Whenever we humans try to solve a problem, the first thing we do is give the problem a name. We then subdivide the problem into smaller elements and name each of them too so finally, we have a whole vocabulary around the issue which allows us to discuss it and write books about it. We feel like we are really solving the problem, but we haven’t. We have simply indulged in the Victorian practice of cataloging everything but without actually understanding it.
In fact, it’s possible that this approach has made things worse, because once something is given a name, a label, that term may shape subsequent actions and narrow the thinking and the creativity that might otherwise have emerged.
Over the years, ‘global warming’ has evolved into ‘climate change’ and back again so that they are now almost interchangeable. And that’s a good thing because we all now know what they mean in practice. But another term seems to be appearing more often of late, ‘climate adaptation’, and that scares me a little bit.
This month almost every think tank and advisory group that has issued press releases have commented that governments (including the UK) are not on track to meet their commitments to reduce emissions and combat climate change. That is scary enough. But the rise of the term ‘climate adaptation’ (and similar) gives me the heebeegeebees because it may be evidence of discussions moving away from the fight to stop harmful, to focus on managing the effects that global temperature rise will have. True, we will have to prepare for the effects of climate change but the primary fight and the bulk of funding (whether raised through corporate finance, tax or other government initiatives) must be to minimise that change in the first instance and anything that diverts this critical funding away from that or which weakens resolve to solve the underlying problem will be a mistake (in my view). Once we start to give up on that and put our resources into managing change rather than trying to prevent it, then there is a risk that we enter into a downward spin.
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