For years, the idea of adapting to climate change has been anathema to environmentalists. Adaptation is admitting defeat or at the least taking the eye off the ball, which is prevention.
Those attitudes may be changing for two reasons. First, climate change is happening a lot faster than most thought it would. According to Manish Bapna of the World Resources institute for example, it is too late to avoid “dangerous consequences, so we must… adapt.”
Second, it’s becoming clear that global warming disproportionately impacts the most destitute people on the planet. The poorest of the poor depend on arid climate agriculture, subsistence fishing and rain forests-things that are directly and immediately affected by climate change. If any group needed to adapt it is this group, but the very poor cannot afford the irrigation systems, flood control systems and complex public health initiatives necessary to adapt.
Destitute people happen to have minute carbon footprints. The irony of this is not lost on UC Berkeley’s Kirk Smith who reminds us that climate change is “the world’s biggest regressive tax: the poorest pay for the behavior of the rich.”