Responding to climate change involves using both the following approaches:
- mitigation: reducing and stabilizing the levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere
- adaptation: adapting to the climate change already happening or foreseen to happen
The IPCC and NASA explain that reducing future climate change involves reducing the flow of heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, either by reducing sources of these gases (for example, the burning of fossil fuels for electricity, heat or transport) or enhancing the “sinks” that accumulate and store these gases (such as the oceans, forests and soil).
The goal of mitigation is to avoid significant human interference with the climate system, and stabilize greenhouse gas levels in a timeframe sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner.
NASA explains that adapting to life in a changing climate involves adjusting to actual or expected future climate. The goal is to reduce our vulnerability to the harmful effects of climate change such as sea-level encroachment, more intense extreme weather events or food insecurity.
It also encompasses making the most of any potential beneficial opportunities associated with climate change, for example, longer growing seasons or increased yields in some regions.