Climate change: the economic impact is already here

by Richard on September 26, 2012

One of the arguments against taking action on climate change is that it will cost the economy, either in direct costs, growth foregone, or both. ‘Skeptics’ rarely address the question of the costs of not taking action, I think because of the assumption that those costs will come in the future and we’ll find a way to meet them when the time comes.

Unfortunately, according to a report from the DARA group, those costs are already with us.

Climate change is already contributing to the deaths of nearly 400,000 people a year and costing the world more than $1.2 trillion, wiping 1.6% annually from global GDP, according to a new study.

The impacts are being felt most keenly in developing countries, according to the research, where damage to agricultural production from extreme weather linked to climate change is contributing to deaths from malnutrition, poverty and their associated diseases.

Air pollution caused by the use of fossil fuels is also separately contributing to the deaths of at least 4.5m people a year, the report found.

The 331-page study, entitled Climate Vulnerability Monitor: A Guide to the Cold Calculus of A Hot Planet and published on Wednesday, was carried out by the DARA group, a non-governmental organisation based in Europe, and the Climate Vulnerable Forum. It was written by more than 50 scientists, economists and policy experts, and commissioned by 20 governments.

By 2030, the researchers estimate, the cost of climate change and air pollution combined will rise to 3.2% of global GDP, with the world’s least developed countries forecast to bear the brunt, suffering losses of up to 11% of their GDP.

There’s the rub: it is the world’s poorest that will bear the brunt. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: Cutting greenhouse gases isn’t just about economics. It is about righteousness. And keeping climate change on the government’s agenda even now — especially now — is a matter of economic justice.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1

Neil 09.26.12 at 9:39 pm

I don’t think that is the nub of the sceptics argument. Mitigation is a fall back position. As we have seen this “summer” mitigation is not going to work. Tackling climate change will alter our entire lifestyle and that is what its all about. Of course so will peak oil and that is a geological certainty. That’s why we need to combine the arguments as the transition movement does, climate change is a symptom of our addiction to fossil fuels and we need to tackle both problems together.

2

Richard 09.27.12 at 11:52 pm

I didn’t mean to imply that this was the nub of the skeptics argument. But it is certainly one that I’ve encountered. In any case, I agree with your main point here. Climate change is a symptom of a deeper malaise.

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