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Those who follow science and policy discussions related to climate change have seen much effort on two terms. “Mitigation” is the UNFCCC term for reducing emissions, while “adaptation” refers to our need to shift to new techniques to deal with changes essentially locked in, as there is about a 30-year lag between emissions, ocean warming, and shifts in regional climate norms. There are two practical challenges with this.

The first challenge is that some see a false choice between the two, when we must address both.

The other challenge is that we need to ask a question about Adaptation, and that question is “Over what time-frame?” Currently, global cities are talking about sea-walls, while some natural heritage agencies in Ontario are being pro-active about addressing various local vulnerabilities, such as identifying risks to fish where stream temperature may change or in a nexus encompassing groundwater recharge areas, proposed development, and a changed climate.

Now, a report in Nature Climate Change offers a long term perspective of adaptation. A summary in the Guardian notes how extensive and long-lasting our tinkering with our climate will be, and can be seen at Sea-level-rise-could-last-twice-as-long-as-human-history

We share this not to depress everyone, but to encourage both increased efforts on emission reduction and longer term views on adaptation in Ontario. On the latter, we must do a better job of protecting the Greenbelt, and setting aside more than enough natural heritage throughout the Great Golden Horseshoe and all of Ontario based on long-term projections, and not just a small increase in temperature over 20 years.