Iconic Figure: An Integrated Framework: Mitigation and Adaptation

By: Dr. Ricky Rood , 1:29 PM GMT on November 28, 2007

Iconic Figure: An Integrated Framework: Mitigation and Adaptation

In my class I have a set of figures that I call the "iconic figures" of climate change. There are only a handful of them, and they are the figures that I think all my students should be aware of and understand.

Figure 1: This figure from the 2001 IPCC Report introduces the terms “mitigation” and “adaptation” as the broadest areas of our decision to do something about climate change. The figure is discussed at length below.

This iconic figure shows the concepts that are used to discuss the climate change as a whole. It was originally called the integrated framework, and this version of the figure is taken from the IPCC 2001 report. This figure has been around in this basic form since at least the mid-1990s.

In the bottom left of the figure there is the oval labeled “Emissions and Concentrations.” This represents that the composition of the atmosphere is being changed through the addition of constituents that change the absorption and reflection of solar and infrared energy in the Earth’s atmosphere and at the Earth’s surface. These emissions are divided into two categories. The first category is greenhouse gases, which are long-lived enough that they are distributed throughout the atmosphere. What we are concerned with in human impacts on the planet are those emissions which come directly from activities that support human activities. The greenhouse gas emissions most directly related to human activities are carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, the chlorofluorocarbons, and methane. The second category of emissions is aerosols, which are particulates in the atmosphere. In comparison with the greenhouse gases, aerosols are not evenly distributed throughout the atmosphere. Also, they do not stay in the atmosphere as long as the green house gases.

Through the changes in absorption and reflection of solar and infrared energy, the Earth’s temperature structure will change. Focusing only on the greenhouse gases, the addition of greenhouse gases will hold heat near the surface for a longer time before it is returned to space. The Earth’s surface will warm; the upper atmosphere will cool. This warming near the surface is the cause of “Climate Change;” the upper left oval. There are many consequences of warming the surface, but rising temperature, melting of ice on the land, and changes in the weather are all certain. The melting of ice on land will lead to more water in the ocean, and the sea encroaching on the land.

What to do? At the most basic level there are two choices. Do something or don’t do anything. It is reasonable to conclude that changes to climate of the magnitude that is predicted will be consequential; humans will be impacted; non-human ecosystems will be impacted. (The oval on the top right named, “Impacts on Human and Natural Systems.”) The impacts can be positive or negative. Most current analyses are that the sum total of the consequences will be negative. Therefore, many reach the conclusion to do something, and what to do falls into two large categories.

Mitigation is doing something to stop the increase of greenhouse gases. Adaptation is doing things to adapt to the particulars of climate change. With this simple split of responses, there are many paths of analysis that can be explored. There are, perhaps, philosophical paths. Until recently public discussion of adaptation was muted. Some maintained that if we allowed the possibility of adaptation, then we would forget about mitigation. There are paths that allow us to think about businesses: The impact of expenditures on adaptation strategies are relatively easily to evaluate. Because greenhouse gases stay in the atmosphere for many years, expenditures on mitigation are difficult to evaluate and their benefit is realized long into the future compared with lifetime investment planning, if not human lifetimes. There are political, environmental, economic, scientific, management, and more ways to think about mitigation and adaptation. It is safe to conclude that we will be compelled to adapt to climate change, and we have a responsibility for mitigation. Some would argue that our ultimate survival depends on mitigation.

What we do, our choices about mitigation and adaptation are represented in the square named “Socio-Economic Development Paths.” These socio-economic development paths range from “Business as Usual” to ideas of managing and engineering our pollutants, de facto our climate, through policy, economics, and technology.

There are two other terms that require definition at this level of looking at the problem. The first is “geo-engineering.” Some people consider geo-engineering to be adaptation. Some consider it a type of mitigation. In the same spirit that we did not talk about adaptation for a long time, geo-engineering has, until recently, been a muted topic of conversation. The argument would be that if we think that we can engineer the climate to our liking, then we will not be motivated to mitigate climate change. Opinion: Geo-engineering needs to be in our portfolio, especially if you count amongst geo-engineering strategies of the storage of carbon dioxide underground (sequestration) or removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The next term that is fundamental is “resilience.” Resilience is how well we are able to adapt. It is intuitive, mostly, that more technologically advanced societies are more resilient, better able to build seawalls, floating cities, and indoor environments. Increased resilience is also a possible planning or investment path.

These are basic definitions that are central to the discussion, argument, planning, and organization of climate change. Here is, once again, the link to the IPCC glossary which has more complete definitions and nuances on terms. Also here is a powerpoint presentation that I have put together on mitigation and adaptation. It might not be the most exciting, but it is, perhaps, useful.


IPCC Glossary

Powerpoint (PPT) Mitigation and Adaptation

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106. moonlightcowboy
5:26 AM GMT on December 01, 2007


Solar Flares

Coronal Mass Ejection

CMEs typically reach Earth one to five days after the eruption from the Sun. During their propagation, CMEs interact with the solar wind and the Interplanetary Magnetic Field (IMF). As a consequence, slow CMEs are accelerated towards the speed of the solar wind and fast CMEs are decelerated towards the speed of the solar wind. Fast CMEs (faster than about 500 km -1) eventually drive a shock. This happens when the speed of the CME in the frame moving with the solar wind is faster than the local fast magnetosonic speed. Such shocks have been observed directly by coronagraphs [3] in the corona and are related to type II radio bursts. They are thought to form sometimes as low as 2 Rs (solar radii). They are also closely linked with the acceleration of Solar Energetic Particles.

........-- doesn't it look painfully obvious what is causing the globe to warm?
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29617
104. desertdisaster
7:17 PM GMT on November 30, 2007
Don’t laugh too loud vortfix, it might happen…

In early September in 1859, telegraph wires suddenly shorted out in the United States and Europe, igniting widespread fires. Colorful aurora, normally visible only in polar regions, were seen as far south as Rome and Hawaii.

The event 144 years ago was three times more powerful than the strongest space storm in modern memory, one that cut power to an entire Canadian province in 1989. A new account of the 1859 event, from research led by Bruce Tsurutani of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, details the most powerful onslaught of solar energy in recorded history

If it happens anytime soon, we won't know exactly what to expect until it's over, and by then some modern communication systems could be like beachfront houses after a hurricane.
102. desertdisaster
4:41 PM GMT on November 30, 2007
Moonlight, take it like something positive... You get to learn a bunch of things for free.
101. desertdisaster
4:14 PM GMT on November 30, 2007
I hope all this is pure speculation, Sullivan, because if something like that happens during a magnetic pole reversal, we are cooked. What makes you believe that it could happen?
100. moonlightcowboy
3:51 PM GMT on November 30, 2007
...just GR8! Now, I've got to read about Carrington Flares! Thanks, guys! :P
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29617
99. sullivanweather
3:44 PM GMT on November 30, 2007

Fshhead and I always talk about the possibility of a second coming of a Carrington Flare sized solar storm in 2012.

That would certainly not be good...
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98. desertdisaster
10:36 AM EST on November 30, 2007

Another intersting subject related to Climat Change...

A NASA satellite designed, built and controlled by the University of Colorado at Boulder is expected to help scientists resolve wide-ranging predictions about the coming solar cycle peak in 2012 and its influence on Earth's warming climate...

Solar activity alters interactions between Earth's surface and its atmosphere, which drive global circulation patterns, said Woods. While warming on Earth from increased solar brightness is modest compared to the natural effects of volcanic eruptions, cyclical weather patterns like El Nino or human emissions of greenhouse gases, regional temperature changes can vary by a factor of eight.

With mounting concern over the alteration of Earth's surface and atmosphere by humans, it is increasingly important to understand natural "forcings" on the sun-Earth system that impact both climate and space weather, said Woods. Such natural forcing includes heat from the sun's radiation that causes saltwater and freshwater evaporation and drives Earth's water cycle.

Increases in UV radiation from the sun also heat up the stratosphere -- located from 10 miles to 30 miles above Earth -- which can cause significant changes in atmospheric circulation patterns over the planet, affecting Earth's weather and climate, he said. "We will never fully understand the human impact on Earth and its atmosphere unless we first establish the natural effects of solar variability."

So it seems that we still have a lot to learn...


I also fell on some strange prediction for December 21 2012 which coincide with the High of solar cycle and the end of the Mayan calandar...! It is resumed Here
97. cyclonebuster
9:35 AM GMT on November 30, 2007
This will cool us off some,perhaps???

Still a Chance Asteroid May Hit Earth in 2036

When it comes to 22-million-ton asteroids, the small stuff, it turns out, can make a huge difference in a potentially disastrous path toward Earth.

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96. moonlightcowboy
4:05 AM GMT on November 30, 2007
Vort, O U T S T A N D I N G read of Lord Nigel Lawson! That is the most intuitive read yet on the subject of climate change. And, I highly recommend it to the advocates as well as the skeptics. It is a very sensible and objective observance and discernment.

Thanks for that post!
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94. latitude25
9:30 PM EST on November 29, 2007
That guy is supposed to be an ice-core "expert". I have read....and re-read this piece.....and I am more confused everytime.

What he is saying, is that since the ice core and temp data
does not support CO2 induced global warming
they are backing off on that and now saying
that CO2 does not start of stop it
but amplifies it

even though their graphs and data does not support that either.
Member Since: August 24, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 3654
93. moonlightcowboy
1:59 AM GMT on November 30, 2007
Lat, that should "sum" all of this up!

It's job safety in GW "futures!" Wish I had been that smart to choose that profession in college!
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92. latitude25
8:46 PM EST on November 29, 2007
MC, this is exactly what I meant, when I said I don't believe they would have any price to pay for being wrong:

I said:

However, I really don't see where
they would have any price to pay,
or penalty.

This is what Vincewnt Gray says:

The actual difference between weather forecasts and climate %u201Cprojections%u201D
is that weather forecasts can always be checked whether they are correct.
Climate %u201Cprojections%u201D or even %u201Cpredictions%u201D can never be checked
whether they are correct because they are always made so far ahead
that the practitioners can be guaranteed a well-paid career and a comfortable retirement
before anybody could wake up to the fact that
the emperor has no clothes.
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91. latitude25
8:22 PM EST on November 29, 2007
Great read MC

The embarrassment caused by the absence of global warming
has almost led to the abandonment of the term
and its replacement with the term climate change

No climate model has ever successfully predicted any future climate event,
even as successfully as that made by weather forecasters.

the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established in 1988
to accumulate additional evidence FOR Climate Change,

Member Since: August 24, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 3654
90. latitude25
8:18 PM EST on November 29, 2007
I don't know so much if I would call it arrogant,
as I would call it gullible.

We put entirely too much credence in "science".
We have gotten so gullible,
that we actually believe that science is right

Being a scientist does not mean that you know what you are talking about

Taking liberty with the definition,

A scientist is a person that studies something,
because they do not have a clue and are trying to get one.
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89. moonlightcowboy
1:17 AM GMT on November 30, 2007
New Zealand Association of Scientists discussion
(Vincent Gray is an ex-IPCC reviewer)

...excellent read! (from BajaALemt's blog)
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29617
88. moonlightcowboy
12:58 AM GMT on November 30, 2007
Man has gotten so arrogant. To believe he can 'out-think' and manipulate the planet to those extremes is taking it a bit far.

Why don't we spend that time and money on better things? Like finding a cure for cancer, feeding the world's hunger....tons of more philanthropic needs that need to be met, than all of this "unknown" attributed bureaucracy now on a planetary scale where the US will have to pick up the tab!

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86. latitude25
7:56 PM EST on November 29, 2007

Don't let that graph fool you
one little tic mark,
represents thousands of years

There are periods of 10's of thousands of years
where the temps have shot back up
while CO2 levels drop

If we lower our little bitty percentage of CO2
and wait a few ten's of thousands of years
and the temp does not go down

I'm going to be really ticked off!

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84. moonlightcowboy
12:48 AM GMT on November 30, 2007
Lat, lol. I kind of like your "$20,000 certain" theory!
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83. latitude25
7:34 PM EST on November 29, 2007
ok, loan me $20,000
and I'm certain I'll pay you back ;-)

If this is true what stops the warming

Rumor has it, that the planet used to run out of CO2.
When there was no more CO2, the temps would start to fall.
But in almost every case on that graph,
temps started to fall in spite of elevated CO2.
If lowering CO2 will lower temps,
and there is a 800 to 1000 year lag or delay,
you would not see temps rise back up that far for that long,
while CO2 levels continue to fall.

Rumor has it that we are adding so much CO2,
it won't run out this time.


There are entirely too many examples on that graph
Where temps have acted independent of CO2

CO2 goes up
temps go down

Temps go down
CO2 goes up

Completely contrary to CO2 going up and temps going up,
or CO2 going down and temps going down

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80. moonlightcowboy
12:29 AM GMT on November 30, 2007
79. sebastianjer 12:29 AM GMT on November 30, 2007
Some (currently unknown) process

-- JER, I with you. Seems to me if there was still "unknown" processes, you'd think "conclusions" would be difficult to validate. Of course, like Ricky says, decisions can be made (and should be, sometimes maybe) in the face of uncertainty. But, on this scale, seems to me a bit more certainty would be warranted.
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79. sebastianjer
7:28 PM EST on November 29, 2007
I've been trying to keep up with you scientist types, I can't, lol. But I do have a question.

From studying all the available data (not just ice cores), the probable sequence of events at a termination goes something like this. Some (currently unknown) process causes Antarctica and the surrounding ocean to warm. This process also causes CO2 to start rising, about 800 years later. Then CO2 further warms the whole planet, because of its heat-trapping properties. This leads to even further CO2 release.

If this is true what stops the warming? If once the chain of events begins and "CO2 further warms the whole planet, because of its heat-trapping properties. This leads to even further CO2" This sounds like you would have run away global warming, but obviously this has not happened in the past, so if CO2 is the big bad boogey man what stopped this chain reaction run away global warming as stated in the above statement?

Like I said I'm a long way from being a scientist. However unless someone can explain to me how past temperature increases that released CO2 which caused more warming and then more CO2 stopped from burning up the planet, then I think the whole thing is a myth, IMHO

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78. latitude25
7:08 PM EST on November 29, 2007

I just took a good look at that graph.

I can't believe how many times temps have shot way up,
while CO2 continued to fall

If reducing CO2 makes temps fall
how can temps shoot up so high
while CO2 continues to drop?

Look at about 230,000 BP
Temps shot back up to within 2 degrees of where
they were during the last optimum
The whole time Co2 levels continued to fall.

If reducing CO2 lowers temps,
that can't happen.
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77. moonlightcowboy
11:59 PM GMT on November 29, 2007
...ain't gonna find a "smoking CO2 gun!"

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75. latitude25
6:38 PM EST on November 29, 2007
We will discuss his research on the use of tree rings for paleoclimatology.

I love the way it's pushed that there
is a consensus.

Ice core, nope not enough
we need tree core samples
nope not enough
we need coral core samples
nope not enough

If there was a consensus,
they would not need to keep abusing
all this wildlife.
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74. latitude25
6:27 PM EST on November 29, 2007
So then the fact that temperature leads CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is correct.

vortfix, there's a perfect example of that on your graph


Look at right about 115,000 BP.

See how the temp started dropping first,
that started the drop in CO2
Once CO2 started dropping
Even though there was a big spike in temp,
right about 110,000 BP
CO2 kept falling

I hate to say it, but that more or less proves that
CO2 is not driving the bus.

CO2 kept falling, while temps spiked way up and leveled off.
It took about 30,000 years for CO2 to get the message,
and then try to rise again,
only to be shot back down by the temps falling again

The more I think about it,
the more there's a perfectly normal
biologial process going on here.

And CO2 is not driving the bus.

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73. Patrap
5:28 PM CST on November 29, 2007
The Barometer Bob Show

The Barometer Bob Show for November 29, 2007!

My guest will be Henri D. Grissino-Mayer, Associate Professor of Geography, at The University of Tennessee. We will discuss his research on the use of tree rings for paleoclimatology.
You can call into the show LIVE at
1-866-931-8437(U.S.A Toll Free) or 904-259-4229 World Wide (Tolls Apply)
With your host Barometer Bob Brookens from Hurricane Hollow Weather!

Visit StormChat during the Show also. Link
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72. latitude25
6:23 PM EST on November 29, 2007
Warmer oceans cannot hold as much CO2 as colder ones so it is released to the atmosphere.

Sulli, said it much better than I did. :-D

Actually, it's two fold.

Warmer oceans produce more CO2 also.

I know people keep talking about the oceans being a sink,
but the things in the ocean have to breathe too.
Much of what is seen as the oceans releasing CO2,
is also part higher production.

So higher temps = higher metabolism = more CO2
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71. moonlightcowboy
10:56 PM GMT on November 29, 2007
32. Patrap 5:17 PM GMT on November 29, 2007
Forests Damaged by Hurricane Katrina Become Major Carbon Source

...a very interesting read Pat! Shows that Katrina was even more serious!
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70. moonlightcowboy
10:52 PM GMT on November 29, 2007
Thanks, Lat, Sully and Vort. Makes sense. I just thought that the new vegetation would take in more C02 from the atmosphere. But, I can see that the "natural" cycle takes over with both respirations. A new carbon producing source is born with the exposed land. I was thinking maybe it helped.

Thanks, again.
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68. sullivanweather
10:37 PM GMT on November 29, 2007

When one increases the biomass there more respiration. Large swaths of land that would have been previously covered in ice are now allowed to be able to support biomes - lush forests, grasslands, shrubland, etc.

CO2 is give and take between the biosphere and the atmosphere. The more biomass=the more CO2 as there's greater levels of carbon exchange due to respiration of more plant/animal life.

There's lots of carbon in the top layers of soil that's not necessarily in a 'sink'. It's available for exchange given the presence of biomass which would otherwise be locked under hundreds of meters of ice during ice ages.

This increase in carbon exchange is what gives rise to the fluctuations in CO2 concentration in the atmosphere between ice ages and hypsythermals. Of course, this is the natrual exchange of CO2.

Our addition of CO2 is taken from sinks, that's why we're rising out of the natrual variability of CO2 concentrations.
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67. latitude25
5:34 PM EST on November 29, 2007
MC, the surface of this planet relies on a bacterial filter to keep it running.
That filter leaks CO2.

Oh jeez, I can't think of a good example.

Maybe an aquarium.
If you don't aerate it,
CO2 builds up from the bacteria processing waste. Higher than ambient.

That's not a good example,
but all I can come up with right now.

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65. latitude25
5:30 PM EST on November 29, 2007
So the lag is quite close to what would be expected, if CO2 were acting as a feedback.

Actually, the lag is exactly (not quite close) what would actually happen (not be expected),
if there was no feedback at all.
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64. moonlightcowboy
10:16 PM GMT on November 29, 2007
53. sullivanweather 8:03 PM GMT on November 29, 2007
With the ice cap now melting back faster, and more carbon exchange occurs between biosphere and atmosphere, carbon dioxide levels rise.

56. latitude25 8:18 PM GMT on November 29, 2007
You talked about the "physical" of warming,
more land, less ice, etc

But you can't leave out the biological

I may be missing something here, so please excuse me if I am. But, when the ice caps recede exposing more land mass, wouldn't there be more vegetation sink for CO2? Resulting in cooling? I'll guess that there is new human/animal/microbe producing C02 as well, but I would lean more on the side of that equation as being "displaced" from other land masses.

Overtime, yes, I could see CO2 production being higher from these areas, but the carbon sink I would think would be up and running first and offset these future C02 production changes.

Thanks, the posts have been particularly interesting today.
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62. Patrap
3:03 PM CST on November 29, 2007
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60. desertdisaster
3:55 PM EST on November 29, 2007
A quick answer about the lag:

So one should not claim that greenhouse gases are the major cause of the ice ages. No credible scientist has argued that position (even though Al Gore implied as much in his movie). The fundamental driver has long been thought, and continues to be thought, to be the distribution of sunshine over the Earth's surface as it is modified by orbital variations. This hypothesis was proposed by James Croll in the 19th century, mathematically refined by Milankovitch in the 1940s, and continues to pass numerous critical tests even today.

The greenhouse gases are best regarded as a biogeochemical feedback, initiated by the orbital variations, but then feeding back to amplify the warming once it is already underway. By the way, the lag of CO2 of about 1000 years corresponds rather closely to the expected time it takes to flush excess respiration-derived CO2 out of the deep ocean via natural ocean currents. So the lag is quite close to what would be expected, if CO2 were acting as a feedback.

The response time of methane and nitrous oxide to climate variations is measured in decades. So these feedbacks operate much faster.

The quantitative contribution of CO2 to the ice age cooling and warming is fully consistent with current understanding of CO2's warming properties, as manifested in the IPCC's projections of future warming of 3±1.5 C for a doubling of CO2 concentration. So there is no inconsistency between Milankovitch and current global warming.

59. desertdisaster
3:38 PM EST on November 29, 2007
I am much to busy right now to give in depth replies, but I’ll just say that This Christopher Monckton from which your article comes from, does not have much credibility from what I read…
Link and Link but also Link

58. crucilandia
8:20 PM GMT on November 29, 2007

How much has soil and sediments warmed in the last 100yrs?

Where is the bulk of microbes found in soil and marine sediments.
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57. crucilandia
8:17 PM GMT on November 29, 2007
Optimum to whom?

The optimum temperature of some thermophiles is 100C.
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Dr. Ricky Rood's Climate Change Blog

About RickyRood

I'm a professor at U Michigan and lead a course on climate change problem solving. These articles often come from and contribute to the course.

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Clouds in the lee of the Rockies at sunset.
Clouds in the lee of the Rockies at sunset.
Clouds in the lee of the Rockies at sunset.