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Time to rethink climate adaptation

Heather Moore
Heather Moore
February 28, 2022

A major new report highlights the need for humans to stop climate change in order to protect their own well-being. DW's Heather Moore says it's time to listen.

https://p.dw.com/p/47hNQ
woman and child walk thorugh floods in Bangladesh
Adapting to climate change is becoming increasingly urgentImage: Fabeha Monir/DW

As the world, still reeling from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, turns to the shock of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, it would be all too easy to forget about the climate crisis. But today, a report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reminds us that doing so is not an option.

Described as "a dire warning about the consequences of inaction," the report sets out to show how rising temperatures not only pose a threat to the health of our planet, but to our own well-being. Because although — in the context of climate change — humans are often regarded as being separate from the natural world, we are of course a part of it.

Any imagined disconnect between the two is not only nonsensical and arrogant, but ultimately self-defeating. And in highlighting the reality that biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation will continue to escalate with every degree of global warming, thereby leading to additional risks, such as food insecurity and water scarcity, today's publication essentially says as much.

Eco Africa - The Environment Magazine

The human well-being factor

Yet the report is also optimistic that the transformational societal change necessary to combat climate catastrophe is possible. Until now, contemporary solutions to the ecological crisis have not sought to rethink the over-consumption models in which economic growth is a primary driver. And that is problematic considering the established systems of production and consumption are the reason there is a climate crisis in the first place.

Heather Moore
DW environment reporter, Heather MooreImage: privat

So the fact that the report makes mention of socio-ecologically aware futures, is welcome. The research doesn't only describe the adverse impacts of climate change on economic growth, but on human well-being. It also draws attention to "maladaptation" projects — that is, adaptation projects that exacerbate existing social inequalities. And although the document does not talk about radical reforms to development values, it is a start. 

Meanwhile, protest movements and civil society groups continue their ongoing push for a climate future based on the intricately linked relationship between society and ecosystems. Establishing localized food sovereignty, criticizing industrial farming, opposing increased or continued coal extraction are all individual movements that can and do challenge existing structures.

Creating a new narrative

Since the report needs to be agreed upon by all contributors, which includes those representing wealthy countries most responsible for climate change, the language is sometimes mild. While it refers to "losses and damages" it doesn't go so far as to shame historic polluters for their substantial role in the climate crisis. 

But what this report can do, is open the world and those in leadership positions to a new line of thinking around the climate crisis — one that is more critical of what has been incorrectly identified as "common-sensical" economic values. It can further debate on positioning human health and happiness above corporate interests and historic production habits. 

Preventing the climate crisis from spiralling even further out of control requires a cultural shift and a mind-set change. But it also requires attention. Even when the world is distracted by other, more immediately alarming events. Because the rising temperatures affect the entire planet, and all of nature on it. Including us.

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