What You Can Do
What do scientists mean when they talk about climate adaptation and mitigation? Aren't those two things the same?
No – adaptation and mitigation are actually two different ways to deal with climate change.
When scientists talk about adaptation, they refer to ways that we can deal with the effects of climate change. Climate change has already been happening for several decades, and its effects are already manifested in trends of extreme weather events, higher global temperatures, and even changes in bird migration patterns and growing seasons.
There are several ways by which human beings can adapt to these phenomena. They can put more stringent policies in place to deal with extreme weather events, including evacuating people, building stronger houses, or clearing out residential areas that are too close to the coast.
On the other hand, scientists talk about mitigation when they refer to ways that we can curb the effects of climate change and keep it from worsening. For example, we can recycle, lessen our dependence on fossil fuels, look for alternative sources of energy, and employ sustainable farming practices.
What are governments doing to help stop climate change?
There are many government-guided and sponsored climate change adaptation and mitigation programs around the world.
For one, many governments are part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which was formed in 1992. The UNFCCC was originally formed as an international treaty that would allow countries to cooperate as they figured out how they could limit the average global temperature and climate change, as well as cope with the impacts. In 1995, these countries adopted the Kyoto Protocol, a strict, legally binding agreement that promises to strengthen the response to climate change. The Protocol set emission targets so that countries can reduce their carbon footprint by working toward a specific goal.
For more details on the UNFCCC and how countries are responding to climate change, check out our Climate 101 section.
What can I do to help stop climate change from happening?
Scientists agree that human activities have contributed to climate change and made the problem even worse. This means that we all need to respond to climate change at both a personal and community level.
There are three principal ways by which you can respond. Adaptation means that you need to deal with the consequences of climate change by finding ways to deal with extreme weather events, hotter temperatures, and shorter growing seasons, among many other things. Mitigation means that you can find ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lessen your carbon footprint.
You might also respond with “business as usual”. This means that you will not make any significant changes in how you live and use things. Although this will save you money, it will also put you at greater risk later on from the effects of climate change.
These three principal ways of responding to climate change need to be balanced with each other. As an individual, there are things that you can do to respond to climate change.
You can stop relying on fossil fuels by choosing to use mass transportation instead of driving. Save gasoline and electricity so that you do not depend too much on fossil fuels, and therefore, do not contribute to more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. You can also explore the use of hybrid vehicles, if they are available where you are.
Find ways to redesign your house so that you can save electricity. You can use insulation materials that will keep airconditioning and heating costs at a minimum. Turn off lights and appliances that are not in use. Buy energy saving bulbs. Not only will you save electricity, but you will help conserve the coal and fossil fuels that are used to produce electricity.
These are only a few ways that you can respond as an individual in order to help mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change. Find out more in our Climate 101 section.
How does recycling help combat climate change?
Factories and industries that produce the products that we buy also use fossil fuels. Every time they produce more products, they also burn more fossil fuels. And every time they burn fossil fuels, they also release more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
When you keep on buying more and more products, then you keep on pushing factories and industries to produce these products to keep up with your demand. And each time they produce your products to meet your demands, they also burn more fossil fuels. And every time these companies burn more fossil fuels, they keep on releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Every time you buy something, you contribute to the release of greenhouse gases, which can make climate change even worse.
So what should you do? When you recycle, you cut down on your consumption. You prevent yourself from buying more and more products. When this happens, you lessen the pressure on companies to produce more products. You also keep them from burning more fossil fuels. Recycling can help combat climate change.