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“Warmer summers – bring it on” was not one of the findings of the Global Commission on Adaptation

“Warmer summers, bring it on” – whilst the quote may not be 100% accurate, it captures the sentiment of statement made by one person questioned by a Channel 4 reporter during the Extinction Rebellion protest in central Manchester recently.

I do appreciate that to some (maybe most of us) living in the UK, the impact of climate change may seem somewhat intangible, even remote, but as we have blogged previously, there are a number of tangible reasons why “going green is good business” and so for business (as well as personal) reasons, I was interested today when I heard mention of the “Adapt Now: A Global Call for Leadership on Climate Resilience”.

Economics

The main headline from the report is “that when done right, climate resilience can yield economic, social and environmental benefits.”  This return on investment is quantified – “investing $1.8 trillion globally in five areas from 2020 to 2030 could generate $7.1 trillion in total net benefits.”

Benefits in adaptation

Warning systemsFor the vulnerable island and coastal communities in particular, early warnings about storms, very high tides and other extreme weather can save lives. Better weather monitoring and a simple app for fishing communities in the Cook Islands, for example, allows them to plan according to the sea conditions
InfrastructureBuilding better roads, buildings and bridges to suit the changing climate. One project in New York City has set out to paint rooftops white – a heat-reflecting strategy to cool buildings and neighbourhoods
Improving dry-land agricultureSomething as simple as helping farmers to switch to more drought-resistant varieties of coffee crop could protect livelihoods and prevent hunger
Restoring and protecting mangrovesUnderwater mangrove forests protect about 18 million people from coastal flooding, but they’re being wiped out by development. Restoration projects could protect vulnerable communities from storms and boost fisheries’ productivity
WaterProtecting water supplies – and making sure that water is not being wasted – will be vital in a changing climate

Considerations, imperatives and the need for revolution

The report gives some stark considerations as to the implications of not acting and these include:

  • “Without adaptation, climate change may depress growth in global agriculture yields 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 $1 trillion 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 economic imperative is one of three imperatives listed in the report for accelerating adaptive actions: human and environmental being the other two.  It then cites three areas where a “revolution” is required to achieve the change required (scale and pace) – understanding, planning and finance.

Action now

I do not think I can do better than to copy and paste some text from the report to conclude:

“The next 15 months are critical to mobilizing action on climate change and support global development. The Commission will champion the Action Tracks at the UN Climate Action Summit in September 2019 and throughout the coming year, including importantly at the Climate Adaptation Summit in the Netherlands in October 2020. The Commission will also aim to encourage countries to raise the level of ambition on adaptation in the lead up to the international climate summit, COP26, in December 2020. We invite collaboration from all segments of society—governments, the private sector, civil society, and citizens around the global—to join us in urgently taking this agenda forward.”

A full copy of the report can be found here.

Food for thought – one example

In an expansion on one of the implications of inaction above, the point below gives additional context to the problem and also where and how resources should be deployed – “Global demand for food will increase by 50 percent and yields may decline by up to 30 percent by 2050 in the absence of ambitious climate action. A more resilient food future will rely on sharp increases in agricultural R&D, which has demonstrated benefit-cost ratios between 2:1 and 17:1; better alignment of government finance and incentives for farmers with long-term, sustainable, climate-smart production; and a step change in access to information, innovative technologies, and finance to enhance the resilience of 500 million small-scale farming households whose livelihoods are most critically impacted by climate change”.

I am aware that a number of or clients and other businesses across the south west are engaged in R&D to improve yields and / or reduce waste in food production.  The latter area is the theme for my colleagues’ annual food and drink focused seminar this year – more details can be found here.

By Andrew James

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