Adaptation and sustainable development will yield greater benefits than Kyoto Protocol targets

    TORONTO, March 1 /CNW/ - Governments need to further develop policies to
reduce human vulnerability to climate-sensitive threats such as malaria,
hunger, water shortages, flooding, and habitat loss, in addition to seeking
cost-effective methods of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, says a new study
released by The Fraser Institute, an independent research organization.
    This strategy, known as "adaptive management," will encourage sustainable
development and reduce the world's vulnerability to climate-sensitive effects
while costing significantly less than the Kyoto Protocol, said Dr. Indur
Goklany, author of Adaptive Management of Climate Change Risks.
    "Adaptation allows us to selectively capture the positive aspects of
climate change while reducing the negative. While the impacts of global
warming are uncertain, there is no doubt that malaria, hunger, water stress,
and coastal flooding are real and urgent problems here and now," Goklany said.
    "Focused adaptation is more likely to deliver benefits than mitigation
such as greenhouse gas reductions, and deliver those benefits sooner rather
than later."
    Goklany has written extensively on globalization, economic development,
environmental quality, and human well-being. He was a delegate for the United
States to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and to the team
negotiating the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
    His study compares the global benefits and costs of reducing the impact
of climate change through mitigation strategies, such as reducing greenhouse
gas emissions, or through strategies to reduce society's vulnerability to
these impacts. The comparison shows that reducing vulnerability will provide
greater benefits at lower costs than mitigation in a shorter period of time.
    Based on scenarios generated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change (IPCC) which project global temperatures will increase by 3.2 to
4 degrees Celsius by 2085, Goklany calculates that the contribution of climate
change to most threats is generally less than the contribution of factors
unrelated to climate change over this same time period.
    "Developing countries are most vulnerable to warming because they lack
the capacity to cope with its impacts. Governments should work towards
enhancing their adaptive capacity by promoting economic development,
technological ability, and the formation of human capital, which is the point
of sustainable development," Goklany said.
    The study emphasizes that adaptation or mitigation strategies are not
mutually exclusive. Rather, the issue is how the relative balance of
strategies might shift over time to ensure that society's well-being is

    He suggests a number of policy options that allow adaptation and
mitigation strategies to evolve and integrate over time:

    -   Reduce vulnerabilities to today's urgent climate-sensitive problems
        that might be exacerbated by future climate change.

    -   Reduce barriers to economic growth and advance human capital and
        technological change, the lack of which is the major reason that
        developing countries are most vulnerable to climate change and to
        adversity in general.

    -   Adopt measures to reduce emissions that would be justified in the
        absence of climate change while expanding these options through
        research and development of cleaner and more affordable technologies.

    -   Develop a more robust understanding of the science and impacts of
        climate change and of the policies effective in dealing with it.

    -   Monitor the impacts of climate change to give advance warning of
        dangerous impacts and, if necessary, rearrange priorities for
        mitigation and adaptation should the adverse impacts of warming on
        human and environmental well-being occur faster or threaten to be
        more severe or more likely than is currently projected.

    Goklany notes that Canada should pay special attention to its
climate-sensitive sectors like agriculture, timber, water resources,
fisheries, and tourism, ensuring that their vulnerability to change is reduced
while enhancing their ability to take advantage of new opportunities created
by climate change. Canada should also implement "no-regret" policies that can
be justified without necessarily referring to climate change, such as
elimination of natural resource subsidies.
    "Calls for aggressive curtailment of greenhouse gases in the near-term
wrongly assume that there is no greater environmental problem in the 21st
century than climate change, and that adverse impacts of climate change would
be more efficiently and effectively reduced through mitigation rather than
adaptation," Goklany said.
    "Adaptive management promotes sustainable development and helps
developing nations deal with problems like malaria, hunger, HIV/AIDS, and poor
access to safe water and sanitation. Mitigation only addresses future and less
certain damages due to climate change. Consequently, the benefits associated
with sustainable development will be obtained sooner and more certainly than
through mitigation alone."
    Adaptive Management of Climate Change Risks will appear in the
forthcoming book, A Breath of Fresh Air: Market Solutions for Improving
Canada's Environment, to be published by The Fraser Institute later this year.

    The Fraser Institute is an independent research and educational
organization based in Canada. Its mission is to measure, study, and
communicate the impact of competitive markets and government intervention on
the welfare of individuals. To protect the Institute's independence, it does
not accept grants from governments or contracts for research. Visit

For further information:

For further information: Indur M. Goklany, Tel: (703) 801-2513, Email:; Nicholas Schneider, Policy Analyst, The Fraser Institute,
Centre for Risk, Regulation & the Environment, Tel: (416) 363-6575 ext: 222,
Email:; Dean Pelkey, Associate Director of
Communications, The Fraser Institute, Tel: (604) 714-4582, Email

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