Adaptation: Using Nature’s Infrastructure to Protect Us

Written by Paul Mackie on . Posted in Learn

In this short video, Jen McKnight and Frank Lowenstein of The Nature Conservancy’s Climate Change Adaptation team offer insight into how we can weather climate change impacts.

So if we’re trying to cut greenhouse gas emissions to try to stop climate change, why do we also have to prepare for things to get worse?

The reason is that the effects of climate change – not just warmer average temperatures, but more extreme weather patterns such as floods, droughts, stronger storms and higher sea levels – are already being observed around the world.

Because CO2 and other heat-trapping gases linger in the atmosphere, there will be a lag time before cuts in emissions pay off. And emissions are expected to continue rising in the coming decades under expected development patterns.

So, people –and the natural world that we depend on – must learn to cope with a changing climate. We will have to come up with strategies to adapt to new conditions.

For example, with many of the world’s major cities, from New York to Calcutta, located on vulnerable coastlines, communities will need to plan for higher sea levels.

In some places, such as New Orleans and the resort coast south of Cancun, natural marshes or mangrove swamps help to buffer the coast from wind and powerful waves during storms. But when wetlands are cleared away for development, the coast is exposed to the full force of the sea.

Natural infrastructure won’t work everywhere. On the Hudson River, for example, where there are no extensive marshes, sea gates might be needed.

But why not use, and protect, the services that nature provides to us for free? Especially when they provide many other benefits, such as nurseries for fish that feed people and the rest of the marine food chain.

Video by: Paul Mackie/The Nature Conservancy

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About Planet Change

Planet Change is a Nature Conservancy blog site designed to share stories about actions the Conservancy and others around the world are taking to fight carbon pollution and the impacts of climate change, and to help people feel the connections between climate change and their daily lives and understand actions they can take.

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