Second Quarter 2010
with the funds promised in the Copenhagen
Accord, which allocated $100 billion a year
(by 2020) for a combination of adaptation
and mitigation of emissions. That doesn't
mean, though, that the figures are reliable.
Among other problems in estimating adapta-
tion costs, there is sure to be some learning by
doing as adaptation strategies are tried and
less-costly approaches are adopted over time.
Even accounting for increased efficiency in
adaptation with time, I suspect that the UN
and World Bank numbers are low. However,
even if adaptation costs were twice the $50
billion a year projected in the Copenhagen
Accord, they should still be affordable.
Given all the sources of uncertainty in esti-
mating adaptation costs, there will be a temp-
tation to delay decisive action until we know
more. But that would be a problematic strat-
egy. For one thing, planning, design and con-
struction times for big infrastructure projects
are likely to be very long. Remember, too, that
the climate is already changing and the im-
pact is already being felt around the world.
Delay will add to the burden of suffering.
how should the aid pie be
divided and when?
If developed countries do, indeed, deliver on
their promises at Copenhagen and ante up
$50 billion per year for adaptation alone by
2020, what regions, countries, organizations
and sectors should get the money? One place
to look to begin setting priorities is the World
Bank's estimate of the relative needs of differ-
The bank estimates that sub-Saharan Af-
rica, where the shortage of infrastructure is
acute and the capacity to finance its own ad-
aptation is minimal, deserves one-quarter of
Early in 2000, Mozambique suffered five straight
weeks of heavy rain. And with the ground saturated,
Tropical Cyclone Eline slammed into Mozambique's
coast. Some 550 square miles of land were flooded,
killing 800 people and 20,000 head of cattle.
In response to the catastrophe, Britain's
Department for International Development installed
a system for warning residents of impending disas-
ters and mobilizing disaster supplies before the
event. In October 2007, the system signaled that
flooding was likely in coming months. By December,
food and medical items had been stockpiled, vulner-
able residents had been evacuated to safer areas and
a network of local centers set up to coordinate emer-
gency operations. This time around, just 29 people
died and the economy bounced back quickly. Climate
change specialists see such warning systems as a
first line of defense in minimizing the toll on people
and property in a world of increasingly frequent and
severe coastal flooding.
source: UK Department for International Development