The Cost of Not Adapting.

August 19, 2016

“Knowing something will happen but not knowing exactly what, should still be sufficient motivation for action on the part of those entrusted with the crucial decisions on climate change adaptation.”

Doug Baker, climate change governance and evaluation specialist on ATLAS

“Use of monetary value of impacts as a common metric for sectors — even health — makes it possible to compare impacts of climate change across these sectors, and to compare them with the costs of adaptation in each province and sector.”

Dr. Joy Hecht, principal investigator in the assessment

Although the findings are only a snapshot in time and cover a limited number of primary sectors, crops, and diseases, they still provide a powerful example of the types of economic challenges in agriculture, health, and coastal communities that Indonesia will face from now to 2050.

Regarding health impact, most costs are anticipated to come from an increase in dengue fever — more than half occurring in Jakarta alone, where the incidence of the disease is expected to grow rapidly. As of 2016, dengue fever rates are already high in Jakarta because mosquitoes that spread the illness can easily breed in small pools of water that are common in urban areas. And because the per capita income is higher in Jakarta than elsewhere in Indonesia, each case of dengue fever would translate into greater forgone income in the future.

The assessment found that the physical effects of gradual sea level rise will be felt nationwide in the country made up of 17,000 islands. But the vast majority of the costs imposed by gradual rise will be concentrated in Jakarta, due to the capital region’s high-value properties, including office buildings that have greater economic values than village houses.

The greatest financial impact of climate change will stem from decreases in agricultural outputs, primarily in irrigated rice. However, counter to expectations, the assessment found that not all impact will be negative. While total agricultural impact would be negative nationwide, in some provinces, the value of certain agricultural outputs like corn and rain-fed rice could, under favorable conditions and with other measures, be expected to rise due to increased rainfall.

Equipped with this assessment, other USAID climate change adaptation projects will continue the discussion with the government of Indonesia on how to incorporate adaptation into planning strategies. The assessment results indicate that adaptation impact will vary greatly by province, and that different adaptation efforts should be designed depending on provinces’ major agricultural products, degree and pattern of urbanization, and expected climate change.

But the most important recommendation is that Indonesia cannot wait until 2050 to act. Because climate change is gradual, the conditions described for 2050 will develop incrementally and inexorably between now and then, and policy-makers should not wait until the future to implement changes.

“This study, limited in time and scope as it is, should still enable leaders in Indonesia and collaborating organizations to prioritize sectors and actions,” Mr. Baker explained. “It joins a host of other studies using a range of methodologies that reach similar conclusions of the likely consequences that countries — especially developing countries — face.”

For more information, including a technical reportpolicy brief, and underlying spreadsheets that can be adapted for priority sectors in different countries, visit the ATLAS page on Climatelinks.