Climate Adaptation Much More Profitable Than Climate Mitigation

Wednesday, January 27, 2021
Press release

Mortality from extreme weather down 99% in last century
Climate damage also declined over the past thirty years
Adaptation is profitable, mitigation is harmful

The world should focus much more on climate adaptation and much less on mitigation. This is the conclusion of the global Climate Intelligence Foundation (CLINTEL) following the international climate summit that took place in the Netherlands over the past two days.

Adaptation has already amply proven its value, while mitigation turns out to be inefficient and expensive. A ‘green recovery’ from the corona crisis with a strong emphasis on mitigation – which was constantly advocated during the climate summit – is therefore a misleading message.

The Netherlands hosted a global online conference on climate adaptation in the past two days. A great initiative! There is no better place in the world to host such a summit. Note that since 2018 the Netherlands also hosts the Global Center on Adaptation.

In the field of water protection, the Netherlands deserves the unofficial title of ‘world champion of adaptation’. We have been doing nothing else for centuries and our dikes have a flooding probability of 1 in 10,000 years while once every 100 years is common in the rest of the world. Delta science is big in The Netherlands. And Dutch experts also increasingly invest in adapting agricultural crops to changing climate conditions (drier, wetter, saltier etc.).

The CLINTEL Foundation has been a strong supporter of climate adaptation since its start in 2019. It is therefore pleased that the Netherlands has put this form of climate policy back on the international agenda. Too often and for too long, adaptation has been a neglected child.

As we stated in our founding document ‘Exploiting Climate Change’: “Many lifes have demonstrably been saved with adaptation, while the same cannot be said for mitigation (CO2 reduction) whatsoever.”

History shows the way

Now that the summit is over, CLINTEL finds it incomprehensible that all the good news that climate adaptation has brought over the past century has remained largely underexposed. Adaptation is presented as a ‘last resort’ that unfortunately has to be deployed because the Paris climate objectives (keeping the world below 2 degrees or preferably even below 1.5 degrees warming) will probably not be met. This is a great injustice to the role of adaptation. After all, adaptation has already ensured spectacular progress over the past century. Why is this not mentioned?

With two recently published graphs (see Appendix) we show how much has already been achieved, mainly thanks to prosperity and adaptation, and that there is absolutely no question of a climate crisis, as CLINTEL stated in its World Climate Declaration. The message of these graphs: ‘Mankind is increasingly able to cope with extremes. There is no reason to assume that this positive development will turn into a negative one tomorrow. Why sliding this evidence under the carpet?

Adaptation vs mitigation

In a 2019 report, the Global Commission on Adaptation already stated that one dollar invested in adaptation yields about four dollars in benefits. In other words: Adaptation yields prosperity. However, the Commission forgets to mention that mitigation scores much worse. Danish environmental economist Bjorn Lomborg estimates in a recent study that one dollar going to the Paris Climate Agreement (mitigation) yields only 11 cents in benefits. In other words: Mitigation yields poverty.


The message of the world leaders at the online adaptation top is misleading and wrong. CLINTEL’s message to the world is: ‘Increase investments in adaptation, stop pouring money in mitigation’. In other words: ‘Abandon as soon as possible the targets of the Paris


The Climate Intelligence Foundation (CLINTEL) was founded in March 2019 by Emeritus Professor of Geophysics Guus Berkhout and science journalist Marcel Crok. Since then, CLINTEL has rapidly grown into a global organization in 36 countries with 23 ambassadors.

CLINTEL wants to engage in a fundamental discussion with leading scientific organizations on climate and energy. To this end, it has issued a World Climate Declaration, a Scientific Manifesto with a message to all Academies of Science, a Magna Carta Universitatum with a message to all universities and its energy vision Energia Renovabilis with an energy message to all administrators and politicians.

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1 Comment

  1. Andrew Roman

    I agree with the above post, but regret the vocabulary used. Both mitigation and adaptation are generic words that have specific meaning to people who are involved in the climate debate but not to ordinary citizens who are not so involved. It is not self-evident that mitigation for Canadians equals carbon taxes, regulations and subsidies to reduce CO2 emissions for the entire planet, while adaptation equals protection of one’s national territory from sea level rise, hurricanes, wildfires, etc.

    Thus, the first is an attempted solution of a collective action problem, dependent upon full compliance of 190+ other nations, with no benefit to any nation individually. The second is an attempted solution to domestic problems that directly affect Canadians. The first is intended to take effect by 2100, the second, immediately.

    Most of the public now believes that mitigation is the only solution. Because of political speeches, most probably also believe that this and only this will reduce Canada’s national concerns like sea level rise, hurricanes and wildfires. At least that’s the way it has been presented. Adaptation sounds like ignoring an important long-term crisis through a short-term quick fix that won’t work in the long term. The effectiveness and cost of both mitigation and adaptation need to be better explained because they are not self-evident.

    I would suggest some changes in the vocabulary. Mitigation, today, could reasonably be called “net zero CO2 by 2050 for the planet”, or “net zero” for short. Adaptation could be called “protecting our environment from extreme weather events”, or “environmental protection”.

    In a recent TV briefing our Prime Minister spoke from a lectern with a sign in front saying “Healthy Economy, Healthy Environment”. His use of “Environment” in this way is confusing because the proposed Great Reset is not about the local environment, it is about the planet. In most people’s minds, the Environment implies that of the country or even local area, not the planet. This induces people to think that Canada’s target of net zero will make the local environment better, starting immediately. This helps to sell a planetary policy that will do nothing for the local environment.

    A better way to shift the priority from net zero to better adaptation to local environmentally damaging events is to suggest that the top first priority of Canadian environmental policy should be to Protect Canadians Now, at least while we are recovering from the pandemic. Meanwhile we can of course think about realistic planetary climate policies, recognizing that the developed nations represent only one third of the world’s population while the other two thirds will be rapidly increasing their per capita and aggregate CO2 emissions.

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