Adaptation and Mitigation: What's the Difference?

edited June 2022 in Resources

Adaptation and mitigation are often quoted as ways to counter global wasming, and it's helpful to know the difference and also the relationship between them.

The Eurpean Environment Agency describes them as follows:

Adaptation means anticipating the adverse effects of climate change and taking appropriate action to prevent or minimise the damage they can cause, or taking advantage of opportunities that may arise. Examples of adaptation measures include large-scale infrastructure changes, such as building defenses to protect against sea-level rise, as well behavioral shifts, such as individuals reducing their food waste. In essence, adaptation can be understood as the process of adjusting to the current and future effects of climate change.

Mitigation means making the impacts of climate change less severe by preventing or reducing the emission of greenhouse gases (GHG) into the atmosphere. Mitigation is achieved either by reducing the sources of these gases — e.g. by increasing the share of renewable energies, or establishing a cleaner mobility system — or by enhancing the storage of these gases — e.g. by increasing the size of forests. In short, mitigation is a human intervention that reduces the sources of GHG emissions and/or enhances the sinks.

Ideally adaptation and mitigation will both happen at the same time and will work together to reduce and finally reverse global warming.

From the point of view of an individual, we can adapt by changing our behavior, for example by walking or cycling instead of driving. And this will result in the mitigation of climate change.

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