Converging on Adaptation

Big_FloodGlobal Adaptation Institute Founding CEO, Dr. Juan José Daboub, highlights the emerging consensus that adaptation is an imperative all can support.

The climate is changing and those changes are affecting hundreds of millions of people right now. Thankfully, adaptation is receiving increasing recognition from international leaders such as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who recently highlighted the priority of adaptation in an interview, in which I participated, with Andrés Oppenheimer. By the same token, the Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece from Copenhagen Consensus Center Director and Copenhagen Business School Adjunct Professor Bjørn Lomborg, “Global Warming and Adaptability,” which notes the usefulness of the Global Adaptation Index. Further, think tanks and businesses are adding adaptation initiatives and services to their existing climate work, such as CLIMsystems’ new Adaptation Project Monitoring and Evaluation endeavor.

Taking action on climate adaptation is urgent, and the Global Adaptation Institute’s approach is to bring together everybody who agrees on that one key thing — the urgency of adaptation action — and then we set aside all other areas of disagreement on the climate issue, because becoming a part of these conflicts would only slow down our ability to help people who are facing urgent needs right now and cannot wait twenty years for a solution.  Our mission as an organization is to focus our resources to move quickly with concrete action.  Our commitment is to stay out of politics. 

Most climate groups have been entirely dedicated to mitigation strategies. These groups have often found themselves using time and resources analyzing and debating the causes and prevention of climate change, but that is not our role and we are not part of that debate.  Our purpose is to support immediate, effective action on climate adaptation as an urgent priority. 

The fact that we are not part of the mitigation issue means that instead of expending resources trying to win arguments about the causes of climate change, we can use our energy to build the broadest possible coalition in favor of adaptation now.  We are one of the only groups focused on climate change that is able to work collaboratively with a remarkable cross-section of groups that may not fully agree on anything else except for the urgent need for adaptation to save human lives and livelihoods, and by doing this to build consensus on taking immediate action. 

The approach that most other climate groups take, different from ours, is certainly valid.  However, we believe that it is essential that at least one group fulfill the role that we are playing: having an exclusive focus on adaptation, setting aside everything else.  We prize the fact that we are able to work effectively with diverse groups who agree on adaptation action even if they have varied, even conflicting, positions regarding mitigation strategies and policies.

For those groups whose main focus is mitigation, we offer our friendship and reciprocal respect, and the recognition that mitigation is not our issue, it is their issue, and we wish them well.  What we do is different: our only focus is adaptation. 

By analogy, there can exist a group dedicated to preventing diabetes and another group dedicated to helping the blind.  Neither group opposes the other, neither wants the other group to fail.  These groups wish each other well, and acknowledge that they do different things, but with a common purpose of improving human health and a shared value of protecting human life.

Dr. Juan J. Daboub
Founding Chief Executive Officer
Global Adaptation Institute