Cost of adaptating to impacts of climate change much more than previous estimates: UN report

It said in business as usual scenario, the costs to adapt to the impacts of climate change could be as high as $1 trillion per year.

Written by Amitabh Sinha | Express At Lima | Updated: December 12, 2014 10:45 am
ILE - In this April 3, 2014 file photo, machines dig for brown coal at the open-cast mining Garzweiler in front of a power plant emitting steam near the city of Grevenbroich in western Germany. (Source: AP) ILE – In this April 3, 2014 file photo, machines dig for brown coal at the open-cast mining Garzweiler in front of a power plant emitting steam near the city of Grevenbroich in western Germany. (Source: AP)

Reinforcing the enormity of the challenge in dealing with climate change, a new UN report has said that even if greenhouse gas emissions were cut in the most optimistic manner from now on, the costs of adapting to the impacts of climate change would be at least two to three times more than previous estimates of just a few months earlier.

In a first-ever Adaptation Gap report, the UN Environment Programme has said that current projections of an annual requirement of $70 to $100 billion in adaptation costs by 2050 might prove to be a gross underestimate. The amount needed might be at least two to three times that figure, it said.

The figure of $70 to $100 billion per year by 2050 had been estimated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) whose Fifth Assessment Report, released in four parts over the last one year, is the most comprehensive assessment of the scientific basis of climate change ever. The IPCC estimates were based largely on 2010 data of World Bank.

But the UNEP report, released here on Friday, said South Asia, one of the most vulnerable regions, alone might require an average of between $30 to $40 billion for adaptation every year.

Globally, the money required could be as high as $150 billion per year by 2025 or 2030 and between $250 to $500 billion per year by 2050, it said. And these are estimates of best case scenarios when adequate action is taken to rein in greenhouse gas emissions in order to keep the average temperature rise to within 2 degree Celsius as compared to 1850.

“In cases of higher warming pathways, post 2030 cost of adaptation or residual damages are likely to rise very significantly due to higher levels and rate of change and the greater level of anticipatory adaptation,” the report said.

It said in business as usual scenario, the costs to adapt could be as high as $1 trillion per year.

Last month, the UNEP had come out with the Emissions Gap report, an annual analysis of the gap between where the current efforts to cut emissions will take us and what science says must be done to keep temperatures below 2 degree rise. It had said that to meet the 2 degree goal, countries needed to ensure at least 55 per cent cut in emissions compared to 2010 levels by 2050. The emissions needed to be reduced further to net zero somewhere between 2080 and 2100.

The Adaptation Gap report comes at a time when developing countries, including India, are forcefully arguing at the Lima for recognition of adaptation measures in the ‘contributions’ that every country has to make towards fighting climate change. These countries are also seeking additional funds to be made available to fund adaptation effots.

The UNEP report incidentally notes the increasing flow of money for adaptation purposes. It said that in 2012-13, funding for adaptation measures had been in the range of $23 to $26 billion. But it said that in the absence of long-term commitment of funds, there was likely to be a huge shortage of money for adaptation beyond the period 2020 unless countries came up with new and additional pledges to provide money.

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