Adapting to climate change could cost $100 billion a year
The costs of adaptation to climate change in developing countries will be in the order of $75–100 billion per year until 2050, according to preliminary findings in a new global study from The World Bank.
The study, funded by the governments of the Netherlands, Switzerland and the UK, uses a new methodology for assessing costs that involves comparing a future world without climate change to a future world with climate change. Based on an assumption that global temperatures will increase by 2°C over the next 40 years, the identified costs are those that the researchers estimate that poorer countries would have to spend on adaptations to allow them to “enjoy the same level of welfare in the future world as they would have without climate change.”
In the draft consultation document released Thursday, a key part of the overall analysis involved estimating adaptation costs for major economic sectors under two alternative future climate scenarios: “wet” and a “dry.” Under the relatively dryer scenario the adaptation cost is estimated at US$75 billion per year, while under the scenario that assumes a future wetter climate it is US$100 billion.
Up to 30% of the proposed funds should focus on two key areas, infrastructure and coastal zone protection, the bank said. Infrastructure projects include climate-proofing roads, providing adequate drainage and building hospitals and schools. Coastal zone protection should focus on building dykes and saving mangrove swamps.
“Faced with the prospect of huge additional infrastructure costs, as well as drought, disease and dramatic reductions in agricultural productivity, developing countries need to be prepared for the potential consequences of unchecked climate change,” said Katherine Sierra, World Bank vice president for sustainable development, in a press release. “In this respect, access to necessary financing will be critical.”
The report released today finds that the highest costs will be borne by the East Asia and Pacific region, followed closely by Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa. The drier scenario requires lower total adaptation costs in all regions except South Asia.
The report stresses that development strategies must maximize flexibility and incorporate knowledge about climate change as it is gained. It also finds that adaptation costs decline as a percentage of GDP over time, suggesting that countries become less vulnerable to climate change as their economies grow.
“Economic growth is the most powerful form of adaptation,” said Warren Evans, director of the World Bank’s Environment Department. “However, it cannot be ‘business as usual.’ Adaptation minimizes the impacts of climate change, but it does not address its causes. There is no substitute for mitigation to reduce catastrophic risks,” he said.
In the study, adaptation costs for all developing countries are estimated for the major economic sectors using country-level data sets that have global coverage, including partial assessment of costs of adaptation for ecosystem services. Cost implications of changes in the frequency of extreme weather events are also considered. The world Bank says this study is the first to develop a workable definition of adaptation costs that can set the stage for common understanding of what adaptation entails, what role development plays in adaptation, and what policy changes are needed to facilitate adaptation.