The United Nations warned that climate catastrophes are occurring at a rate of one each week, although most attract little international attention and urgent work is needed to prepare developing countries for the profound impacts.
Disasters like Cyclones Idai and Kenneth in Mozambique and the drought in India are making headlines around the world.
However, a large number of "minor impact events" that are causing death, displacement and suffering are happening much faster than anticipated, said Mami Mizutori, special representative of the UN secretary general for risk reduction. disaster. "This is not about the future, this is about today," the official told the British newspaper The Guardian.
This means that adapting to the climate crisis could no longer be seen as a long-term problem, but now needed investment. "People need to talk more about adaptation and resilience," he said.
Estimates estimate that the cost of climate-related disasters amounts to US $ 520 billion a year, while the additional cost of building infrastructure resistant to the effects of global warming is about 3%, that is, of $ 2.7 trillion in total over the next 20 years.
Ms. Mizutori said: “This is not a lot of money [in the context of infrastructure spending], but investors have not done enough. Resilience must become a product that people will pay for ”.
That would mean normalizing standards for new infrastructure, such as housing, road and rail networks, factories, power and water supply networks, so that they are less vulnerable to the effects of floods, droughts, storms and extreme weather conditions.
Until now, most of the focus of work on the climate crisis has been on “mitigation,” the jargon for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and should not be confused with mitigating the effects of the climate crisis.
The question of adapting to its effects has taken a distant second place, in part because activists and scientists worried for years that people would get a false complacency that we don't need to reduce emissions, as we could adapt to the effects, and also because in the meantime emission reductions could be clearly measured, the question of adapting or increasing resilience was more difficult to pin down.
"We talk about a climate emergency and a climate crisis, but if we cannot face this [adaptation problem] we will not survive," said Mizutori, warning that the time for such arguments was up and added: "We need to consider the risks of not investing in resilience ”.
Many of the lesser-impact disasters could be prevented if people had early warnings of severe weather, better infrastructure, such as flood defenses or access to water in the event of a drought, and governments were more aware of which areas are the most vulnerable.
This is not a problem limited to the developing world, he said, as recent wildfires in the US and the latest heat wave from Europe have shown. Rich countries also face the challenge of adapting their infrastructure and ways to protect people from disaster.
Mizutori said that "nature-based solutions" such as mangroves, forests and wetlands, which could form natural barriers to flooding, should be a priority.
Another key issue is how to protect people in informal settlements or slums, who are more vulnerable than planned cities.
The most vulnerable people are the poor, women, children, the elderly, the disabled and the displaced, and many of these people live in informal settlements without access to basic services.
She said regulations on building standards also need to be updated for the climate crisis and properly enforced.
One of the governance issues Mizutori cited was that while responsibility for the climate crisis and greenhouse gas emissions was generally held in a single ministry, such as the economy, environment or energy department, responsibility for infrastructure and the protection of people in government, "we need to have a more holistic view of risks," he closed.