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Dickinson to Durban » Climate Change, Consumption, Weather » Cost of Climate Change to Increase!!

Cost of Climate Change to Increase!!

By: Christine Burns ’14

There is a lot of uncertainty in the general public about climate change.  Many people feel that mitigation efforts will cost too much, and that we should worry about it later.  The Stern executive summary suggests otherwise. Stern clearly states that it is in our best interest economically to address climate change sooner rather than later.   The Stern review agrees that it will cost money upfront to address climate change, but the costs that will incur should we continue with business as usual will be far greater.  Here are a few of the costly effects of climate change that Stern points out:

  • Glacial melt will lead to less drinking water and sea level rise, which in turn will lead to more coastal flooding, loss of large tracts of land, and displacement of people.
  • More extreme weather events
  • Less food productivity
  • Rise in malnutrition and spread of vector born diseases
  • Ecosystem disruption

Add to those the increased risk of irreversible climate change should we wait, and the cost of investing now is looking more appealing.  The second crucial point Stern makes is that the most heavily effected people will be those in developing countries who will not have the means to adapt

Interestingly enough, just as the developed countries do not want to give up their luxurious lifestyles, many of the developing countries are more interested in being able to continue developing than surviving 50 or 100 years from now.  Countries are even less willing to pay for expensive climate change mitigation in light of the recent economic downfall.  The EU who has been relatively successful at meeting its Kyoto goals, was actually considering pushing climate change to the back burner at the beginning of the recession. For this very reason mitigation strategies need to be put in place ASAP!  Stern refers to climate change as, “the greatest and widest-ranging market failure ever seen.” This suggest to me that we can only expect further recession as resources become more scarce and more money has to be focused on victim relief instead of technological development.

Yet, Stern claims that if we act now, then we can mitigate climate change at a lesser cost to us.  He even provides three suggestions that if enacted together should result in mitigation and long run economic success.  He says that carbon pricing (either tax or trade) is the first key to mitigation.  Next, he says the revenue from carbon pricing should be invested in sustainable technology development, and reducing the cost of purchasing sustainable technology so that it can compete with fossil fuels. Finally, he says a concerted effort needs to be made to remove social barriers that prevent sustainability in everyday life. The most important one being education, but also through regulation such as minimum building requirements, and labeling best practice products so that consumers can make an informed decision.  Overall, climate change mitigation needs to start now, the longer we wait the more costly and difficult it will be and the more damaging the consequences economically and environmentally.

Works Cited:

  • Stern, N. 2007. Executive Summary. In: The Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change. HM Treasury, London, UK.
  • “Charlemagne: Bad times Ahead | The Economist.” The Economist – World News, Politics, Economics, Business & Finance. 16 Oct. 2008. Web. 05 Oct. 2011. <>.

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2 Responses to "Cost of Climate Change to Increase!!"

  1. Claire says:

    I really like how you played on the word “costs.” The economic costs will of course increase over time, as that is how money works. But environmental and human costs are most likely going to increase over time as well. I guess what I want to know is how to reconcile the looming threat of “uncertainty,” when trying to assess how to deal with climate change. Why invest now, stateheads and economists might ask, if the changes might not be that bad? I’d like to phone a geology-friend to give them an answer.

  2. Sarah Schmitz, LA says:

    While the Earth has always endured natural climate change variability, we are now facing the possibility of irreversible climate change in the near future. The increase of greenhouse gases in the Earth?s atmosphere from industrial processes has enhanced the natural greenhouse effect. This in turn has accentuated the greenhouse ?trap? effect, causing greenhouse gases to form a blanket around the Earth, inhibiting the sun?s heat from leaving the outer atmosphere. This increase of greenhouse gases is causing an additional warming of the Earth?s surface and atmosphere. A direct consequence of this is sea-level rise expansion, which is primarily due to the thermal expansion of oceans (water expands when heated), inducing the melting of ice sheets as global surface temperature increases.
    Forecasts for climate change by the 2,000 scientists on the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) project a rise in the global average surface temperature by 1.4 to 5.8°C from 1990 to 2100. This will result in a global mean sea level rise by an average of 5 mm per year over the next 100 years. Consequently, human-induced climate change will have ?deleterious effects? on ecosystems, socio-economic systems and human welfare.At the moment, especially high risks associated with the rise of the oceans are having a particular impact on the two archipelagic states of Western Polynesia: Tuvalu and Kiribati. According to UN forecasts, they may be completely inundated by the rising waters of the Pacific by 2050.According to the vast majority of scientific investigations, warming waters and the melting of polar and high-elevation ice worldwide will steadily raise sea levels. This will likely drive people off islands first by spoiling the fresh groundwater, which will kill most land plants and leave no potable water for humans and their livestock. Low-lying island states like Kiribati, Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands and the Maldives are the most prominent nations threatened in this way.“The biggest challenge is to preserve their nationality without a territory,” said Bogumil Terminski from Geneva. The best solution is continue to recognize deterritorialized states as a normal states in public international law. The case of Kiribati and other small island states is a particularly clear call to action for more secure countries to respond to the situations facing these ‘most vulnerable nations’, as climate change increasingly impacts upon their lives.

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