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Investing in climate adaptation can stimulate trillions in benefits
Unless you are the President of the United States or some such exalted position that allows you to be out of touch with reality, it is really impossible for sane and rational people to ignore the impending impact of climate change. Because it is not really impending anymore. Climate change is here, disrupting our lives, changing crop cycles, and bringing about destruction, drought and death in various parts of the world. Impacted are the most vulnerable. Farmers, marginalised people, women, children – as nature wreaks havoc on everything in its path. In a recent report by the Global Commission of Adaption (GCA), the Commission led by the former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also has the head of the World Bank - Kristalina Georgieva, and Bill Gates – the head of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – amongst others. The Commission is convened by 20 countries, including India. The commission says that the world has a moral responsibility to ensure that people are adequately able to adapt to the change brought about by changing climatic patterns. And part of this ability to adapt includes the role of government and corporations who take active steps in enabling measures that will help people go about their everyday life, without too much major disruption. As climate change hits, the world is seeing drought in some areas, and massive floods in the other, that massively impacts food production and supply, leading to worries of spreading world hunger. It also impacts lives – as violent rains, typhoons and hurricanes become more frequent. As temperatures rise – this was the hottest summer ever – the really young, and the really old get tremendously impacted. Not everyone can afford air conditioning – and if everyone could, it would add to the issue of global warming. In the report, the authors call for an emphasis on adaption. They believe it is not just about survival, but also an economic need, that holds many opportunities for the future. “Adaptation is an economic imperative as well. This report finds that investing in adaptation, and in the innovation that comes with it, can unlock new opportunities and spur change across the globe. Adaptation can provide a triple dividend: it avoids economic losses, brings positive gains, and delivers additional social and environmental benefits." And, as such the Commission recommends that governments across the world get geared for climate change by radically rethinking decision making. The commission calls for ‘understanding, planning, and finance’ that makes the risks of climate change visible, and takes these risks into account while making policy. The Commission calls for various degrees of adaption to cope with the crisis, based on three levels of imperatives – the human imperative, the economic imperative, and the environmental one. It calls for investment in the areas of climate change. It states that investing $1.8 trillion in 5 areas – ‘early warning systems, climate-resilient infrastructure, improved dryland agriculture crop production, global mangrove protection, and investments in making water resources more resilient’ – in the decade from 2020 to 2030 will generate almost 4x returns - $7.1 trillion in economic benefits. The cost of not doing this is too high. The report emphatically states that without this kind of adaption, global food production will decrease by 30 percent; over 5 billion people would be without adequate drinking water; coastal areas of many countries would be reclaimed by the sea, pushing people inwards to the mainland. And, of course, for countries like India that have worked so hard at moving people from poverty, we may see these people slip back into poverty. We can no longer ignore the evidence of climate change. It is time policy included measures for addressing this change. The only way to mitigate the disaster that will be wreaking havoc in our economies and nations is to plan to mitigate the disaster. And, that means a global alliance to combat climate change. There needs, says the report, a revolution in understanding, planning, and financing to overcome this challenge. The question is whether we will be ready for it before it is too late.