After yesterday’s star-studded kickoff, today’s discussions at the Governor’s Global Climate Summit in California started on a more sobering note. The topic: adaptation to the inevitable impacts of climate change.

Let’s face it. Climate change hurts: 

  • Coastal flooding will continue to displace more and more people from their homes. 
  • Increasing droughts are going to make it even harder for the 2 billion people who already struggle every day for access to clean water.
  • Crop failures are threatening food security. 
  • The world’s poorest people –­ the very people least responsible for causing climate change ­– will feel its effects first and most severely

For panelists here at the summit, these realities underscore the urgent need for swift and decisive action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Stanford University climate scientist Steve Schneider laid it out most clearly: dangerous fallouts of climate change are now inevitable. 

The panel was clear on the fact that we need greenhouse gas emissions to crest as soon as possible and at as low a level as possible, and we need to bring those emissions back down as quickly as possible. 

But the real numerological challenges are not just about percentage emissions reductions or target greenhouse gas concentrations. They are about the money that needs to be mobilized to fix the problem and help those who are most vulnerable.

Recognition of the problem – greenhouse gas pollution – is a critical first step. But the panel, like so many of us, appeared to still be stuck up against the second step: how we respond.

Adaptation is a global problem that requires local solutions. Different climate threats require different adaptation solutions that are tailored to the specific situation and matched to the needs and capacity of the people confronting the threat. That means there is no one-size-fits-all silver bullet fix.

We at The Nature Conservancy are doing our part to find the right solutions for the right situations. Earlier this month, more than 150 of our conservation practitioners and climate experts gathered for a Climate Adaptation Clinic where the climate impacts on 20 of our conservation projects around the world were “diagnosed” so we can tailor appropriate adaptation strategies. 

The Conservancy also announced a $25 million commitment at the Clinton Global Initiative to test ecosystem-based approaches to adaptation and evaluate how and when they are most cost-effective. 

We don’t expect to come up with all the answers, but we do aim to use our practical science-based conservation experience to make nature a powerful ally in the fight against climate change.

(Image: Eroding shoreline caused by rise in sea level along the Albemarle Penninsula, Albemarle Sound area of North Carolina. Source: Jennifer Henman/TNC)

If you believe in the work we’re doing, please lend a hand.


  1. I agree, there is no one-size-fits-all silver bullet fix when it comes to adaptation. I’m a much more optimistic Californian, though. Still, Governor Schwarzenegger’s efforts should be commended. I appreciate your reporting, Jonathan!

  2. Climate change is a global problem, and yet each one of us has the power to make a difference. Even small changes in our daily behaviour can help prevent greenhouse gas emissions without affecting our quality of life. In fact, they can help save us money!

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