Climatic Change

, Volume 111, Issue 2, pp 165–175 | Cite as

Adaptation, mitigation, and their disharmonious discontents: an essay

  • Susanne C. MoserEmail author


The frequently heard call to harmonize adaptation and mitigation policies is well intended and many opportunities exist to realize co-benefits by designing and implementing both in mutually supportive ways. But critical tradeoffs (inadequate conditions, competition among means for implementation, and negative consequences of pursuing both simultaneously) also exist, along with policy disconnects that are shaped by history, sequencing, scale, contextual variables, and controversial climate discourses in the public. To ignore these issues can be expected to undermine a more comprehensive, better integrated climate risk management portfolio. The paper discusses various implications of these tradeoffs between adaptation and mitigation for science and policy.


Climate Policy Mitigation Measure Climate Science Adaptation Policy Mitigation Policy 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Adger WN, Agrawala S, Mirza MMQ, Conde C, O’Brien K, Pulhin J, Pulwarty R, Smit B, Takahashi K (2007) Assessment of adaptation practices, options, constraints and capacity. In: Parry ML, Canziani OF, Palutikof JP, van der Linden PJ, Hanson CE (eds) Climate change 2007: impacts adaptation and vulnerability contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 717–743Google Scholar
  2. Australian Department of Climate Change (2010) Adapting to climate change in Australia: an Australian Government Position Paper. Commonwealth of Australia, CanberraGoogle Scholar
  3. Bedsworth L, Hanak E (2008) Preparing California for a changing climate. PPIC, San FranciscoGoogle Scholar
  4. Biesbroek GR, Swart RJ, van der Knaap WGM (2009) The mitigation-adaptation dichotomy and the role of spatial planning. Habitat Int 33(3):230–237CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Binder LW (2009) Community engagement and addressing barriers to adaptation. National Estuarine Research Reserve Coastal Training Program “Planning for Climate Change”, NOAA NERR.
  6. Bowman TE (2009) A turning point in climate change communication priorities. Int J Sust Comm 4:64–77Google Scholar
  7. Brody S, Grover H, Lindquist E, Vedlitz A (2010) Examining climate change mitigation and adaptation behaviours among public sector organisations in the USA. Local Environ 15(6):591–603CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bulkeley H, Betsill M (2005) Rethinking sustainable cities: multilevel governance and the ’urban’ politics of climate change. Env Polit 14(1):42–63CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cash DW, Adger WN, Berkes F, Garden P, Lebel L, Olsson P, Pritchard L, Young O (2006) Scale and cross-scale dynamics: governance and information in a multilevel world. Ecol Soc 11:8.
  10. Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) (2010) Progress report of the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force: recommended actions in support of a National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy. The White House, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  11. Escobar JC, Lora ES, Venturini OJ, Yáñez EE, Castillo EF, Almazan O (2009) Biofuels: environment, technology and food security. Renew Sustain Energy Rev 13(6–7):1275–1287CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gardner J, Parsons R, Paxton G (2010) Adaptation benchmarking survey: initial report. CSIRO Climate Adaptation Flagship Working Paper No 4. CSIRO Climate Adaptation Flagship, KenmoreGoogle Scholar
  13. Holdren J (2008) Science and technology for sustainable well-being. Science 319:424–434CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Kahan D (2010) Fixing the communications failure. Nature 463:296–297CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Kahan DM, Braman D (2006) Cultural cognition and public policy. Yale Law Pol Rev 24:147–170Google Scholar
  16. Kingdon JW (2002) Agendas, alternatives, and public policies. Addison-Wesley Longman Publ, White PlainsGoogle Scholar
  17. Klein R, Sathaye J, Wilbanks T (2007a) Challenges in integrating mitigation and adaptation as responses to climate change. Mitig Adapt Strategies Glob Chang 12:639–962CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Klein RJT, Huq S et al (2007b) Inter-relationships between adaptation and mitigation. In: Parry ML, Canziani OF, Palutikof JP, van der Linden PJ, Hanson CE (eds) Climate change 2007: impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 745–777Google Scholar
  19. Kwadijk JCJ, Haasnoot M, Mulder JPM, Hoogvliet MMC, Jeuken ABM, van der Krogt RAA, van Oostrom NGC, Schelfhout HA, van Velzen EH, van Waveren H, de Wit MJM (2010) Using adaptation tipping points to prepare for climate change and sea level rise: a case study in the Netherlands. Wiley Interdiscip Rev: Clim Change 1(5):729–740CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Leiserowitz A (2005) American risk perceptions: is climate change dangerous? Risk Anal 25:1433–1442CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Leiserowitz A, Maibach E, Roser-Renouf C (2010) Global warming’s six Americas, January 2010. Yale University. Yale Project on Climate Change, New HavenGoogle Scholar
  22. Martens P, Chang CT (eds) (2010) The social and behavioural aspects of climate change: linking vulnerability, adaptation and mitigation. Greenleaf Publishing, SheffieldGoogle Scholar
  23. Moser SC (2009) Good morning, America! The explosive US awakening to the need for adaptation. California Energy Commission, Sacramento.
  24. Moser SC (2010a) Communicating climate change: history, challenges, process and future directions. Wiley Interdiscip Rev: Clim Change 1:31–53CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Moser SC (2010b) Costly knowledge—unaffordable denial: the politics of public understanding and engagement on climate change. In: Boykoff MT (ed) The politics of climate change. Routledge, Oxford, pp 161–187Google Scholar
  26. Moser SC, Ekstrom JA (2010) A framework to diagnose barriers to climate change adaptation. Proc Natl Acad Sci 107(51):22026–22031. Google Scholar
  27. National Research Council (2010a) America’s climate choices: adapting to the impacts of climate change. National Academies Press, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  28. National Research Council (2010b) America’s climate choices: advancing the science of climate change. National Academies Press, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  29. National Research Council (2010c) America’s climate choices: limiting the magnitude of future climate change. National Academies Press, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  30. Naylor RL, Liska AJ, Burke MB, Falcon WP, Gaskell JC, Rozelle SD, Cassman KG (2007) The ripple effect: biofuels, food security, and the environment. Environment 49(9):31–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Neufeldt H, Jochem E, Hinkel J, Huitema D, Massey E, Watkiss P, McEvoy D, Rayner T, Hof A, Lonsdale K et al (2010) Climate policy and inter-linkages between adaptation and mitigation. In: Hulme M, Neufeldt H (eds) Making climate change work for us: European perspectives on adaptation and mitigation strategies. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 3–30Google Scholar
  32. Parry M (2009) Closing the loop between mitigation, impacts and adaptation. Clim Change 96(1):23–27CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Preston BL, Westaway RM, Yuen EJ (2011) Climate adaptation planning in practice: an evaluation of adaptation plans from three developed nations. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Chang 16(4):407–438. doi: 10.1007/s11027-010-9270-x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Rayner T, Jordan A (2010) Adapting to a changing climate: an emerging European Union policy? In: Jordan A, Huitema D, Van Asselt H, Rayner T, Berkhout F (eds) Climate change policy in the European Union: confronting the dilemmas of mitigation and adaptation? Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 145–166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Smith MS, Horrocks L, Harvey A, Hamilton C (2011) Rethinking adaptation for a 4°C world. Phil Trans R Soc A 369:196–216CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Tilman D, Socolow R, Foley JA, Hill J, Larson E, Lynd L, Pacala S, Reilly J, Searchinger T, Somerville C, Williams R (2009) Beneficial biofuels: the food, energy, and environment trilemma. Science 325:270–271CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Tompkins EL, Adger WN, Boyd E, Nicholson-Cole S, Weatherhead K, Arnell N (2010) Observed adaptation to climate change: UK evidence of transition to a well-adapting society. Glob Environ Change 20(4):627–635CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Venema HD, Rehman IH (2007) Decentralized renewable energy and the climate change mitigation adaptation nexus. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Chang 12(5):875–900CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Walsh C, Hall J (2008) Sustaining knowledge for a changing climate (SKCC), Theme 2: Linking adaptation and mitigation strategies. Project theme description, EPSRC/UKCIPGoogle Scholar
  40. Warren R (2011) The role of interactions in a world implementing adaptation and mitigation solutions to climate change. Phil Trans R Soc 369:217–241CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Webster B, Riddell P (2009) Global warming is not our fault, say most voters in times poll.
  42. Wilbanks TJ (2005) Issues in developing a capacity for integrated analysis of mitigation and adaptation. Environ Sci Policy 8(6):541–547CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Wilbanks TJ, Kane SM, Leiby PN, Perlack RD, Settle C, Shogren JF, Smith JB (2003) Integrating mitigation and adaptation: possible responses to global climate change. Environment 45(5):30–38CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Wilbanks TJ, Sathaye J, Klein RJT (2007) Introduction to the special issue entitled “Challenges in Integrating Mitigation and Adaptation as Responses to Climate Change”. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Chang 12(5):639–641CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Yohe G (2001) Mitigative capacity: the mirror image of adaptive capacity on the emissions side. Clim Change 49:247–262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Yohe G, Strzepek K (2007) Adaptation and mitigation as complementary tools for reducing the risk of climate impacts. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Chang 12(5):727–739CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Susanne Moser Research & ConsultingSanta CruzUSA

Personalised recommendations