Climate Adaptation vs. Climate Mitigation

Climate Adaptation vs. Climate Mitigation

Author: Neha Mariam Thomas;
3rd year B.B.A L.L.B,
School of Law, Christ (Deemed to be University).

What is climate change?

There has been significant change in the planet’s climate throughout its lifetime. It has been exposed to seven cycles of glacial advances and retreats and with unforeseen end of the last ice age about 7,000 years ago making way for the modern climate era and of the human civilization. These variations in the climate contribute to minute changes in the earth’s orbit that changes the amount of solar energy the earth receives.[1] The icebergs from Greenland, Antarctica and tropical mountain glaciers show that the earth’s atmosphere react to the various levels of greenhouse gas .The ancient evidence reveals that the rate of current warming is ten times faster than the usual rate of ice age recovery warming.[2]

Why should we concern for climate change?

The main reason to why we need to care for climate change is because human activity is a huge reason which contributes to it i.e. burning of fossil fuels, no proper method for collection of waste and therefore burning it off for its disposal. Due to this behavior which is seen in humans; it led to an increase in the temperature in the atmosphere. A warmer atmosphere would trigger the effects of climate change or shifts in normal pattern of the climate. More sweltering air builds sea dissipation. What’s more, a hotter climate can hold more water, which can escalate climate occasions. Heatwaves are more grounded. Tempest floods rise higher. Snowstorms bring more snowfall. The quantity of cataclysmic events has dramatically multiplied since 1970 – 90% of them are climate related. These strengthened scenes can make more noteworthy demolition property and death toll. No parts of the earth is immune to climate change and it affects every living been on the earth in multitude of ways. The coral reefs are becoming extinct, there has been record of the melting of glaciers which is the cause of arctic animals to lose his home. It is also a threat to the agriculture, health, water supply etc.[3]

What is climate change mitigation?

The concept of mitigating of climate change is about decreasing the rate of release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere that is the major cause for global warming. There are several mitigation tactics which are retrofitting buildings so it becomes more energy efficient, choosing renewable energy sources like solar, wind and hydro; it would be viable for the citizens to use public transportation like bus transit, electric vehicles provided by the government and biofuels. Also, conservative uses of land and forest uses should be promoted. About majority of the population still rely on traditional fuels like wood and coal to obtain the energy to meet their everyday needs. This is not only destructive to the environment but also to the individuals who are exposed to the gaseous fumes that the process of ignition of these non-renewable substances make leading to premature deaths of women and children. The current demand of clean energy will increase by fifty percent for a harmless surrounding.[4]

What is climate change adaptation?

It has come to realization that it is no longer efficient by reducing the carbon emission would halt its impact that it has non the environment rather, policies should be made to adapt to the warming planet. The UN climate Change Adaptation unit focusses on four priority areas: [5]
  • ‘Ecosystem based adaptation’- it’s based on the current situation of the ecosystem that policy would be formulated to inculcate into the holistic adaptation strategy.
  • ‘Knowledge, analysis and networking’ – with the help of connected global networks, its easier to spread knowledge of adaptation policies.
  • ‘World Adaptation science programme’ – helps in being a medium between the adaptation research community and decision makers.
  • ‘Access to Adaptation finance’ – Helping nations to access fund for structure versatility and national limit.[6]

Reviewing International Conventions

1) Kyoto protocol: it is an international treaty which has policies to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions and manmade carbon emissions. The objective of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to reduce onset of global warming by reducing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere to a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.

The Kyoto protocol is signed by most of the developed countries for reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. The reason why developing countries do not take part of the Kyoto protocol is because there are a smaller number of industries in these countries to which they do not cross alarming rate of the pollution being caused. The UNFCCC encourages the industrialized countries to stabilize the greenhouse gases whereas when an industrialized country signed the Kyoto protocol, the agreement makes the country committed to stabilize the greenhouse gases. This becomes binding on the country as well. The principle followed by the Kyoto Protocol was that around 5.2% of emission must be reduced from the levels of emission of these greenhouse gases which were recorded in 1990. The percentage of reduction was called as reduction rate and it were to be completed in time frame called as commitment periods. Kyoto mechanisms are flexible mechanisms.[7]
2) Paris Agreement: This agreement within UNFCCC dealing with climate change mitigation, adaptation and finance. The long-term goal is to keep the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels; since this would substantially reduce the risks and effects of climate change. Under the Paris agreement, each country must determine, plan and regularly report on the contribution that it undertakes to mitigate global warming.[8]
There are no mechanism forces. a country to set a specific target by a specific date. Although, each target should go beyond the previously set targets. to reach the agreement’s emission targets, Norway will ban the sale of petrol- and diesel-powered cars by 2025, the Netherlands will do the same by 2030. There are electric trains that will run completely by wind energy which is already built by the Dutch national rail network. The House of representatives of the Netherlands passed a bill by 2050 that they will reduce their 1990 greenhouse gas emissions levels by 95%.

Criticisms of the International Treaties

   The Kyoto Protocol considered to be very idealistic in nature by setting standards for reducing the greenhouse gas emissions. Some environmental activists considered the agreement to be highly inequitable and outweighing the benefits. The idea of using 1990 as base year was ambiguous and different countries had different energy emission levels which has been achieved by them. The exemption of developing countries in the agreement did not make environmental condition any better. The reason why to developing countries were not mandated to enter into the agreement was they weren’t emitting pollution at a drastic level. There is also criticism over the true impact of the Kyoto Protocol in the long run on reduction of greenhouse gas emissions because it is questioned how much developed countries can offset their emissions while developing countries continue to emit these greenhouse gases.[9]
  The Paris Agreement is modernized with the current world situation and its an improved version of the Kyoto protocol with major adaptation policies. The Paris agreement was flawed with utopian concepts that required efforts which were not put in by the major developed countries. With the MIT studies, they concluded that there was not going to be any major changes.


According to Paul Polman, “Climate change is sometimes misunderstood as being about changes in the weather. It is about changes in our very way of life” climate change adaptation method needs to be adopted so as to propel with the present condition of the environment. As the increase in temperature is inevitable, it would be advisable to formulate policies that seems to be suitable.
Climate change adaptation policies are the modernized climate change mitigation policies.

[1] Climate Change Evidence: How Do We Know?, Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet (2019), (last visited Jun 24, 2019).

[2] Global Warming, (2019), (last visited Jun 24, 2019).

[3] Why you need to care about climate change – now, Environmental Defense Fund (2019), (last visited Jun 25, 2019).

[4] Climate Change Mitigation, Global Environment Facility (2019), (last visited Jun 25, 2019).

[5] Climate adaptation, UN Environment (2019), (last visited Jun 26, 2019).

[6] Climate adaptation, UN Environment (2019), (last visited Jun 26, 2019).

[7] Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Dec. 10, 1997, U.N. Doc FCCC/CP/1997/7/Add.1, 37 I.L.M. 22 (1998).

[8]  Article 3, Paris Agreement (2015)

[9] Coon, Charli. “Why President Bush Is Right to Abandon the Kyoto Protocol”. The Heritage Foundation. Retrieved 2017-08-06.

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