We need to invest $1.8 trillion on initiatives to make the world more climate change resilient by 2030 – that's the message of a report recently published by the Global Commission Adaption, set up by former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in October 2018. While it sounds like a large chunk of money, it could produce total net benefits worth over $7 trillion, they found.
The organization is made up of 34 leaders in politics, science, and business – a roster that includes tech entrepreneur and philanthropist Bill Gates and World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva.
The crux of their report, published ahead of the UN Climate Summit in September, is the sense that international efforts to decelerate climate change is encouraging but not up to scratch, and much more needs to be done to help global communities adjust to changes in the climate, from higher temperatures to rising sea levels and more extreme weather events. The report authors call for more urgency, innovation, and scale, and say that it is the moral obligation of richer nations to invest in measures that will help protect the world.
The report centers on five points: early warning systems, climate-resilient infrastructure, improved dryland agriculture, mangrove protection, and investments to make water resources more resilient.
The report describes a "triple dividend" if the recommended measures are applied, referring to the avoided losses, economic benefits, and social and environmental benefits of adapting to climate change. Early warning systems, for example, could save lives and assets worth 10 times (or more) their cost. A 24-hour warning system can cut the damage done by extreme weather events by 30 percent, while making infrastructure more climate-resilient has a benefit-cost ratio of 4:1, they found.
Reducing flood risk by building flood protections can boost the economy by encouraging investment in otherwise risky areas (think: London's Canary Wharf, an area that has benefited from the Thames Barrier), while mangrove forests offer $80 billion-plus in avoided losses from coastal flooding and provide defense for 18 million people.
But they say this investment in adaption initiatives should not be interpreted as an "alternative" to a more stringent push to stop – or diminish the severity of – climate change. Rather it is an expansion of climate change preparation.
Without adaptation, they warn we could witness a slump in the growth of global agriculture yields of up to 30 percent (as demand for food increases by 50 percent), an increase of people who cannot access sufficient water at least one month a year from 3.6 billion individuals today to over 5 billion by the half-century, and an increasing number of people forced to flee from their homes due to rising sea levels and increased storm surges. The latter could cost $1 trillion-plus by 2050, they say. The study's authors also highlight the grim fact that climate change could force more than 100 million people in developing nations below the poverty line within a decade.
"Adaptation can bring out bold ideas and inspire innovation beyond what people currently think is possible. Most of all, we need political leadership that shakes people out of their collective slumber," write chair Ban Ki-Moon and co-chairs Kritalina Georgieva and Bill Gates.
"We have reason for hope. Throughout history, people have adapted to change. In turbulent times, they have found ways to reduce risks and create new opportunities. With ingenuity and resourcefulness, people have overcome the most extraordinary challenges – from eradicating disease to rebounding from the devastation of war. We need this courageous spirit today."