Climate change is one of the greatest threats facing humanity, with far-reaching and devastating impacts on people, the environment and the economy. Climate impacts affect all regions of the world and cut across all sectors of society. People who did the least to cause the problem—especially those living in poverty and fragile areas—are most at risk.
Issues to Consider:
Without adaptation, climate change may depress growth in global agriculture yields by up to 30 percent by 2050. The 500 million small farms around the world will be most affected. The number of people who may lack sufficient water, at least one month per year, will soar from 3.6 billion today to more than 5 billion by 2050. Rising seas and greater storm surges could force hundreds of millions of people in coastal cities from their homes, with a total cost to coastal urban areas of more than US$1trillion each year by 2050. Climate change could push more than 100 million people within developing countries below the poverty line by 2030. The costs of climate change on people and the economy are clear. The toll on human life is irrefutable. The question is: how will the world respond, will we delay and pay more or plan ahead and prosper?
Accelerating climate change adaptation is a human, environmental, and economic imperative
The Human Imperative
Climate change exacerbates existing inequities by widening the gap between people with wealth and people living in poverty. It has a disproportionate impact on women and girls, who in most of the world have little voice in decisions that affect their lives. It also puts an unfair burden on future generations. Solutions to these climate-related inequities must address underlying power structures and dynamics. We will not accept a world where only some can adapt and others cannot.
The Environmental Imperative
The natural environment is humanity’s first line of defence against floods, droughts, heatwaves, and hurricanes. A thriving natural environment is fundamental to adaptation in every human enterprise. Yet one in four species is facing extinction; about a quarter of all ice-free land is now subject to degradation; ocean temperatures and acidity are rising; and climate change is accelerating the loss of natural assets everywhere. There is still time to protect and work with nature to build resilience and reduce climate risks at all scales, but the window is closing.
The Economic Imperative
Adapting now is strongly in our economic self-interest. The Commission found that the overall rate of return on investments in improved resilience is very high, with benefit-cost ratios ranging from 2:1 to 10:1, and in some cases even higher. Specifically, our research finds that investing US$1.8trillion globally in five areas from 2020 to 2030 could generate US $7.1trillion in total net benefits.
In other words, failing to seize the economic benefits of climate adaptation with high-return investments will undermine trillions of dollars in potential growth and prosperity. The five areas we considered for this estimate are: early warning systems; climate-resilient infrastructure; improved dryland agriculture crop production; global mangrove protection; and investments in making water resources more resilient. These areas are illustrative, based on available data for economic returns.
We find that adaptation actions bring multiple benefits, which we call the triple dividend. The first dividend is avoided losses – that is, the ability of the investment to reduce future losses. The second is positive economic benefits through reducing risk, increasing productivity, and driving innovation through the need for adaptation; and the third is social and environmental benefits.
While avoiding losses is the most common motivation for investing in resilience, taken alone such losses underestimate the total benefits to society. Many adaptation actions generate significant additional economic, social, and environmental benefits, which accrue on an ongoing basis starting at the time of investment and are not dependent on the future state of the climate. In other words, they are both more certain and more immediate. Better awareness of and evidence for all three dividends will make the economic imperative case for adaptation ever stronger.
About the Global Commission on Adaptation
It was launched in The Hague on 16th October 2018 by 8th UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The Commission launched with the mandate to encourage development of measures to manage the effects of climate change through technology, planning and investment. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon leads the group with co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates, and World Bank CEO, Kristalina Georgieva.
Postscript/Credit: This article was culled from the Executive Summary of the Global Commission on Adaptation’s 90-page flagship Report titled “Adapt Now: A Global Call for Leadership on Climate Resilience” which was launched in September 2019 at the United Nations Climate Change Summit. https://gca.org/global-commission-on-adaptation/home. This has been submitted to support my recent articles on Responsible Banking relating to the same subject matter of climate change (Environmental and Social Risk Management).
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This script was written by a Chartered Banker with a flair for feature writing. He works for a company which provides financial services. Apart from his work schedules, he edits or proof-reads corporate material for his colleagues, executive managers – including distinguished professionals working in various fields outside Banking. Through this column, his articles feature on third-party online media platforms in Ghana and outside. Email: Kwaku.Anumu@gmail.com