7.3 Climate change – mitigation and adaptation

Significant ideas:

  • Mitigation attempts to reduce the causes of climate change.
  • Adaptation attempts to manage the impacts of climate change.

Knowledge and understanding:

  1. Mitigation involves reduction and/or stabilization of GHG emissions and their removal from the atmosphere.
  2. Mitigation strategies to reduce GHGs in general may include:
    • – reduction of energy consumption
    • – reduction of emissions of oxides of nitrogen and methane from agriculture
    • – use of alternatives to fossil fuels
    • – geoengineering.
  3. Mitigation strategies for carbon dioxide removal (CDR techniques) include:
    • – protecting and enhancing carbon sinks through land management; for example, through the UN collaborative programme on reducting emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries (UN- REDD)
    • – using biomass as a fuel source
    • – using carbon capture and storage (CCS)
    • – enhancing carbon dioxide absorption by the oceans through either fertilizing oceans with compounds of nitrogen, phosphorus and iron to encourage the biological pump, or increasing upwellings to release nutrients to the surface.
  4. Even if mitigation strategies drastically reduce future emissions of GHGs, past emissions will continue to have an effect for decades to come.
  5. Adaptation strategies can be used to reduce adverse affects and maximize any positive effects. Examples of adaptations include flood defences, vaccination programmes, desalinization plants and planting of crops in previously unsuitable climates.
  6. Adaptive capacity varies from place to place and can be dependent on financial and technological resources. MEDCs can provide economic and technological support to LEDCs.
  7. There are international efforts and conferences to address mitigation and adaptation strategies for climate change; for example, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Applications and skills:

  • Discuss mitigation and adaptation strategies to deal with impacts of climate
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of international climate change talks.


  • The impacts of climate change are global and require global mitigation.

Theory of knowledge:

  • There is a degree of uncertainty in the extent and effect of climate change—how can we be confident of the ethical responsibilities that may arise from knowledge when that knowledge is often provisional or incomplete?


  • Humans and pollution (1.5)
  • Access to fresh water (4.2)
  • Photochemical smog (6.3)