This story has been updated.
When it comes to rising seas and flooding risks, there are few countries more vulnerable than low-lying Bangladesh. Not only does the nation face the risk of devastating tropical cyclones — but with higher seas forecast for later in this century, such storms could flood a considerably broader area, according to the World Bank.
Bangladesh is one of three countries targeted for climate readiness assistance in the first phase of a new $ 34 million White House initiative, to be announced Tuesday at the U.S. Institute of Peace. The administration, including its key international aid agencies like USAID, but also scientific ones NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey, will be collaborating with partners ranging from Google and the American Red Cross to the UK Government to help developing countries get ready for a warmer world.
The launch came just a day after President Obama and other G7 leaders agreed, in the president’s words, “on the need to integrate climate risks into development assistance and investment programs across the board, and to increase access to risk insurance to help developing countries respond to and recover from climate-related disasters.”
The new partnership, to be dubbed Climate Services for Resilient Development, includes more than $ 34 million in resources, a total that includes in-kind contributions from the partners, such as data and computing resources from Google. Another partner, the GIS-mapping software provider Esri, will be providing “access to foundational open spatial data sets, such as elevation, ecological land units, and climatological information products,” according to the White House.
“The impacts of climate change — including more intense storms and storm surge damage, more severe droughts and heat waves, sea-level rise, ocean acidification, and biodiversity losses — are already being experienced around the world,” notes an administration document on the new initiative. “These impacts can be particularly damaging in developing countries, which often lack the resources and technical capacity to effectively prepare for and adapt to the effects of climate change.”
The new partnership will place an emphasis on not only providing climate change data — parallel to the U.S. Climate Data Initiative, which currently offers 486 data sets of climate and weather information — but also helping countries apply it in specific adaptation measures.
“Together, these new partnerships, programs, and initiatives demonstrate the power of teamwork as well as the degree of commitment of the U.S. Government and our partners to the cause of climate-resilient development,” said President Obama’s science adviser John Holdren in a statement.
In addition to Bangladesh, the two other countries for initial focus are Ethiopia and Colombia. The Peace Corps will be providing climate readiness training in Ethiopia, while the Inter-American Development Bank will work to provide access to climate data services in Colombia and other parts of Latin America and the Caribbean.
The initiative follows on a September 2014 speech by President Obama at the United Nations’ Climate Change Summit, where he pledged a new partnership “to help vulnerable nations better prepare for weather-related disasters, and better plan for long-term threats like steadily rising seas.” The State Department, in a recent submission to the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change, also emphasized how the administration planned to help these countries “reduce climate risks in key areas, including infrastructure, agriculture, and health and water services.”
The new collaboration comes at a time when the White House has been rolling out near weekly climate and environmental initiatives — but also struggling with Congress to gain support for them. Another major international climate aid push with a much bigger associated price tag, a pledged $ 3 billion for the U.N.’s Green Climate Fund, has drawn opposition from congressional Republicans.
In the climate change arena, the vast bulk of attention is generally drawn to initiatives focused on “mitigation” — cutting down carbon dioxide emissions, through measures like the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. However, “adaptation” will also be not only necessary but unavoidable, both domestically and on a global scale, given that a significant amount of climate change is unavoidable.
A recent study found only a “small and rapidly closing” window for the world to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the year 2100.