Both adaptation and mitigation can help to reduce the risks of climate change to nature and society

However, their effects vary over time and place. Mitigation will have global benefits but, owing to the lag times in the climate and biophysical systems, these will hardly be noticeable until around the middle of the 21st century [WGI AR4 SPM]. The benefits of adaptation are largely local to regional in scale but they can be immediate, especially if they also address vulnerabilities to current climate conditions [18.1.1, 18.5.2]. Given these differences between adaptation and mitigation, climate policy is not about making a choice between adapting to and mitigating climate change. If key vulnerabilities to climate change are to be addressed, adaptation is necessary because even the most stringent mitigation efforts cannot avoid further climate change in the next few decades. Mitigation is necessary because reliance on adaptation alone could eventually lead to a magnitude of climate change to which effective adaptation is possible only at very high social, environmental and economic costs [18.4,18.6].

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