From melting Arctic icebergs to record-breaking European heatwaves, Cyclones and Typhoons in Asia and super-charged hurricanes, floods, and wildfires in the Americas, climate change is making its impact felt across the globe. Climate-related disasters are now occurring at the rate of one a week, with the resulting costs estimated at $520 billion a year, according to the United Nations. Yet plans for adaptation of climate resilience are often overlooked as governments and donor agencies grapple with climate change priorities, policymaking and finance.
A new report by the Global Commission on Adaptation, headed by Microsoft founder turned philanthropist Bill Gates and former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon aims to change that. The report released in the aftermath of the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Dorian mapped out a $1.8 trillion blueprint to ready the world to withstand intensifying climate impacts. The Commission launched the report in a dozen capitals, with the overarching goal of jolting governments and business into action.
Within that blueprint lies numerous opportunities for companies worldwide. The private-sector investment will be crucial if the world is to cope with climate volatility in the coming decades—and companies, in turn, could see growth through projects related to water, agriculture and infrastructure.
Five climate resilience priorities
Specifically, the report calls for the massive public- and private-sector spending over the next decade on disaster early warning systems, climate-resilient infrastructure, and agriculture, mangrove protection and water security. The return on investment, the Commission estimates, would be substantial: as much as $7.1 trillion in environmental and social benefits, economic gains were driven by innovation and avoided climate-related losses.
To implement its adaptation blueprint, at the pace and scale required, the Commission calls for a “revolution” in how governments and business factor climate risks into decision-making and how planning decisions are made at every level. “With greater support for innovation, we can unlock new opportunities and spur change across the global ecosystem,” Gates said. “Adaptation is an urgent issue that needs support from governments and businesses to ensure those most at risk have the opportunity to thrive.”
The alternative, the report warns, will be deepening poverty, soaring levels of migration and an “irrefutable toll on human life.” Without adaptation, climate impacts may push more than 100 million people in developing countries into poverty by 2030, depress growth in global agriculture yields by up to 30 per cent by 2050 and make water shortages a reality for more than 5 billion people by mid-century. Rising sea levels and storm surges could force hundreds of millions from coastal cities, generating global costs of more than $1 trillion a year.
The Global Commission on Adaptation has contributed to the adaptation of resilience that governments will consider, as have the World Economic Forum and leading insurance companies. The action track will focus on disaster prevention and recovery, as well as “integrating climate risks into public and private sector decision-making to assure sustainability of food, water and jobs for the future.”