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Kurt Cobb

Kurt Cobb

Kurt Cobb is a freelance writer and communications consultant who writes frequently about energy and environment. His work has also appeared in The Christian Science…

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Can The World Really “Adapt” To Climate Change?

  • The ongoing heatwave in Europe is highlighting some very real problems brought about by climate change.
  • The infrastructure we've built just isn't made to stand up to this kind of heat.
  • Some believe that the world will simply adapt to climate change, though adaptation could compound the problem over time. 

Climate change deniers have had to adjust their story in recent years as the effects of climate change have become more and more apparent to people where they live all around the world. The first iteration was that climate change is good. It will make winters milder and it will help "fertilize" crops with additional carbon dioxide which all plants need to manufacture the food they live on.

While the "greening" effect of rising carbon dioxide concentrations is real, there is a limit to how much it will help plants. As for milder winters, they may be good for some and worse for others. Where they result in diminished snows in critical watersheds such as the Himalayas and the Alps, the effect can be diminished water supplies, particularly at crucial times in summer when mountain snowmelt can stabilize flows in key streams and rivers that might otherwise be very low so that they can provide irrigation water and water for human consumption.

So, now the deniers argue that we can just adapt. This is, of course, the path of least resistance since it requires no major changes in business-as-usual. Let's see how that's working out.

In the ongoing European heatwave, airport runways are melting, railroad tracks are melting, and roads are buckling and roofs are melting. The infrastructure we've built just isn't made to stand up to this kind of heat. But the indirect effects of climate change are just as important. Power generation is heavily dependent on water. As drought reduces available water supplies, electricity generation can be affected. Most generation plants use steam to power turbines. When water is in short supply, this hampers generation. Water scarcity is, of course, directly responsible for reductions in hydroelectric generation.

Then there is the problem of increased consumption in no small part due to increased use of air-conditioning. This, of course, creates a vicious cycle in which increased consumption of electricity generated by fossil fuels aggravates climate change which then leads to higher temperatures which then leads to increased use of air-conditioning.

If this is what the climate change deniers mean by adaptation, their argument is defeated on the spot. An adaptation that makes matters worse creates the need for more adaptation and more after that.

There is, of course, the cost of damage done by increasing flooding, both in coastal areas and elsewhere. And, there's the need to find more water for areas becoming drier due to drought.

Finally, there are the droughts affecting crops worldwide and driving up food prices, droughts now spreading across the globejust as climate models predicted. Today, we have drought in Europe, United States, Mexico, Argentina, Mauritania, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Djibouti and Eritrea. There are certainly more and others that don't encompass a substantial part of the country, but are nevertheless consequential.

Companies are working on more drought-resistant and heat-resistant strains of grain. But they cannot reshape all crops anytime soon, for instance, orchards that are not replanted every year. And, the deniers forget that their preferred policy of inaction means that climate change will be a continuously moving target, increasing in intensity and scope far into the future. There is no definitive maximum for carbon in the atmosphere under the deniers' plan.

So far, the "adaptation" strategy does not seem like its succeeding. It's more like coping. And, we have a lot of coping ahead of us for failing to take prevention seriously.


By Kurt Cobb

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  • John de speville on August 04 2022 said:
    There is no catastrophic climate change occurring. A less than 1.5 C average rise in atmospheric temperature since the industrial revolution doesn’t suggest a catastrophic global climactic collapse of the Earth’s climate is imminent, and that an immediate unprecedented herculean response of their making is necessary to avoid a runaway greenhouse effect from ending life as we know it. This is ludicrous.
    The Paris accords are just a stage for political leaders and celebrities to say they’re trying to save the world by destroying western civilizations economy, by tying to stop the burning of fossil fuels and eliminating Co2 emissions while giving the two largest emitters a by. This is criminal!
    There is no experimental evidence validating the hypothesis of catastrophic global warming, particularly the catastrophic portion.
    It is a collection of predominantly unproven and un validated hypotheses which can only be accepted by faith. The hypothesis of catastrophic global warming due to Co2 cannot even be tested experimentally.
    Real science, not the phony “ consensus “ version requires open access to data so skeptics ( who play a key role in science) can see if results are reproducible.
    There is no falsifiable experimental data associated with the global warming predictions of doom.
    The science behind the theory of catastrophic global warming has not been rigorous, non biased, nor open. It does not comply with the tenets of the scientific method, since it is not subject to potential falsification by testing/ experiments.
    By definition it is s pseudoscience, named by the British environmentalists and philosopher Karl Popper, who coined the phrase.
    Intentionally misleading society into a all or nothing scenario to lower C02 emissions to avoid a unprovable hypothesis of catastrophic global warming is madness.
    Observation, which is the first rule of science shows direct evidence to the contrary that Co2 has any detrimental effects on the climate of the Earth.
    Since 1950 alone we have observed that the rise in Co2 has caused the unprecedented greening that is currently occurring worldwide. Vegetation has expanded and grown by more than 35%, especially in the deserts and arid regions of the planet. It has enabled us to more than double our food production world wide as well using 15% less land. The most miraculous thing is that every plant alive today can survive on 6% less water than yesterday’s plants. Because every living plant today grows less Stomata cells that intake Co2. While open to intake Co2 plants are also exposed to water (H20) vapor loss during this process. The less Stomata cells the less exposure, therefore the less requirement for water.
    Observe the photos from space showing the Sahara and all other deserts around the world greening from the parameters inward?
    Desertification is not happening, PolarBears are not going extinct, coral reefs love warm waters ( that’s where they originated ), sea levels are not significantly rising ( see the world wide photographic record of every harbor, bays, estuaries, beaches and shorelines recorded since the invention of photography, by the entire population of the world, many taken over and over at the identical spots)that shows no significant rise?
    Go to the desk of Admiral Byrd’s first Antarctic compound established at ground level just a little over one hundred years ago and you must descend down more than three flights of stairs beneath the snow and ice to reach it. Why is that if Antarctica is shrinking?
    Sure it’s a minuscule warmer( 1.5 C), is that catastrophic? The truth is nothing out of the ordinary is occurring with the Earth's climate. It is changing as it always has over the last 3.5 to 4 billion years, very little and very slowly.
    Lies half truths and deception clothed in good deeds are easily camouflaged! These people are lying to us. They remind me of the old Mark Twain adage, “ don’t ever let the truth get in the way of telling a good story”.
    Stop the insanity, wake up!
  • R M Shivers on August 04 2022 said:
    This is not a rational, fact based argument - this is an ideological screed complete with ad hominens. It is not deniers; who are constantly shifting their story - it is those who shill for the global warming narrative. Those of us who understand that the earth goes through epochs of warm periods and ice ages see that the earth is simply continuing to gradually warmup from the Little Ice Age of the late medieval/early modern era, which was preceded by the Medieval Optimum that, e.g., enabled the settlement of Greenland by Norsemen.

    That observation alone should shut down any dogmatic belief in man-made warming. Also, attempts to model the global temperature trend through CO2 have miserably failed, which implies that the whole "science" is faulty. The models do not work because the assumed science is bunk. CO2 may not be the cause of warming. Historical data suggests that rising CO2 is an artifact of warming, not a harbinger or cause.

    I see enough of this non-sense propaganda in the mainstream media. I am not interested in seeing it clutter up the pages of the trade news.

    PS: Please let us know Mr. Cobb when you have set an example by giving up your air conditioning, refrigeration, and jet airliner travel.
  • steve Clark on August 09 2022 said:
    Carbon is only a very small part of the negative changes humans are making to the Earth. The biggest no one speaks of ....we have too many people on the Earth.. and they all want a first world like style. If everyone gets a first world life style then we need to reduce the population greatly, say to 4 billion max...maybe 3 billion??

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