Responding to the mounting costs of extreme weather and climate change, decision-makers are increasingly incorporating adaptation considerations into their strategies. The Paris Agreement in 2015 illustrates how the global community has grown more aware of this problem — and from where solutions could come. Climate adaptation strategies help nations respond to the affects, both immediate and gradual, that climatic change will impose on their citizens and natural resources. Climate mitigation strategies, on the other hand, focus on slowing human-induced changes to climate systems, such as by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
What do all of these strategies have in common? Data analysis. No matter what the issue, policy-makers need clear information before they allocate resources and set policy recommendations. However, in climate change, not only is there no standardized methodology for calculating impact, but expensive customized assessments may lock policy-makers into incorrect — and potentially costly — actions, even as our rapidly evolving understanding of our potential climate future brings new data to light.
At the request of USAID/Indonesia, the Climate Change Adaptation, Thought Leadership, and Assessments (ATLAS) Project undertook an assessment of the future economic costs of climate change in Indonesia. This research, completed in March 2016, highlighted the costs of major economic, environmental, and health challenges that the Southeast Asian country will face from now to 2050.
“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,” explained Dr. Joy Hecht, principal investigator in the assessment.
Recognizing that it is better to have useful information now than perfect information too late — if ever —project analysts chose a methodology that relied on existing data to reduce the assessment’s duration and cost. First, the research team created spreadsheets to calculate changes in production or disease tied to the expected changes in each of the 33 provinces’ climates. These spreadsheets were designed to be reused; they can be easily refreshed with newer information for revised predictions when the source data sets are updated.
To further focus the assessment, the team selected three areas of impact that represent major aspects of the Indonesian economy and society: first, the expected change in value of soybeans, corn, sugarcane, and rice; second, the economic losses associated with dengue fever and malaria; and third, the change in value of homes, offices, industrial areas, fields, and aquaculture facilities that will be flooded as sea levels rise.
“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,” said Doug Baker, climate change governance and evaluation specialist on ATLAS, speaking to the importance of these types of cross-sectoral analyses.
ATLAS analysts evaluated these areas with respect to expected changes in temperature, rainfall, and gradual sea level rise in 2050. As the team proceeded with the study, they drew from existing data sets and other public information sources for crop production per province, market prices, malaria cases, and sector-specific projections provided by the government of Indonesia, including publicly accessible climate models. The climate change scenario used is an international climate model that assumes a moderate reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and thus, moderate temperature rise and sea level rise — that is, neither a worst- or best-case scenario.