Ending the ‘false argument’ about whether we should adapt to climate conditions or work to mitigate climate change
In order to protect the safety and security of people around the globe from extreme weather events, CEE Professor Auroop R. Ganguly and interdisciplinary engineering student Puja Das, PhD’27, say both adaptation to changing climate conditions and mitigation of the causes of climate change are necessary.
Nobody can argue that this summer was one for the weather record books, with NASA declaring July the hottest since records have been kept, smoke from Canadian wildfires wafting into the U.S. and a massive blaze killing more than 100 people in Hawaii.
But weather disasters inevitably lead to heated debates over the cause and what to do about them.
Is the problem global warming and climate change or poor land and forest management?
Is adapting to current and future climate conditions admitting defeat? Do weather disasters — which have existed as long as there’s been a planet Earth — all stem from climate change?
Northeastern distinguished professor of civil and environmental engineering Auroop R. Ganguly calls these “false arguments” that delay the creation of solutions to a rapidly changing environment.
Both adaptation to changing climate conditions and mitigation of the causes of climate change are necessary for the safety and security of people around the globe, Ganguly says.
“This kind of connection gets lost a little bit,” says Ganguly, who is co-director of Northeastern’s Global Resilience Institute.
An ideological divide
He says over the years there’s been an “unfortunate ideological divide… where either a person talks about greenhouse gas emissions reduction needing to happen or a person says engineering management designs will stop or reduce these (disasters).”
The reality is millions of people are in harm’s way from a growing number of extreme weather events, Ganguly says, so working to reduce fossil fuel use, as promoted in the Inflation Reduction Act, needs to go hand in hand with adaptation strategies designed to protect lives and infrastructure.
As an example of the divide, a Wall Street Journal editorial this summer castigated clean energy advocates for blaming the Canadian wildfires that blanketed the Northeast on climate change.
The Journal editorial said the wildfire-driven release of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into the atmosphere would offset the reduction in fossil fuels and blamed wildfires on poor forest management, such as restrictions on prescribed burns.
Read full story at Northeastern Global News