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Climate change: the 21st century’s most urgent environmental problem proverbial last straw?

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Author:
I.M. Goklany
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Published in: Adapt or Die: The science, politics and economics of climate change, this chapter analyses potential human and environmental vulnerabilities to the impacts of climate change.The author examines:the consequences of climate change in the past few decades, arguing that despite any warming, the average person’s welfare has improved over the last century due to technological progress driven by market- and science-based economic growth, technology and tradethe possible future impacts of a warmer climate, including: extreme weather; sea-level rise; biodiversity loss; the spread of diseasethe relative merits and disadvantages of pursuing strategies based on mitigation and adaptationThe report argues that instead of focusing on reducing or halting climate change, policy makers should reduce today’s urgent public health and environmental threats that might be exacerbated by climate change such as malaria, water stress, hunger and habitat lossThis approach is more cost-effective and quicker benefits to both humanity and the rest of nature. The focus should be on making societies more resilient to deal with the affects of climate change vulnerability by strengthening the institutions which promote economic development, technological change and international tradeThis approach would enhance societies’ abilities to cope not only with climate change, but adversity in general, regardless of its cause, or whether it is human-made or not.By reducing vulnerability and increasing adaptability, we might raise the level at which GHG concentrations might need to be stabilised to avoid dangers to humanity and nature, which would further reduce the costs of addressing climate change. The international community should focus on: solving today’s urgent problems while creating the means to address future potential problems due to climate changeimproving our understanding of the impacts of climate change so that we can distinguish between the possible and the probableincreasing information regarding the trade-offs and synergies between adaptation and mitigationreducing barriers to implementing no-regret technologies, whether they are related to mitigation or adaptation (such as eliminating needless subsidies for energy and natural resource uses)undertaking efforts to expand the portfolio of no-regret actions through greater R&D into more cost-effective mitigation and adaptation technologies