Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation

Mitigation – An intervention to reduce the anthropogenic forcing of the climate system; it includes strategies to reduce greenhouse gas sources and emissions and enhancing greenhouse gas sinks [1].
Adaptation – Adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities. Various types of adaptation can be distinguished, including anticipatory, autonomous and planned adaptation [1].

  • Anticipatory adaptation – Adaptation that takes place before impacts of climate change are observed. Also referred to as proactive adaptation.
  • Autonomous adaptation – Adaptation that does not constitute a conscious response to climatic stimuli but is triggered by ecological changes in natural systems and by market or welfare changes in human systems. Also referred to as spontaneous adaptation.
  • Planned adaptation – Adaptation that is the result of a deliberate policy decision, based on an awareness that conditions have changed or are about to change and that action is required to return to, maintain, or achieve a desired state.
Vulnerability – Vulnerability is the degree to which a system is susceptible to, and unable to cope with, adverse effects of climate change, including climate variability and extremes. Vulnerability is a function of the character, magnitude, and rate of climate change and variation to which a system is exposed, its sensitivity, and its adaptive capacity [1].

The impacts of climate change – such as coastal flooding and erosion and impacts to terrestrial and marine ecosystems – will affect the built and natural environment, livelihoods, and food security [2]. Understanding the extent of these changes and their impacts and identifying early adaptation actions is essential to protecting communities and natural resources.

Mitigating the effects of climate change will require immediate and unprecedented levels of intergovernmental cooperation among world governments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The State of Hawaii has a bold energy agenda – to achieve 100 percent clean energy by the year 2045.  The Hawaii State Energy Office is leading the charge and has embarked on a strategic plan to position Hawaii as a proving ground for clean energy technologies and accelerate our transformation to a clean energy economy. Along with reducing our islands’ dependency on fossil fuels and increasing efficiency measures, the clean energy plan is also contributing to the State’s economic growth. In the meantime, it is imperative that we take immediate and unprecedented steps to prepare for climate change, given that changes are already being observed and significant impacts are expected, even under the most optimistic mitigation scenarios.

Despite global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, climate change impacts will require adaptation to new conditions.  Adaptation will require decision making, best practices and policy development based on an understanding of current and future vulnerabilities to adverse effects of climate change.


  1. IPCC, IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007: Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. 2007.
  2. U.S. Coral Triangle Initiative Support Program, Climate Change Adaptation for Coral Triangle Communities: Guide for Vulnerability Assessment and Local Early Action Planning (LEAP Guide). 2013: United States Agency for International Development.