Hot and Not Bothered

Why we should be preparing to adapt to global warming instead of trying to prevent it.

  1. Let's assume for a moment that all the clamor over global warming is warranted: that burning fossil fuels to generate artificial greenhouse gases will change Earth's climate with disastrous consequences. Then shouldn't priority number one be to reduce such gases? Not necessarily. If global warming theory really is right, climate change will arrive before even the most ambitious reforms could counter the buildup of greenhouse gases. This makes the immediate priority adaptation—preparing to cope with climate change. Yet the subject of adapting to a warmer world is taboo in the greenhouse debate. Not only is nobody funding adaptation studies, few people in either government or the environmental movement want to discuss them.

    This is not to say that efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions don't have merit. Take the Kyoto greenhouse gas treaty, hammered out last December in Japan and now awaiting submission to the U.S. Senate. If ratified, the treaty will oblige the United States, by 2012, to reduce greenhouse emissions to a level seven percent lower than that which was reached in 1990—a goal that effectively requires the United States to cut its output of global warming gases by one-third from what it might otherwise have emitted during that period. Similar cuts would be required by other Western nations. The Kyoto treaty should be ratified because all it asks for is realistic progress that can be achieved by improvements in energy efficiency. And nearly all experts agree tha...