John Englander and the Urgency of Adaptation

John Englander taught me the urgency of climate adaptation.  His new book, Moving to Higher Ground, reminds us of that urgency while providing needed tools for thinking about – and more importantly acting on – climate adaptation. John’s focus is sea level rise (SLR), but much of his logic and facts apply across the spectrum of physical climate changes, including flooding, drought, storm intensity and heat waves.

“We need to see the big picture and begin bold adaptation. There is no time to waste. …This ever-rising tide will not bow to legislative edicts, politics, or financial constraints…. [I]t is both a crisis and an opportunity. If we act sooner and smarter, there will be more opportunity and less crisis.” 

John Englander, Moving to Higher Ground

John has been my Sea Level Rise mentor, but really my broader climate/adaptation guru. He is the one who enabled me to finally get my head around what we’re facing across the whole range of climate impacts. John helped me understand that stopping every GHG source tomorrow wouldn’t solve the problem. As he writes in his new book: “Even if the whole world could instantly switch to 100% renewable energy, such as solar or wind, sea level will continue to rise due to the excess heat already stored in the ocean, which has an effect of melting the ice on land.”

We all have to fight against the false choice of whether to fight climate change (strangely called “mitigation”) or prepare for it (“adaptation”). The answer is “both”.  We can’t choose one or the other. That would be like getting a diagnosis of lung cancer and asking your doctor which you should do, stop smoking or get treatment. The answer is obvious: both. (To be fair, that’s my grim analogy, not John’s.)

Moving to Higher Ground is essential reading for SLR, but also provides a unique framing for thinking about all climate uncertainty and action. John introduces constructive ways of working on adaptation, including adaptive engineering, intelligent adaptation, and why we need (but can’t wait for) professionals to change things like building codes.

Get it. Read it. Think about it. Act on it.

[Opinions in this blog are solely those of Scott Nadler. They do not necessarily represent views of Nadler Strategy’s clients or partners, or those cited in the post. To share this blog, see additional posts on Scott’s blog or subscribe please go to]

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