Monday, July 6, 2009

Preventative Adaptation

Oxfam's latest report on climate change, in anticipation of the G-8 summit, echoes the obvious: climate change impacts the world's poorest the most. The report covers how droughts, disease spread, famines and water scarcity are all exacerbated by even minute temperature rises. Even food shortages are magnified by reduced growing seasons. The report states:
Reduced crop yields become all the more grave when combined with large population growth and low economic prospects, which threaten disaster for many countries. One study combines all these factors to predict which African countries will be hardest hit by climate change in the future: it puts Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Tanzania at the top of that list by 2030.
Mozambique experienced food riots in 2008. There's been recent and persistent conflict in the DRC for years. Climate change undermines stability by magnifying demographic and economic factors in developing countries.

While much international attention's been devoted to emissions mitigation, adaptation financing is gaining a more prominent role in policy debates but the amount of financing needed differs. The World Bank estimated $5-10 billion annually. Gordon Brown proposed $100 billion annually by 2020. In today's report, Oxfam wants $150 billion immediately. The UN believes $200 billion annually would be needed by 2030. The Major Economies Forum meeting last month had a draft text suggesting a $400 million baseline amount.

Ultimately, postponing serious mitigation and adaptation efforts now just increases the costs in the future as rising temperatures permanently leave lands infertile prompting mass migrations as areas become wholly unlivable. Using adaptation as part of a bigger development strategy can prevent climate induced conflicts from arising at a much cheaper cost.

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