A “staggering” new warning from a top United Nations official that climate crisis-related disasters are now occurring at the rate of one per week has provoked calls for immediate global action to combat the human-caused climate emergency.
Catastrophes such as cyclones Idai and Kenneth in Mozambique and the drought afflicting India make headlines around the world. But large numbers of “lower impact events” that are causing death, displacement and suffering are occurring much faster than predicted, said Mami Mizutori, the UN secretary-general’s special representative on disaster risk reduction. “This is not about the future, this is about today.”
This means that adapting to the climate crisis could no longer be seen as a long-term problem, but one that needed investment now, she said. “People need to talk more about adaptation and resilience.”
The estimated annual cost of climate-related disasters has risen to about $520 billion — yet the estimated cost of building infrastructure able to withstand the impacts of climate-related crisis’ is only about 3.0 percent or $2.7 trillion over the next 20 years.
Mizutori said: “This is not a lot of money (in the context of infrastructure spending), but investors have not been doing enough. Resilience needs to become a commodity that people will pay for.”
The shift Mizutori is calling for would require changing regulations and creating better standards for the construction of housing, road and rail networks, factories, power, and water supply networks so they can withstand the impacts of the climate crisis.
This will make our infrastructure less vulnerable to flooding, droughts, storms and other forms of extreme weather. Mizutori points out that globally, our focus has been on “mitigation,” a fancy word for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
Regulations on building standards must be updated for the climate crisis and properly enforced, she said. One of the governance issues cited by Mizutori was that while responsibility for the climate crisis and greenhouse gas emissions was usually held in one ministry, such as the economics, environment or energy department, responsibility for infrastructure and people’s protection was held elsewhere in government.
“We need to take a more holistic view of the risks,” she said.