These new risks to the planet should challenge the conventional wisdom on fighting climate change. In the United States and other wealthy countries, efforts to adapt to global warming have always played second fiddle to efforts to reduce carbon emissions. This emphasis is understandable, since if greenhouse gas emissions are not restrained, successfully adapting to climate change will be impossible for most of humanity: countries will suffer major damage, and lives will be lost. Adaptation has also seemed less attractive because it involves no global silver bullets. But policymakers no longer have the luxury of downgrading adaptation, because climate change’s devastating effects are no longer in the future; they are occurring now.
When extreme events strike the same location more frequently, the confluence can be more devastating than the sum of its parts. Like heat waves, consecutive hurricanes of this magnitude can exacerbate misery. The link in this case was not necessarily geographic or temporal. Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico 26 days after and over 2,000 miles away from Hurricane Harvey’s strike on Texas. But these two events connected at a distance. The damage in Puerto Rico was made worse because the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency had exhausted its financial and personnel resources on the previous two storms, especially Harvey.
The bottom line is that few if any countries are sufficiently prepared to deal with what is in store. A yawning gap has opened up between what they know about the risks of climate change and what they are doing to reduce them. In the riskier new era of climate change, the longer countries take to close that gap, the more painful and deadly the outcomes."
You knew this was coming.