Investing in climate change fight could pay dividends

BERLIN • A group of leaders from business, politics and science has called for a massive investment in adapting to climate change over the next decade, arguing that it would reap significant returns as countries avoid catastrophic losses and boost their economies.

The Global Commission on Adaptation, comprising dozens of prominent figures including Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and former UN chief Ban Ki Moon, in a report yesterday, urged governments and businesses to tackle the inevitable consequences of climate change, in addition to trying to curb it.

Spending US$1.8 trillion (S$2.5 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 US$7 trillion in net benefits, the 81-page report argues. "Global actions to slow climate change are promising, but insufficient. We must invest in a massive effort to adapt to conditions that are now inevitable."

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, it says.

Mangroves - tropical tidal water forests - protect, for example, against storm surges, and also act as nurseries for commercial fisheries, but at least a third of them globally have been uprooted for tourism or aquaculture purposes.

Without action by 2030, Mr Ban told journalists, "climate change could push more than 100 million people in developing countries below the poverty line".

Mr Ban cited Bangladesh's response to two devastating cyclones as a good example of the way countries can adapt to environmental threats. Following the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in 1970 and 1991, the South Asian nation reinforced flood defences, built shelters and trained volunteers, sharply cutting the death toll in later storms.


He said the recent environmental devastation in the Bahamas was more proof of the importance of preparing for climate change

Singapore, which is vulnerable to sea level rise, is already examining major engineering works to adapt. For example, it is using polders, a land reclamation technique, as well as reclaiming offshore islands.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said last month that sea levels might rise higher and faster than current estimates and that while engineering solutions were available, they would come at an estimated price tag of $100 billion or more, over 50 to 100 years.

"If we only have 10 years to solve the problem, we won't have the time or resources to do it," PM Lee said in his National Day Rally speech. "But because this is a 50-to 100-year problem, we can implement a 50-to 100-year solution."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 11, 2019, with the headline 'Investing in climate change fight could pay dividends'. Print Edition | Subscribe