The Difference Between Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation

When we think of climate change, we often think of the broader sense of the term. We envision the polar ice caps melting, heat waves across the globe, and whole ecosystems being destroyed. While these issues are certainly significant and true, this global crisis is felt on a local scale. Within the macro situations exist the micro issues that impact communities and our livelihoods. 

At Flood Risk America, we’ve seen firsthand how the climate crisis has affected towns and cities. With warmer weather comes increasingly destructive storms. With rising sea levels comes the steady increase of flooding. And these catastrophes lead to homes being destroyed, businesses closing, loss of income, and families uprooted with nowhere to go. The repercussions are truly devastating and it’s a criss that we must face head-on - but to do so requires societal involvement and education.

While our mission is to provide effective flood protection systems for commercial and residential properties, we are also committed to educating the public on climate risk and what we can do together to build a prosperous future for the next generation. 

In this article, we’re focusing on the difference between climate change adaptation and climate change mitigation - two terms that are important to be familiar with as we move forward with our climate change response. Climate change adaptation and climate change mitigation are used interchangeably but mean different things.

What is climate change mitigation?

To put it simply, climate mitigation means reducing or preventing climate change in order to make the impact of it less severe. According to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the goal of climate mitigation is to “stabilize greenhouse gas levels in a timeframe sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner.”

Climate change mitigation involves human intervention such as:

  • Taking steps to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.
  • Using less fossil fuels.
  • Creating and using clean, renewable energy.
  • Stopping deforestation. Gases are stored in tree roots and forests are essential in stabilizing gas levels in the atmosphere.
  • Build and increase the sizes of forests.

What is climate change adaptation?

Climate change adaptation means taking steps to adjust to a changing climate as it comes, such as minimizing the damage of rising sea levels and extreme weather events. This can include:

  • Large-scale infrastructure changes.
  • Developing emergency response plans.
  • Managing food, water, and natural resources.
  • Helping communities understand their local risk.
  • Putting systems and defences into place to handle weather-related disasters.

Adaptation also includes taking advantage of potential opportunities related to climate change, including:

  • Longer growing seasons for crops.
  • Introducing new crops that can tolerate weather changes, such as warmer, drier, or wetter conditions, depending on the area you live in.
  • A higher yield for certain crops.

What you can do today

Together with American and Canadian residents and businesses, Flood Risk America and Flood Risk Canada works to build flood protection systems, install barriers, create floodproofing plans, provide updated flood risk analysis, and more. 

The climate crisis is a global issue, but it’s the communities we live and work in that are at the frontline of change. Climate mitigation can take years and decades to make a significant difference and climate adaptation is ever-evolving. As we push our national governments and international leaders to establish and partake in climate change responses and policies, we can do our part in finding solutions for our local climate problems.