The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board has signaled where Republicans will go once they can no longer feasibly deny climate change. As a reminder, the GOP is the only political party in the developed world to deny climate change. When the droughts become too severe, the wildfires too vast, and the change in temperatures too extreme, Republicans will choose the adaptation strategy.
In an article about Europe’s heat wave in the summer of 2022, the board makes a bizarre argument. They say Europe should worry less about becoming net zero by 2050 and, instead, do more to alleviate the heat wave today.
To use a health analogy, it would be like telling somebody to lose weight after they’ve had a heart attack while having told them, profusely, to not eat a single vegetable or do any exercise.
From the perspective of conservatives, this argument makes sense because they don’t believe in climate change, or the heart attack, and therefore, spending any money on an imaginary problem is pointless. But we all know this is blasphemy.
The interesting part here is not in the ludicrous position of the GOP, but in how they may react to future undeniable climate issues. The board incorrectly uses the word mitigation and adaptation as synonyms:
Meanwhile, as European leaders boast about supporting net-zero emissions targets in 2050, when they are long gone from office, they aren’t investing nearly enough in mitigation and adaptation in 2022.
Climate mitigation is taking action today to mitigate the future harmful effects of climate change. It gets at the root cause of the issue — limiting or eliminating greenhouse gas emissions. It's living a healthy lifestyle today so you can be healthy in the future.
Climate adaptation is taking action today to adapt to the current or expected climate conditions. It’s usually a reactionary measure. It’s like putting on a raincoat when it’s raining or packing one if the weather-woman forecasts a storm.
Adaptation measures are obvious and don't have the same ambiguity as mitigation. In other words, it's politically expedient. Voters will understand the need to build fireproof houses in wildfire-prone areas. This is the path Republicans will take.
Adaptation is a short-term solution to a problem that needs a long-term fix. If we do nothing to curb GHG emissions then we'll need to continually adapt to higher and higher temperatures. It's not a game we can win or one that we should even play. Instead of trying to build stronger and stronger A/C units, why not turn down the outside temperature instead?
Adaptation is convenient for Republicans because they can continue to do nothing and leave the climate problem to future leaders.
We should be both mitigating and adapting, but while we have climate peace, now is the time to mitigate the most harmful effects of climate change so we, hopefully, don’t have to adapt to a world of climate chaos. The US can’t continue to flip-flop on the Paris Climate Accords every time there is a Republican president. Even North Korea and Saudi Arabia are on board. We hope the GOP will be too.
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