Think of it as an all-of-the-above community resilience strategy.

For the last couple of decades, the response to global climate change has divided into two sharply-defined categories. Climate change mitigation is the effort to choke off carbon pollution at its source, aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% from a 1990 baseline by 2050. Adaptation refers to changes in physical and human systems—from sea walls along the Atlantic coast, to more resilient bioregional planning that anticipates future water shortages in a warming world.

The distinction is useful, and might even be necessary, to map out a broad climate change strategy. But mitigation and adaptation come together at the local levels, where citizens and municipalities have the greatest opportunity to imagine and build their own climate solutions.

  • It’ll be up to front-line communities to develop, refine, and share their own practical responses to severe weather, drought, wildfires, and other local impacts of climate change.
  • The biggest and best opportunities to curtail carbon pollution often show up in municipalities, neighborhoods, households, and specific business sectors, where the underlying demand for energy actually forms.

This approach leads to a response to the most serious global challenge of our lifetimes rests largely at the local and bioregional level. But what if that’s only part of the answer?

The Center for Force Majeure suggests that a global strategy is as important as a local one – we need to “Think Globally, and act Locally” but equally important we need to do the converse: “Think Locally and act Globally.”  Think of it as a top down meets bottom up strategy. If we’re right, then the conflict between adaptation and mitigation diminishes and adaptation becomes mitigation.

And that points to a paradigm shift as profound as the one that took place in the 20th century, when the revolution in physics brought a dramatic change in focus to the atomic and sub-atomic level.

Decades ago, we began to see that the assumptions that make sense in the Newtonian universe have little relevance in a world of microscopic particles. Climate change shifts our view again, in two ways: by forcing us to understand a complex, interconnected, global system, then by drawing us to a wider set of solutions that are only visible (and can only be implemented) at the community level.