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Climate mitigation and adaptation: Two sides of a coin

climate mitigation and adaptation - climateaction

Climate mitigation and adaptation: Two sides of a coin

The effects of climate change are being felt on a larger scale across Africa as climatic conditions continue to worsen, exposing people to extreme weather events.

With a system already disadvantaged by its susceptibility to, or inability to cope with, adverse effects of climate change (including climate variability and extremes), the continent continues to face a high exposure or sensitivity and low adaptive capacity for these events which leads to high vulnerability.

Individuals, organizations, and governments in Africa are taking actionable steps to tackle climate change and fortify the region’s resilience through climate mitigation and adaptation efforts.

Climate mitigation and adaptation are the two strategies for addressing climate change, with mitigation aiming at reducing emissions sources or enhancing the sinks of greenhouse gases and adaptation prioritizing taking action to adjust to and prepare for the current and predicted effects of climate change such as droughts, floods, heatwaves, etc.

Simply put, climate mitigation addresses the causes of climate change (accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere), while climate adaptation addresses the impacts of climate change.

Differences between climate mitigation and adaptation

  • On a spatial scale, climate mitigation is primarily an international issue as it provides global benefits, while climate adaptation is primarily a local issue as it mostly provides benefits at the local scale.
  • On a time scale, climate mitigation has a long-term effect because of the dormancy of the climatic system, while climate adaptation can have a short-term effect on the reduction of vulnerability.
  • Regarding sectors, climate mitigation is a priority in the energy, transportation, industry, and waste management sectors while climate adaptation is a priority in the water and health sectors as well as in coastal or low-lying areas.

However, both climate mitigation and adaptation are relevant to the agriculture and forestry sectors.

Although they both have notable differences, especially in their objectives, climate mitigation and adaptation are both needed because, while climate mitigation efforts can reduce the rate of global atmospheric temperature rise (and eventually even reverse it), it may take several decades which means climate adaptation measures are needed to protect people, livelihoods, and the ecosystem from the impacts of climate change while improving their resilience (especially that of impacted areas) and preparing them for unavoidable future impacts.

Governments in Africa need to develop and implement policies at national, regional, and local levels that cover both climate mitigation and adaptation. They also need to take collective actions and monitor progress through mutually agreed mechanisms.

Also, since adaptation and mitigation stakeholders (practitioners, decision-makers, and scientists) form separate communities, there is a need for informing them about both strategies as it applies to them, as well as strengthening their capacities.

We are one with our environment. It is imperative that we find new ways to exist without causing harm to our environment.

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