These are perhaps the best climate investments that $ 1.8 trillion can buy

Sometimes you have to spend money to save money – and an important new report finds that spending $ 1.8 trillion on climate adaptation projects would result in $ 7.1 trillion in total net benefits. The report predicts that the most impressive return will come from investments that strengthen early warning systems for disasters such as storms and floods.

"If we postpone the adjustment, we will pay such a high price that we would never be able to look at ourselves in the mirror," said Christiana Figueres, who previously led the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change during climate approval in Paris agreement, said in a press release prior to the launch of the report. "Either we slow down and pay, or we plan and thrive."

The research has been published by the Global Commission on Adaptation, an organization jointly led by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, former Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon and Kristalina Georgieva, CEO of the World Bank. According to the report, "not exploiting the economic benefits of climate adaptation with high-return investments would undermine trillions of dollars in potential growth and prosperity."

To see those $ 7 trillion in benefits, governments and companies must lead money to five areas, according to the report. The first is to improve early warning systems for disasters. Secondly, it calls for the infrastructure to be climate-proof. It also cuts out expenses to get more out of crops, while using less water and conserving mangroves that protect coastal communities from storm tides. Finally, it emphasizes better management of the world's water resources. The benefits of spending in all these areas outweigh the costs by more than four in one.


The predicted $ 7 trillion in revenue will not immediately go back to stakeholders in the form of cold hard money. Instead, that number includes all avoided damage through better preparation for climate disasters (such as storms or heat waves), and economic, social and environmental benefits of the projects. "By investing in certain areas, you can reduce risk, you can improve productivity, you can stimulate innovation in ways that can bring other benefits," said Manish Bapna, a lead author and executive vice president and director of the World Resources Institute. The edge.

The benefits are greatest when it comes to tackling the ways in which we warn people and prepare them for disasters. "Early warning systems save lives and assets that are at least ten times as expensive," the report says. Providing a warning 24 hours before a storm or heat wave can minimize the damage by 30 percent by giving people the chance to prepare for the extreme weather. And the authors say that spending $ 800 million on these systems in developing countries can prevent up to $ 16 billion in losses every year.

Recent events, including the deadly toll of Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas and the sultry heat of this summer in France, underline why serious extreme weather events are in people's minds. "There is a sense of inevitability and helplessness in the face of such events, that nothing can be done or that something being done will not be enough to stop the devastating effects of a warming climate," Ban said on the press call. "I'm here today to tell you it's just not true."

Bapna pointed out how warning systems can be improved prior to a disaster, thanks to data science and the rapid dissemination of information and communication technologies. "The ability to process big data more effectively allows us to provide more detailed weather forecasts," says Bapna.

John Harding, secretary of climate risk & early warning systems at the World Meteorological Organization, says that progress has prevented storms such as Hurricane Dorian from being catastrophic. "Thanks to the higher modeling capacity, it is now possible to show the path of the hurricane with fairly high accuracy up to 5 days in advance – allowing life-saving measures to be taken," Harding said The edge in an email. "This is a key factor behind the relatively low loss of human life compared to the extent of physical damage."


Better predictions can also be used to determine which groups are most vulnerable and to find out how they can be reached in a more targeted way. "No one has to die in a heat wave," says Kristie Ebi, professor at the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the University of Washington. The edge. According to the report, understanding these vulnerabilities will become increasingly important because in 2030 climate change will throw more than 100 million people into poverty in developing countries alone. The authors ask for priority to be given to improvements in early warning systems in the least developed countries and small island states.

Ebi adds that figuring out which message to send and how to make people listen can be just as important as knowing when to send. "Much more is invested in setting thresholds for when a warning should be given than in fact how we increase the effective response," she says. "When hurricanes start approaching, there is always a fair number of people who say," I have seen a storm before, I stay in place. "

Bapna suggested finding ways to finance preparedness and recovery based on predictions before the disaster struck. He traditionally says: "the government or insurance agents go outside, they investigate the damage, they quantify what the damage has been, shortly afterwards you get the money." Instead, he suggests, "If we can actually allocate that money before the disaster strikes, no matter how inaccurate it may be, you can often use much less money much more effectively."

Both Bapna and Ban pointed to Bangladesh for a case study on successfully reducing the toll that a major storm demands. The cyclone death toll in the country fell from 138,000 in the 1991 cyclone that hit the Chittagong region to 3,363 deaths during Cyclone Sidr in 2007. Cyclone Fani killed five people in 2019. The report attributes the sharp decline to the country that has introduced stronger early warning systems and has scaled up its disaster response.

"We are talking about dollars here, but there is much more of a human story or dimension to this," says Bapna. "These are modest investments that can be made that can significantly reduce death and human misery."