Climate Risk, Building Resilience

World Bank adaptation report2Haiyan, Sandy, Katrina.  By now, we should have gotten the message.  Some have, but not enough of us.  Yet.

The IPCC got it.  Years ago.  And one of their many important contributions has been to focus our attention on the need for adaptation to the worsening impacts of climate change.  I wrote about their comprehensive Special Report for Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX) here two years ago.Now the World Bank and its partners in the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) have produced a report which further highlights the ever-looming threat of disaster from climate impacts and, most importantly, zeroes in on what we need to do to make our societies more “resilient.”  (Resilience seems to have superseded adaptation as the term of use for how we need to prepare.  Whatever the term, the task is paramount.)  The press release marking the report quotes the World Bank’s President, Dr. Jim Yong Kim:  “While the immediate relief effort [in the Philippines] must be front and center of our attention today, such tragic events show that the world can no longer afford to put off action to slow greenhouse emissions, and help countries prepare for a world of greater climate and disaster risks.”

Here are the headlines from Building Resilience: Integrating Climate and Disaster Risk into Development.

  • Loss and damages from disasters have been rising over the last three decades, from an annual average of around $50bn in 1980 to just under $200bn in 2012.
  • Weather-related economic impacts are especially high in fast-growing, middle-income countries due to increasingly exposed, valuable assets.
  • The impacts are particularly crippling in smaller and lower-income countries that are least able to cope.
  • Climate and disaster-resilient development can save lives and livelihoods and protect the poor from climate shocks.
  • There are big pay-offs despite upfront investment costs.
  • Much is known already on how to build resilience, but better cooperation is needed among relevant agencies and disciplines.

These are compelling but not surprising facts.  We have two critical needs:  to mitigate our production of greenhouse gases and to build resilience against impacts we’ve brought down upon ourselves.

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