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[Climate Change] The difference between mitigation and adaptation.

Updated: Apr 25, 2021

Today, I gave a lecture to the Indonesian Meteorological Agency (BMKG) on climate change adaptation measures. This request from Mr. Budi, who I had worked with at the Indonesian Meteorological Agency, started working in Indonesia 12 years ago as part of the JICA project. At first, I thought I could speak in English, but halfway through the planning, I was asked to speak in Indonesian.

Even so, I thought it would be good to have about 20 people like that, but in the end there were nearly 200 people who attended the lecture, so I was a bit nervous before we started. Luckily, I had some confidence because I had done a meeting yesterday to give details of a Japanese person's project to the Indonesian government in Indonesian. As a result, I managed to give a presentation and answer questions almost entirely in Indonesian, without using English. I'm usually told that I talk too long ;-), but I try to keep my Q & A to the point and within two minutes. The senior officials from the Ministry of the Environment were typically very lengthy and polite in answering questions, so I was very grateful for the time I was able to buy to talk about what I wanted to say in the meantime.

One person from the local government asked a question that clearly illustrated the difference between adaptation and mitigation measures, which I explain in a moment. The question from this local government official was.

"Can I get support from the central government?"

The central government can't support all local governments in any task. In climate change, adaptation is more complex than mitigation. Mitigation is concerned with "reducing the greenhouse gases that are the main cause of climate change", whereas adaptation is concerned with "reducing the impacts that result from climate change". In mitigation, the focus is on carbon dioxide. No matter what you do, you are reducing the same carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide in Jakarta is exactly the same as the carbon dioxide in Bali, so there will be some differences in the activities, but it is relatively easy to bring success stories from other regions.

The impact of adaptation measures, on the other hand, is very different depending on the goals and location of the region. In many urban areas, the economic impact is important, but in rural areas, the economic impact may include the need to protect a particular type of agriculture, or in areas with a large population of elderly people, the health impact from hair may also be a consideration. In Switzerland, where there is no sea, we do not have to think about sea level rise, but in mountainous areas we have to think about avalanches. In Indonesia, a maritime continent, it is quite the opposite: sea level rise must always be taken into account, but in the tropics avalanches do not need to be considered.

Thus, the application of measures needs to look at different impacts for different purposes and regions, so local governments need to look at the real problems and what they can do to reduce the impact. I completed the project two years ago in JICA, Japan, to create a framework for how this climate change might be more efficient and effective. We'll talk about this framework another time.

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