How to deal with climate change?

To deal with climate change, one needs to needs to involve two different strategies: mitigation and adaption. Mitigation aims at reducing the CO2 emissions whereas adaption involves taking measures to reduce the vulnerability. There is no question of whether we need to adapt, since there is climate change in the 'pipe line': the response to the imbalance of the energy budget of Earth's climate system is delayed due to e.g. the world oceans' massive inertia.

When it comes to mitigation, there need to be actions that involve everybody – at least in the rich world. There needs to be an attitude change, because I don't think that a mere technological fix is sufficient, even though it represents one step towards a solution. We also need to change the way we behave.

Here is one example: pleasure travels. If we cut all our travels by 50%, then related emissions would also - on average - reduce by 50%. At least in principle. To obtain the same cut with say energy efficiency of the modes of transport, we would need a 100% increase in distance/fuel ratio – that is harder to achieve.

But does that mean that we need to lower the standard of living? No, because you could still have the same amount of holiday – if people on average stay for twice the duration. Time is a key issue here, because if people spend twice the time, then the frequency of travels can halve.

Another example is commuting – if every car takes two (or the double amount of) people, then the emissions (and the traffic) will on average halve. Now, if the efficiency of the vehicles also improve, say on average by consuming 75% of the energy (and emissions) to get people to work, then there would be a 'knock-on-effect' and the reduction in emissions would be 50% times 75%, or 37.5%! In other words, technological fixes should go hand-in-hand with behaviour changes.

One could get similar effect if a greater fraction started to travel by trains and if they could combine trains travels with cycling/walking. Not just that, but driving affects the public health, with rise in obesity. Cycling and walking means regular exercise, and it may be possible to kill two birds with one stone: get a solution for both important health problem as well as the environment. Again, we need to think about the 'time squeeze' – which I believe is both a pain and a cause of many of our problems (causes stress, high energy use, and emissions). It's a question of intelligent organization of our environment and the economy.

I must say that when I hear the local politicians (Oslo), I lose faith. Oslo, and the regions around, it have a dismal solution for public transportation as well as cycle paths. Buses and trains do not correspond and are infrequent, and cycle paths go nowhere. No geniuses are needed to tell you that it's not a workable solution. The politicians blame high competition for the land, but are only able to think in 2 (or just one?) dimensions. Perhaps they ought to think in 3 dimensions? Is it possible to design tubes/bridges for cycles and pedestrians above the streets? Good architects could even make such structures not look too ugly (could become a tourist attraction?).

These are just a few examples which represent a small tiny part of the mitigation problem. T's naïve to think that this is the entire solution, but I wanted to use these examples to show how lateral thinking may be a part of finding good solutions. There are a lot of others, e.g. getting energy out of our waste, renewables, re-cycling, economical aspects, etc, etc.

But then again,mitigation is not the only required action. We also have to adapt to an inevitable changing climate. Traditional ways have been to reinforce water barriers and dams, etc, but we also need to work in terms of land management. A new thinking is that natural landscape through diversity often is best at coping with climatic stress, i.e. through natural inundation. Besides, natural forests can both provide buffers against floods and absorb some of the carbon. In any case, adaption needs to involve continuous monitoring and adjustment, as a doctor treating a patient checking his or her status. Because we may have to deal with entirely new situations, some solutions may have to involve trial and error to some degree. It is important to start with no-regret solutions.

There is also increased needs for improved predictions on scales of hours to seasons and decades ('seamless prediction' systems), as well as better capacity for stake holders to utilise the information in such forecasts (e.g. the local farmer).