It’s not just mitigation and adaptation anymore.
PARIS, France — There’s a big sticking point in the negotiations over a global climate deal, and it centers around this little phrase: “loss and damage.” The concept has become hugely important to developing countries and climate justice advocates at the COP21 talks — and a big headache for developed countries.
The conversation around climate aid — money and assistance that goes from rich countries to poorer ones for climate change–related programs — has traditionally focused on two areas: mitigation, which means cutting or preventing greenhouse gas emissions by doing things like building up renewable energy capacity and halting deforestation; and adaptation, which means preparing for future climate changes, by taking steps such as building better drainage systems to deal with higher seas and more severe storms, and shifting to heartier crops that can withstand higher temperatures and lower rainfalls.
But now developing countries are pushing for assistance in a third area: loss and damage. This refers to irreparable losses (loss of lives, species, or land taken over by rising seas) and recoverable damages (damaged buildings, roads, power lines) — basically, to what happens when mitigation and adaptation fall short and climate disaster strikes. At this point, no matter how much we cut emissions or how much we prepare for coming changes, there will still be significant loss and damage from climate change.
Already, the devastating effects of rising sea levels, hotter temperatures, and extreme weather events are growing rapidly. Small Pacific island nations are experiencing regular flooding, which submerges roads, batters houses and seawalls, and sends populations fleeing. In nations like Bangladesh, farms are ruined by the infiltration of salt water.
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