(American and Dutch politicians visit the Maeslant Barrier gates near Hoek van Holland,
Netherlands to study flood prevention techniques)
By SETH BORENSTEIN
AP Science Writer With the world losing the battle against global warming so far, experts are warning that humans need to follow nature's example: Adapt or die.
That means elevating buildings, making taller and stronger dams and seawalls, rerouting water systems, restricting certain developments, changing farming practices and ultimately moving people, plants and animals out of harm's way.
Adapting to rising seas and higher temperatures is expected to be a big topic at the U.N. climate-change talks in Copenhagen next week, along with the projected cost - hundreds of billions of dollars, much of it going to countries that cannot afford it.
That adaptation will be a major focus is remarkable in itself. Until the past couple of years, experts avoided talking about adjusting to global warming for fear of sounding fatalistic or causing countries to back off efforts to reduce emissions.
"It's something that's been neglected, hasn't been talked about and it's something the world will have to do," said Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. "Adaptation is going to be absolutely crucial for some societies."
Some biologists point to how nature has handled the changing climate. The rare Adonis blue butterfly of Britain looked as if it was going to disappear because it couldn't fly far and global warming was making its habitat unbearable. To biologists' surprise, it evolved longer thoraxes and wings, allowing it to fly farther to cooler locales.
"Society needs to be changing as much as wildlife is changing," said Texas A&M biologist Camille Parmesan, an expert on how species change with global warming.
One difficulty is that climate change is happening rapidly.
"Adaptation will be particularly challenging because the rate of change is escalating and is moving outside the range to which society has adapted in the past" when more natural climate changes happened, U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief Jane Lubchenco, a marine biologist, told Congress on Wednesday.
Cities, states and countries are scrambling to adapt or are at least talking about it and setting aside money for it. Some examples:
President Barack Obama and Congress are talking about $1.2 billion a year from the U.S. for international climate aid, which includes adaptation. The U.N. climate chief, Yvo de Boer, said $10 billion to $12 billion a year is needed from developed countries through 2012 to "kick-start" things. Then it will get even more expensive.