mitigation strategies are policies used to try and reduce/ get rid of climatic change.
  2. Adaptation are policies used to try and cope/deal with climatic change.
  3. The two main ways we can mitigate to climate change is by reducing greenhouse gas emissions through energy production and by changing lifestyles e.g. switching to public transport.
  4. The main way we adapt to climatic change is by preparing all aspects of out life for increased risks
  5. One advantage of mitigation strategies is that if we act now we might be able to prevent reaching a situation where climate change is irreversible. One advantage of adaptation strategies is that instead of trying to mitigate something which has probably happened (E.g. Arctic ice melting) we can fortify ourselves for the impacts and be prepared.

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