Countering The “We Will Adapt” Argument Against Action On Climate Change

adapt to climate change

One of the things I hear quite a lot from people when talking about myself and my desire to live a more sustainable life is the fact that the human race is adaptable and that even if temperatures increase, science will give us ways to maintain our current lifestyles.

This belief that all will be well is one of the most selfish and misguided beliefs you can have and if you find yourself agreeing with it, you need to take a good look around right now, let alone 20 years into the future, and see that things are not going so swimmingly.

I agree with the core principle that the human race is adaptable but this does not mean that adaptation brings or maintains the quality of life that we expect. Adaption comes out of necessity; a necessity to provide food, water and shelter for ourselves and our loved ones.

Look at the poorer countries of the world right now – people survive often harsh conditions, massive political upheaval and life-threatening conflict by adapting but does this mean they enjoy the quality of life we would wish for ourselves? Not by any means.

We Need To Adapt Sooner Rather Than Later

The truth is that climate change will force us to adapt in one way or another; either we can wait for the effects to take hold, allow untold misery to come to large swathes of the world’s population and ruin our natural habitat for the millions of other species that live on this planet….OR….we can adapt now and mitigate the worst of it before it happens.

Which do you think is the right way to go about things?

But Doesn’t Science Exist To Solve The Problems In The World?

Well in a roundabout way yes I suppose it does but again this does not hold up when you look more closely. Science takes time, science cannot solve every problem and science does not have to see the suffering of people around the world.

My point is that while science can and probably will come up with some ingenious solutions to many of the problems we are causing, millions of people will have to endure even more harsh conditions in the meantime.

Record droughts in Africa, extreme flooding in parts of Asia and greater numbers of powerful storms are all present day occurrences and unfortunately it is the people bearing these conditions now who are likely to see things get worse in the future.

While the western world will experience changes, they are unlikely to be as severe as much of the developing world. This is something that science can do nothing about.

The Rich Will Hide Away In Their Ivory Towers

Even if science does manage to solve many of the problems caused by rising temperatures, I wonder just how accessible these solutions will be. The side of me that sees good in the world hopes that such technologies will be used for the benefit of all but my cynical side predicts that the free markets (where many technologies live out their lives) will leave only the richer parts of society with the money to afford them.

The truth is probably somewhere in the middle – some new technologies will be the reserve of the ultra-rich while others will be available to all at very low cost. If this is what “adapting” means then it’s really a lie – we already live in this sort of unequal world.

We Are Not Borg

If you don’t get the Star Trek reference, the species known as Borg are heartless, emotionless creatures whose only mandate is to assimilate every other sentient species into one of their own. They are also famed for “adapting”.

Human beings, on the other hand, are famed for being caring, compassionate creatures and this is shown time and time again when disasters strike and the public dig deep into their pockets to help. We hate to see other humans suffering but too often we throw a bit of money at it and go back to our daily lives.

I don’t believe that this is a viable option when it comes to climate change. No amount of money will solve all the problems and it is through our actions that the biggest difference will be made.

Quality Of Life Matters

I guess my main reason for this post is to show that while we can and may adapt to a changing climate, this does not necessarily allow us to maintain a quality of life that we all wish for.

Things such as good health, sufficient food and water and safety in our own homes will likely become harder to achieve. We all imagine that the modern-day is one with the highest quality of life man has ever enjoyed but we work ourselves harder than almost all of our ancestors. When times become tough, we might just find that we have to work even harder to get by.

It is often said that a city life is more stressful than a rural one but, regardless of population rises, the amount of the world that is truly habitable will start to shrink and more and more people will be forced into large, overcrowded cities to find food, water and shelter. Many will lose touch with the natural world (even more so than today!) and their quality of life will suffer because of it.

Indeed, some of the things we hold so dear in the natural world may disappear over the coming decades if we allow climate conditions to change by so much and so rapidly. Is this a quality of life you want for future generations?

They say nature adapts to survive but do we only want to survive or do we want to live?

Stop Relying On Others

Believing that science solves everything and that “we will adapt” allows one to flee from responsibility and this is the reason why so many people hold this view. I urge everyone reading this to spread the word – tell your friends that everything is not going to be ok and that they can’t shirk their duties. We must stop relying on other people to solve the problems that we are causing; we must stop causing those problems in the first place.

Sorry for the massive rant but it’s been bubbling away inside of me for some time now and I heard the same excuse one too many times for me to bite my lip any longer.

Do you ever experience the same resistance to action as I do? How do you address it? Leave me a comment below.

Steve (156 Posts)

I am chief writer and editor on Green Steve. Blogging since 2011, I like to delve into a wide number of topics to help people reduce their carbon footprint. You should follow me on Twitter here. And add me to your Google+ circles here.

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