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Climate Action: Mitigation and Adaptation - What’s the Difference?

Updated: May 12, 2023

Claverack’s Climate Smart Communities Task Force (CSC) will soon be engaged in an Adaptation and Resilience planning process as part of a County-wide initiative. With the support of Cornell Cooperative Extension staff, our volunteers will identify vulnerabilities and learn how these risks might impact the community. This effort will span the next year or so, and then the committee will report the information to the town board. The Climate Smart Committee would welcome a few more Claverack residents to join this interesting effort.

Adaptation and Resilience is an important component of the overall climate action framework that includes mitigation and restoration.

Mitigation refers to actions that address the causes of climate change, most significantly reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, a major cause of warming. Transition to renewable energy is a central goal. Other critical objectives are to reduce waste in landfills from industrial processes and consumption, decrease energy waste in buildings, and increase carbon sequestration through agro-forestry and good land stewardship practices. Mitigation needs to occur at all levels of society - local, regional, and global.

Adaptation refers to actions taken to address the effects of climate change and focus on preparing for the adverse impacts of these changes. Resilience is the ability to recover from the adverse effects of our changing climate. Many impacts are costly to society, so we want to prevent or limit the damage and costs and prepare for recovery to the extent feasible.

Flooding, often from intense rainfall, and storm surges can have high costs throughout a watershed. Droughts too as we experienced last summer in Claverack, have costs, affecting agriculture, water and food supply. An increase in flooding as well as heat waves have significant public health impacts and costs for infrastructure damage. These complex people-nature relationships can be analyzed and actions identified to minimize their effects and increase resilience.

Many climate actions target both mitigation and adaptation. For example, restoring ecosystems and biodiversity serves both purposes. Increasing or restoring healthy ecosystems captures greenhouse gasses and helps sequester carbon. At the same time, it helps build resilience. Many areas in the Hudson Valley have experienced habitat fragmentation due to development which reduces biodiversity and the ecosystems’ natural ability to mitigate water and heat events. Actions to improve habitat and biodiversity helps reverse this fragmentation and strengthen ecosystems. Read about the Homegrown National Park project in our Land Stewardship section of the CSC website.

Flooding, drought, affects to public health, crop loss and food security, and infrastructure damage such as to water supply and transportation systems can all be costly problems we should plan to prevent. In short, adaptation strategies seek to protect human, natural and infrastructure resources and help prepare for recovery.

And to add a more worldly perspective, here are two news items about adaptation:

  • In February, the World Bank President resigned in face of widespread criticism that the bank was ‘not doing enough to help poor and middle-income countries adapt to a warming world’ (NYT ‘Climate Forward’ 2/17/23).

  • At the November ‘22 UN Climate Conference COP27, a central theme was that more focus and resources need to go to adaptation, given that collectively, we are not on track to limit warming to 1.5oC. (see references In IMBY article). Far more funds need to be directed to poor countries which suffer most from climate change and are minor contributors to its cause.

In future articles, we will share more information on this Adaptation and Resilience project. Don’t hesitate to contact us with questions. Please join us in keeping Claverack a healthy, beautiful place to live. -

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