"Unless we step up and adapt now, the results will be increasing poverty, water shortages, agricultural losses and soaring levels of migration with an enormous toll on human life," 3,000 scientists, from nearly 120 countries, including 5 Nobel laureates wrote.
A changing climate, including more severe floods and droughts, could depress growth in global food production by up to 30% by 2050, while rising seas and greater storm surges could destroy urban economies and force hundreds of millions of coastal dwellers from their homes, they noted. To avoid that, major new efforts are needed to conserve nature. Alongside the COVID-19 crisis, last year saw surging heat, intensifying drought and rampant wildfires, he noted, adding that the pandemic might have been avoided if the world had acted earlier to protect nature and prevent climate change.
"We must remember there is no vaccination for our changing climate," said former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who chairs the Global Center on Adaptation (GCA), which is organising the Jan. 25-26 summit with the Dutch government. "Building resilience to climate impacts is not a nice-to-have... it is a must if we are to live in a sustainable and secure world."
A GCA report assessing global progress on adaptation cited research showing government pandemic stimulus measures that support fossil fuels and high-carbon activities outnumbered green initiatives by four to one.
A U.N. report said last week that funding was already falling far short of needs before the COVID-19 crisis, with an annual average of $30 billion available for adaptation in 2017-2018. Estimates of the costs of adapting to climate change vary widely, but CPI and the GCA said adaptation finance needed to increase by between five and 10-fold from its current levels. Only about 5% of all climate finance goes to adapting to more extreme weather and rising seas. The U.N. secretary-general and others have called for that share to be raised to half, especially in financial support for poorer nations.
Patrick Verkooijen, CEO of the Rotterdam-based GCA, described climate change adaptation as a "casualty" of the pandemic. "Adaptation needs to accelerate but this acceleration is not happening. In fact, it's even slowing down," he said. Verkooijen said the shortfall in action and financing for adaptation could be turned around if decision-makers ensure the trillions they are preparing to spend on boosting their economies are also aimed at building climate resilience.