Adapting to climate change in a post-pandemic world

By FrontierManipur | Published On 17th Nov, 2021, 10:16 GMT+0530

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The world at large is already reeling under processes that are evidently related to changing climatic conditions over periods of time. The glacial ice melts in the Arctic and the Himalayas, and the corresponding sea level rise in several low lying countries are quoted as explicit examples of where the urgency lies.

By Salam Rajesh

Countries around the globe are making consistent progress in developing adaptation planning instruments, reads the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)’s Adaptation Gap Report 2021: The Gathering Storm (AGR2021).

The AGR2021 notes that, ‘Climate change and the (current) pandemic share some striking similarities: like the pandemic, the climate change crisis is a systemic problem that requires coordinated global, national and local responses’.

Inger Andersen,Executive Director UNEP, reflecting on the report says, “2021 was the year in which climate impacts hit developed and developing countries with a new ferocity. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, meanwhile, warned we have at best a 50 percent chance of limiting global warming to a 1.5°C temperature rise this century. Adaptation financing is a major concern. The gap between what we need to spend to adapt and what we are actually spending is widening. Estimated costs of adaptation continue to rise and could reach US$ 280-500 billion per year by 2050 for developing countries alone”.

The pessimism in her note reflects on the urgency for the world community to pick up the threads on the Paris Climate Agreement which set several targets for the world to limit the reported temperature rise by 2030, or face the music.

The world at large is already reeling under processes that are evidently related to changing climatic conditions over periods of time. The glacial ice melts in the Arctic and the Himalayas,  and the corresponding sea level rise in several low lying countries are quoted as explicit examples of where the urgency lies.

Dr Bruno Oberle, Director General IUCN, speaking at theHigh-Level Segment of COP 26 at Glasgow on November 10 stated that, The key message from Marseille was that nature is a powerful ally in the fight against climate change and we need to invest in Nature-based Solutions. The unique value proposition of Nature-based Solutions is that they offer a cost-effective and accessible way to address both adaptation and mitigation simultaneously”.

The adaptation gap report also emphasizes on the pursuance of nature-based solutions to meet much of the urgency spelt out in the climate talks. On this point, many countries situated along coastlines have taken up mangrove and coral reef restoration on war footing to meet the climate deadlines. Mangroves are seen as best suitable to resist ocean and sea surges, and in preventing flooding of seashore towns and cities.

The analysis in AGR2021 does not have very good tidings for the world community. For instance, the report suggests rising costs of meeting adaptation financing which would definitely impact underdeveloped and developing countries.

The report states that, ‘New estimates of the costs of adaptation and the estimated financial needs for adaptation from developing countries indicate higher values than previously reported. Estimates of the economic costs of climate change in developing countries are now generally higher than indicated in earlier studies. Taken together, these findings suggest increasing costs of adaptation compared to previous AGR assessments, particularly in the event of failing to meet the Paris Agreement goal of keeping the increase in the global average temperature well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels’.

The key messages of the AGR2021 report do not have good indications for the future times, wherein it says, “New evidence suggests that the 1.5°C aspirational target of the Paris Agreement will likely be missed while some climate impacts are already irreversible. Current Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement are pointing toward global warming of 2.7°C by the end of the century. Even if we manage to stay within 1.5°C, some impacts of climate change are already irreversible and will be with us for many decades to come”.

This reading does not do well for countries in Sub-Saharan Africa that are already reeling under acute climatic conditions like extreme heat waves, erratic rainfall, and resulting droughts that is inducing a situation of complete desertification. When this process does happen, thousands of people will be uprooted from their traditional lands and lifestyles, forcing out-migration of people and inducing demographic conflicts elsewhere.

Nearer home, Bangladesh is already reported to be experiencing similar traits of impacts induced by changing climatic conditions. Frequent droughts had already induced out-migration of the rural poor to more fertile lands in India, causing conflicts of interest between original settlers and the incoming hordes. The scale of conflict will only increase as more flee northern parts of Bangladesh to avoid extreme weather conditions, droughts and deaths.

UN secretary general Antonio Guterres has, however, a word or two for the fossil-based industries, “But promises ring hollow when the fossil fuels industry still receives trillions in subsidies, as measured by the International Monetary Fund (IMF); or when countries are still building coal plants; or when carbon is still without a price – distorting markets and investors’ decisions. Every country, every city, every company, every financial institution must radically, credibly and verifiably reduce their emissions and decarbonize their portfolios starting now”.

The UN secretary general’s reprimand reflects upon the manner how developed nations are ignoring the warning signs and continuing with their extractive industries at the cost of the entire world. This also brings to the fore the division between capitalist nations who are among the top emitters and polluters, and those at the receiving end – the underdogs in the underdeveloped nations.

There are criticisms galore blaming the failure of global meets on climate talks, starting from the Kyoto Protocols to the Aichi Targets, with critics pointing out that the Glasgow climate summit has not achieved anything significant to address the climate emergencies at hand.

At the end of the day, the AGR2021 report has a word or two to put in that spells out the staggering steps in all of these climate talks, ‘There is an urgent need to step up climate adaptation finance. However, the finance needed to implement adaptation plans is still far short of where it should be’.

(The writer is a media professional working on environmental issues. He can be contacted at [email protected])

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