March Toward Climate Catastrophe
Slowing the planetary march toward climate catastrophe has become a central issue of global and national debate. But there’s the equally expensive matter of dealing with the here and now: From historic wildfires to unprecedented hurricanes, global warming has reshaped the lives of millions, with increasingly tragic consequences.
While humans must pay to end the burning of fossil fuels, they must also pay to change how they live, invest and build in a climate-changed world. On Monday, an international commission of government and private-sector officials told countries and corporations that they have 15 months to jump-start reforms aimed at adapting to that changing environment.
In a new report, the 34-member group, led by Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates, former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and World Bank Chief Executive Officer Kristalina Georgieva, concluded that $1.8 trillion in investment by 2030 concentrated in five categories—weather warning systems, infrastructure, dry-land farming, mangrove protection, and water management—would yield $7.1 trillion in benefits.
“Every tenth of a degree rise in temperature matters as impacts scale quickly, even exponentially,” the authors write. “At higher temperature increases such as 3-4 degrees Celsius, it becomes almost certain that we will cross tipping points, or irreversible changes in ecosystems or climate patterns, which will limit our ability to adapt.”
“Governments and businesses need to radically rethink how they make decisions,” Ban Ki-moon said at a press conference Monday. “We need a revolution in understanding, planning, and financing that makes climate risk visible.”
In the Paris accord, each country submitted “nationally determined contributions” stating the cuts they’re willing to make in greenhouse gas emissions, largely through carbon pricing and renewable energy. Much less famously, the pact also pushed nations to set policies governing how they will adapt to changing conditions as the planet continues to warm.
“Bear in mind that we the developing states are the least responsible for the causes of climate change, but we are the very first victims of it,” said Simon Stiell, Minister of climate resilience in Grenada, one of the commission’s convening nations.
Over the next 15 months, the commissioners will seek funding for “action tracks” they said are necessary to prepare people for a Climate Adaptation Summit in the Netherlands in October 2020 and the subsequent UN negotiations. Among the simplest proposals are also the most potent: “Make risk visible.” Once economic actors understand challenges more explicitly, “the public and private sectors can work together to more explicitly price risk in both economic and financial decision-making.”
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