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Nature’s Answer to Climate Risk

With the human and financial costs of climate change attracting more attention than ever, now is the time to shift resources toward risk mitigation. The key will be to boost investment in the preservation and restoration of ecosystems that capture greenhouse gases and serve as natural defenses for vulnerable areas.

LONDON – Nearly half the world’s population – some 3.5 billion people – lives near coasts. As climate change exacerbates the effects of storms, flooding, and erosion, the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of those people will be at risk. In fact, the latest edition of the World Economic Forum’s World Risk Assessment Report names failure to adapt to the effects of climate change as the single greatest risk, in terms of impact, to societies and economies around the world.

Beyond endangering lives, more frequent and stronger storms could cost many billions of dollars, owing to infrastructure damage and lost revenues from farming, fisheries, and tourism. And, as the Harvard Business Review recently noted, the projected cost rises with each new study. Yet the international community currently spends on risk mitigation less than one-fifth of what it spends on natural-disaster response.

When it comes to climate risk, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. As Rebecca Scheurer, Director of the Red Cross Global Disaster Preparedness Center, put it, “We spend millions of dollars on the response side, and were we to invest more of those resources on the front end we’d save more people. It’s as simple as that.”

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