Bill Gates and Ban Ki-moon are recruiting mayors, heads of state, and finance pros around the world on a last-minute quest to save us from catastrophic heat, drought and flooding

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Hurricane Michael Mexico BeachSevereStudios.com via APDamage from Hurricane Michael at Mexico Beach, Florida in October 2018.

  • On Tuesday, 28 commissioners and 17 countries around the world banded together to form the Global Commission on Adaptation.
  • Their task for the next year will be to figure out the best ways to both fight and cope with the dramatic, disastrous effects of life on a hotter planet.
  • The program is led by Bill Gates, Ban Ki-moon, and World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva.
  • The commission also includes 25 other leaders from around the globe, including the mayors of Miami and Paris, as well as China's environment minister.
  • The 17 countries on board include big players in the world's energy economy, like Canada, Mexico, China, India, Germany, and the UK. (The US is not on the list.)
  • Scroll down for a full list of who's involved.

The bad news about our planet released last week from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggests that time is running very short to get serious about the threat of disastrous floods, storms, fires, droughts, and extreme poverty that could soon hit as a result of climate change.

The news is so dire, it's prompted a new last-ditch effort to help the world better deal with these coming disasters.

Dubbed the Global Commission on Adaptation, it will be led by philanthropist Bill Gates, former UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, and World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva.

"We are at a moment of high risk and great promise," Gates said in a release, before the commission was announced Tuesday in The Hague.

"We need policies to help vulnerable populations adapt, and we need to ensure that governments and other stakeholders are supporting innovation and helping deliver those breakthroughs to the people and places that need them most."

bill gates ban ki moon UN photoJemal Countess/Getty ImagesBill Gates and Melinda Gates with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the United Nations on September 25, 2015 in New York City.

To that end, his new commission is beginning a two year plan: first, they will spend approximately one year researching and developing the best ways to deal with life in a warmer world.

Next September, they'll present their best ideas from that brainstorm at the 2019 United Nations Secretary General's Climate Summit.

Then, begins the second "year of action," where those ideas are put into practice around the world.

"If everyone does their part, we can reduce carbon emissions, increase access to affordable energy, and help farmers everywhere grow more productive crops," Gates said.

In some of the hottest zones around the equator, that might mean adopting new farming techniques for crops, like growing corn or coffee designed to be more drought-resistant.

Georgieva suggested some places might want to switch from consuming chickens to breeding and eating more ducks, because ducks can swim through a flood.

Other coastal areas might plant more mangrove trees, to help reduce the impact of devastating floods, while saving cash on seawalls.

In cities, the commission may suggest ways to better regulate emissions through stricter building code rules.

"We are the last generation that can change the course of climate change," Georgieva said. "And we are the first generation that has to live with its consequences."

mangroveSteve Shattuck/FlickrNatural adaptations like mangroves are around 30 times cheaper than manmade seawalls, according to a recent report from Lloyd's of London.

That means that we must both adapt to our rapidly warming world, and try to reduce emissions that will heat the planet up further, all at the same time.

The commission assumes that it's probably too late to stop or reverse dangerous, damaging effects of climate change altogether, but their plan aims to both mitigate those effects, while also reducing pollution and saving money.

Georgieva estimates that every one dollar spent on this kind of climate resilience, could save $4 to $7 in damages later.

Humans have already heated things up more than one degree Celsius since preindustrial times, and recently scientists warned that we could be on track to hit a dangerous tipping point, triggering an unprecedented temperature spike around the world.

Already, we're getting a glimpse of life on a warmer planet: wetter rainstorms, more intense heat waves, and rising seas.

Currently, the commission argues there's a lack of decent incentives to invest in new ideas about how to deal with these problems, and the ideas that are out there aren't getting shared quickly and efficiently enough.

The commission is worried that if swift action isn't taken now, we could have problems finding enough food, water and energy to stay alive in the coming decades, especially in the developing world.

"Decisions are still being made with short-term risk, not long-term risk in mind," Moon said on the call.

ducklings ducksFlickr / babar141Ducks may be a smarter food source than chickens in the near future, the commission suggests, because they can swim through a flood, if needed.

Ironically, those who will be at greatest risk of losing their homes, businesses, and lives to climate change are the ones who've contributed the least to warming the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels like coal and gas for energy.

"Our estimate is that most likely we would see some hundred million people falling back in extreme poverty by 2030 as a result of climate change," Georgieva said during a press call before the commission was announced.

Moon said the commission will aim to help some of those "poorest and most vulnerable" living in some of the hottest zones of the world adapt to climate change with new kinds of climate-related insurance.

Here's the full list of the countries and commissioners that have signed on to participate in the initiative so far.

Countries:

  • Argentina
  • Bangladesh
  • Canada
  • China
  • Costa Rica
  • Denmark
  • Ethiopia
  • Germany
  • Grenada
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Marshall Islands
  • Mexico
  • Netherlands
  • Senegal
  • South Africa
  • United Kingdom

Commissioners:

  • Ban Ki-moon, former Secretary-General of the United Nations
  • Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Kristalina Georgieva, CEO, World Bank
  • Hilda Heine, President, Marshall Islands
  • Keith Mitchell, Prime Minister, Grenada
  • Akinwumi Adesina, President, African Development Bank
  • Elhadj As Sy, Secretary General, IFRC (International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies)
  • Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
  • Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary, UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change)
  • Christiana Figueres, Former Executive Secretary, UNFCCC
  • Li Ganjie, Minister of Ecology and Environment, China
  • Anne Hidalgo, Mayor, Paris
  • Emma Howard Boyd, Chair of the Environment Agency, UK
  • Naoko Ishii, CEO and Chairperson, Global Environment Facility
  • Peter Damgaard Jensen, CEO, PKA Ltd.
  • Agnes Kalibata, President, AGRA
  • Loren Legarda, Chair, Senate Finance Committee, Philippines
  • Strive Masiyiwa, Founder and Chairman, Econet Wireless
  • José Antonio Meade, Former Finance Minister, Mexico
  • Gerd Müller, Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, Germany
  • Muhammad Musa, Executive Director, BRAC
  • Cora van Nieuwenhuizen, Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management, Netherlands
  • Sheela Patel, Chair, Slum/Shack Dwellers International
  • Feike Sijbesma, CEO, Royal DSM
  • Francis Suarez, Mayor, Miami
  • Shemara Wikramanayake, CEO, Macquarie Group Ltd
  • Erik Solheim, Executive Director, UN Environment
  • Andrew Steer, President and CEO, World Resources Institute
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