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Yves Ennesser
Directeur de projets Environnement-Climat
Published on July 11, 2018

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Why invest in adapting to climate change?

Adapting to climate change is an essential duty today, and the rules of project design must change. Faced with the increasingly alarming consequences of natural disasters, no decision-maker can today claim that they were unaware of these dangers, and they could even be found judicially liable for neglect.

Le dérèglement climatique est un enjeu mondial

- Crédits : derejeb - Thinkstock

Waterway and urban flooding, coastal erosion and submersion, land movements, droughts, heat waves or storms… Climate deregulation is a reality today, with proven environmental, economic, health and social impacts. We are going to have to live in an increasingly volatile climate environment. Climate change is an additional factor to take into account in territorial management and planning. New approaches must be developed so that communities can become truly resilient in the face of climate risks.

Why invest today?

Major uncertainties surround climate change and in particular the development of extreme weather events. Failing the ability to predict upcoming events with sufficient accuracy, we should be preparing for major change as of now.

The findings of models on extreme weather events often deliver inconsistent results depending on the “climate models/greenhouse gas emission development scenarios” pairings considered. In this context, it is judicious to refer to the notions of “acceptable risk” or “manageable risk” which lie at the heart of current thinking on urban flood risk management. Economic analysis shows that the earlier spending is made on adaptations, the better the return on investment. Costs relating to the deterioration followed by the repair of private or public assets may be avoided by this anticipated investment. In other words, the aim is to act today to save money tomorrow!

How can you assess the suitability of an adaptation strategy?

The best approach is to carry out cost-benefit analyses, comparing the cost of adaptation works with the damage avoided (benefit) of this adaptation. This type of economic analysis is not always essential and certain adaptation strategies are simply a question of common sense, such as so-called “no regrets” strategies.

We believe it is necessary to make allowances for the new uncertainty brought about by climate change in the design of structures that require economic justification. The notion of the sustainability of constructions, together with new development and adaptability principles, should be incorporated within the economic analysis.

What is climate change?

The concept of climate change refers to a continuing increase in the average temperature of the planet. As illustrated by the average sea level, which has risen by more than 15% since 1900, a number of indicators provide evidence of this global warming. The conclusions of the scientific community and in particular of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have resulted in a consensus on the causes of climate change. The natural climate balance is deregulated by greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused by human activity. The atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, the main GHG, has risen by more than 40% since 1750, surpassing the symbolic bar of 400 ppm in 2015. Forecasts show that global warming could have very serious consequences on sea levels or on extreme climate events.

Definition taken from Datalab no.27-November 2017-Ministry for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition.

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