Nations rich and poor must invest now to protect against the effects of climate change or pay a heavy price later, a global commission warned earlier this week.
Spending $1.8 trillion across five key areas over the next decade would not only help buffer the worst impacts of global warming but could generate more than $7 trillion in net benefits, the report from the Global Commission on Adaptation argued.
"We are the last generation that can change the course of climate change, and we are the first generation that then has to live with the consequences," former UN chief Ban Ki-moon, who chairs the commission, said at the report's launch in Beijing. "Delay and pay, or plan and prosper," he said, sharing a catchphrase from the commission, which is co-chaired by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva.
Investing now in early warning systems, climate-resistant infrastructure, mangrove protection, better agriculture and improving fresh water resources would pay for itself several times over, the report said.
Mangroves - tropical tidal water forests — protect, for example, against storm surges and act as nurseries for commercial fisheries, but at least a third of them globally have been uprooted for tourism or aquaculture.
"Global actions to slow climate change are promising but insufficient," the report stated. "We must invest in a massive effort to adapt to conditions that are now inevitable."
Without action by 2030, climate change could push more than 100 million people in developing countries below the poverty line, said the report. In the 25-year history of UN climate negotiations, adaptation has trailed far down the agenda compared with "mitigation," or the reduction of carbon emissions.
Failure to curb the greenhouse gas emissions slow-roasting the planet has already unleashed a crescendo of deadly heat waves, water shortages and superstorms made more destructive by rising seas.
The Bahamas was devastated this month by one of the strongest Atlantic storms on record. Earth's average surface temperature has gone up 1 degree Celsius since the late 19th century, and is on track at current rates of CO2 emissions to warm another two or three degrees by the century's end.
The 2015 Paris Agreement calls for capping global warming at "well below" 2C, and 1.5C if possible, but it was given a hit when U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the pact in 2017.
The report's $1.8 trillion adaptation price tag for the period 2020-2030 is not an estimate of global needs, covering only warning systems and the four other areas identified. The $7.1 trillion dividend is based on the World Bank calculation that the value of damage caused by climate change is increasing, averaged across the globe, at about 1.5 % per year.