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Climate Change Adaptation is Not a Last Resort

By Boyd Cohen

Boyd Cohen, Ph.D. CO2 IMPACT

In recent blog posts I have discussed the need to accelerate solutions that will move the needle on climate change as fast as possible in hopes of thwarting the worst impacts of climate change.

Something I have yet to discuss in this series on Triple Pundit is the topic of climate change adaptation.   Climate change adaptation is the term for attempts to minimize the impacts that climate change has on the planet and populations around the world.
To many people in the climate change arena, adaptation is a four letter word.  The argument goes something like this:  climate change is a massive issue for humanity and by shifting the focus to adaptation it is as if we are throwing in the towel. Furthermore, we will divert our best scientists and engineers, as well as capital, to focus on adaptation instead of the most important task of mitigating climate change.

I disagree. I believe that we must do both and there are so many examples of communities around the world that are already suffering big-time as a result of climate change.  CNN recently ran this video and story about the impacts of the rapid decline of Lake Chad on the African countries depending on it for subsistence.  Communities in Bolivia, including its capital, La Paz, are suffering from the disappearing glacier melt.  My “backyard” in British Columbia is suffering economically and biologically from the devastating impacts of pine beetles because our winters are no longer cold enough to fight off those pesky insects.  It is expected that 40% of the pine trees in B.C. will be killed from this climate change effect.

Adaptation is a must while we continue to mitigate too.

Dr. Joel Scheraga, a Senior Advisor for Climate Adaption at the EPA recently stated it this way: “I want to be absolutely clear, that by advocating adaptation to climate change, I am not in any way waving the white flag on climate mitigation. Any smart policy portfolio must consist both of strategies to reduce the emission of green house gasses in order to slow the rate of climate change, as well as actions to adapt to a changing climate because regardless of what we do to mitigate green house gas emissions, the climate will continue to change, partly because the natural variations in climate and partly to these human activities. Some climate change will be unavoidable, and we have to be prepared for it.”

The readers of this blog know I am a capitalist and an optimist.  So why I am writing about such a depressing topic?  Because I believe that climate change adaptation solutions, low and high-tech, are going to be in very high demand in the coming decade.

Climate capitalists should also look to the business opportunities associated with minimizing the impacts of climate change on populations in the base of the pyramid and the developed world.  My forthcoming book, Climate Capitalism, has a whole chapter dedicated to business opportunities to mitigate climate change.

More often than not, climate change adaptation solutions revolve around water. Either too much or not enough.  I think the biggest area of opportunities is to address disappearing potable water access.  I have had the opportunity to investigate some cool solutions such as Solvatten, a Swedish company that makes a solar powered water filtration canister for rural populations in the base of the pyramid.  Of course the other end of the spectrum are billion dollar desalination plants such as the one being developed in Saudia Arabia capable of generating 15 million gallons of water per day.

Adaptation solutions are also desperately needed for many other problems including too much water (like barriers to protect low-lying populated areas) and fire prevention and warning systems to avoid disasters or at least minimize the impacts of heat waves like the 2010 Russian Heat Wave which killed more than 5,000 people and cost the Russian economy $15 billion.

Climate change adaptation has yet to really generate a lot of private sector interest but it will.  As capital begins to flow to adaptation solutions from sources like the Adaptation Fund, entrepreneurs and corporations will begin to chase those opportunities.


Boyd Cohen is the CEO of CO2 IMPACT, a carbon origination company based in Vancouver, Canada and Bogota, Colombia. Boyd is also the co-author of the forthcoming book, Climate Capitalism: Capitalism in the Age of Climate Change.

Twitter: boydcohen

This series will use the hashtag #climatcaptlsm


Boyd Cohen is the CEO of CO2 IMPACT, a carbon origination company based in Vancouver, Canada and Bogota, Colombia. Boyd is also the co-author of Climate Capitalism: Capitalism in the Age of Climate Change.

Twitter: boydcohen

Read more stories by Boyd Cohen