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2% Solutions:Carbon Mitigation

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Mitigation or adaptation? It's usually an either/or choice: either we work on ways to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere or we find ways to adapt to new conditions created by climate change, including reducing society's vulnerabilities and raising its resilience. Fighting to close a coal plant or developing green energy alternatives, for example, is a different job than translocating an imperiled species or planning for inevitable sea level rise. Same problem, separate responses. Different tribes. Mitigation and adaptation even have separate conferences!

Complicating matters, mitigation and adaptation strategies are often set against one another in a kind of "Sophie's choice" of unhappy outcomes. Save the endangered desert tortoise in southern California, for instance, or allow its habitat to be destroyed by vast arrays of solar panels? Save a critical wildlife corridor or convert it to food production in order to help feed a global human population that is racing toward nine billion by 2050? Manage land inside a national park for carbon sequestration, or stick to its original leave-it-alone conservation purpose? Light a prescribed fire to restore a forest to health, adding CO2 to the atmosphere, or do nothing and hope for the best?

Mitigate or adapt? Choose!

Fortunately, there is a third path. A significant amount of overlap between mitigation and adaptation exists, especially in the realm of agro-ecology. You just don't hear about it very often. It doesn't get much play in the media or in big reports, such as the recently released National Climate Assessment (http://ncadac.globalchange.gov/). Even when it is mentioned it's often in the dry jargon of research, including the frequently used term " co-benefits." For example: mitigating atmospheric carbon dioxide by sequestering it as soil carbon via plant photosynthesis has the co-benefit of improving soil fertility and increasing water-holding capacity. Cool stuff! But that description is too wonky for a general audience and too abstract for many landowners, which is a shame because there's a lot of good news going unreported. 


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