Warning that the world is at risk of experiencing a “climate apartheid,” a report released Tuesday by the Global Commission on Adaptation found that spending $1.8 trillion globally over a decade on adaptation could yield $7.1 trillion in net benefits.
The commission’s report, Adapt Now: A Global Call for Leadership on Climate Resilience (pdf), outlines the human, environmental, and economic imperatives of investing in adaptation to the human-caused climate crisis. The report highlights the “triple dividend” of urgent, coordinated action: it would avoid future losses, generate positive economic gains, and deliver additional social and environmental benefits.
The proposed $1.7 trillion investment in climate adaptation and resulting $7.1 trillion in benefits are based on significant spending in five key areas—early warning systems, climate-resilient infrastructure, improved dryland agriculture, mangrove protection, and making water resources more resilient—between 2020 and 2030. The systemic transformations called for in the report particularly aim to address global inequalities that are increasingly exacerbated by the climate emergency.
The commission that produced the new analysis is chaired by former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates, and World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva. The trio wrote in the report’s foreward that, in terms of adapation, “so far the response has been gravely insufficient. Meanwhile, the climate crisis is here, now: wildfires ravage fragile habitats, city taps run dry, droughts scorch the land, and floods destroy people’s homes and livelihoods.”
Investing in adaptation “is a moral imperative,” Patrick Verkooijen, chief executive of the Global Center on Adaptation, which co-manages the commission with the World Resources Institute, told The Washington Post.
“Even if we were to live in 1.5 degree world we would need massive adaptation,” said Verkooijen, referring to the Paris climate accord goal of limiting average global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. “Investing in adaptation is not a tradeoff with mitigation. We need to do both.”
“We risk a climate apartheid where the wealthy pay to escape, while the rest of the world is left to suffer.”
—Patrick Verkooijen, Global Center on Adaptation
Absent global adaptation efforts, the report estimates that by 2050, declines in agricultural yields would most seriously impact the world’s 500 million small farms, the number of people lacking sufficient water could soar beyond five billion, and rising seas and devastating storms could force hundreds of millions people from their homes—costing coastal urban areas over $1 trillion per year.
Though the climate crisis is one of the greatest threats humanity faces and it impacts all sectors of society, as the report put it, “people who did the least to cause the problem—especially those living in poverty and fragile areas—are most at risk.”
“We risk a climate apartheid where the wealthy pay to escape, while the rest of the world is left to suffer,” Verkooijen warned. “Without bold adaptation action, climate change becomes a life sentence to poverty and suffering for already vulnerable and marginalized people.”
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