The bigger picture: adaptation is key

Measures are available to help communities fight ongoing losses and adapt to climate change.

Even if all carbon emissions were stopped today, the world’s climate would continue to change. This means we have to adapt to the consequences. Investing in measures that help communities cope with floods, droughts and severe storms will go a long way to preparing them for a future marked by more weather extremes and natural disasters.

Higher temperatures can lead to more frequent and severe events, such as droughts, tropical cyclones and floods. Societies need to understand how they can adapt to climate change. This is a particularly important for community planners and officials. They need to know how their countries, cities and communities will be affected by climate change and which adaptation measures can avert future losses at the lowest cost to society.

Mitigation is essential

This is what the publication The Economics of Climate Adaptation (ECA): shaping climate resilient development (PDF, 6.0 MB) is about. It's a guide that seeks to provide the answers.

Climate-resilient development combines adaptation to climate change with economic development. Though adaptation will be indispensable, it cannot be a substitute for mitigation of climate change. As economies develop, they also need to change production and consumption patterns to reduce carbon emissions.
Our studies found that existing climate patterns are responsible for annual losses of 1-12% of GDP and are likely to rise up to 19% of GDP by 2030. This is a worrying trend. But the good news is that cost-effective adaptation measures, can prevent up to 65%of the expected economic loss in these regions. For rare but severe events, risk transfer can efficiently provide additional protection by capping losses and smoothing the costs of climate events.

The key is that making urban and rural communities more resilient requires a comprehensive adaptation strategy that combines risk prevention, risk mitigation and risk transfer measures. But time is of the essence. We have to act now, and we have to act together. Because well-targeted, early investments in climate protection are cheaper and more effective than costly relief efforts after a disaster has struck.

Published 10 November 2015

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