How can climate change be managed?
Mitigation and adaption are responses to the threat of climate change
Mitigation involves reducing the causes of climate change by reducing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Alternative energy production, carbon capture, afforestation and international agreements are all examples of climate change mitigation.
The development of renewable energy solutions such as wind, solar and tidal energy reduces our reliance on fossil fuel burning power stations. This helps reduce carbon dioxide emissions being released into the atmosphere.
Carbon capture involves reducing carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel burning power stations. Carbon Dioxide is removed from waste gases. Once captured the Carbon dioxide is then converted into a dense liquid. This can be stored in safe locations e.g. underground in old coal mines. This helps reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released from fossil fuel burning power stations by up to 90%.
Planting trees helps reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as trees absorb it as part of the process of photosynthesis. Through afforestation (planting trees) a greater proportion of carbon dioxide can be absorbed reducing greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere.
The Kyoto Protocol is an international law that countries signed up to reduce their carbon emissions by 5 per cent that came into effect from 16th February 2005. The Kyoto Protocol expired in 2012. Its impact has been limited due to major developing countries such as China and India not being required to make reductions and the US refusing to participate.
The most recent UN climate talks were held in Paris in 2015. During these talks, it was agreed that the European Union would put its emissions-cutting pledges inside the legally-binding Kyoto Protocol. Many major countries have signed up for the Paris Protocol.
The main aim of the protocol was to agree to limit global temperature change this century to well below 2 degrees Celsius. In the Paris Agreement, each country determines, plans and regularly reports its own contribution it should make in order to mitigate global warming. There is no mechanism to force a country to set a specific target by a specific date, but each target should go beyond previously set targets.
Adaption strategies do not aim to reduce the impact of climate change but respond to it by reducing its negative effects. Changes in agricultural systems, managing water supply, and reducing the risk from rising sea levels are all examples of climate change adaptation.
Farmers respond to climate change by adapting their farming practices. This can include changing the type of crops they grow to those better suited to a warm climate e.g. grapes.
Areas at risk of desertification will need to change approaches to farming. Low technology solutions to this include the use of stone lines. You can find out more about managing areas at risk of desertification in the Sahel case study.
There may be a greater need for developing water transfer schemes. This involves moving water from areas of surplus (more water than is used) to areas of water deficit (not enough water). This can be achieved by building water transfer pipelines. An example of this is the Kielder water transfer scheme in the north-east of England
This involves developing coastal defences to protect areas at risk of coastal flooding. The purpose of these is to reduce the risk of further land being eroded away. It is estimated that sea levels will rise between 28 and 43cm by 2100 putting settlements and valuable agricultural land at risk. This will have a knock-on effect in terms of increasing costs of insuring properties and protecting areas at risk.
The Environment Agency and local councils are developing Shoreline Management Plans to manage the threat of coastal change. They identify the most sustainable approach to managing the flood and coastal erosion risks to the coastline in the:
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