[asa] UK Study: Cost of Climate Change Adaptation Greatly Underestimated

From: Rich Blinne <rich.blinne@gmail.com>
Date: Tue Sep 15 2009 - 00:41:05 EDT


UK scientists have warned that UN negotiations aimed at tackling
climate change are based on substantial underestimates of what it will
cost to adapt to its impacts.

The real costs of adaptation to climate change are likely to be two-to-
three times greater than estimates made by the UN Framework Convention
on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the researchers say.

In a study published by the International Institute for Environment
and Development and the Grantham Institute for Climate Change, they
add that costs will be even more when the full range of climate
impacts on human activities is considered.

The UNFCCC has estimated annual global costs of adapting to climate
change to be $40170 billion, or the cost of about three Olympic Games
per year.
But the report's authors including Dr Pam Berry from the
Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University say that these
estimates were produced too quickly and did not include key sectors
such as energy, manufacturing, retailing, mining, tourism and

Dr Berry led the work on estimating the costs of protecting ecosystems
and the services they can provide for human society, which were
excluded from the UNFCCC estimates. She found that this is an
important source of under-estimation, and will cost over $350 billion,
including both protected and non-protected areas.

'The costs of adaptation for ecosystems are potentially huge, the
largest of any sector,' says Dr Berry. 'This is not only because of
the projected future losses of species, but also because of the
immense value of ecosystems for human health and well-being through
the provision of food, fuel and fibre. The worrying feature is that
our report has identified how little is known about this, the biggest
elephant in the room. Even worse, uncertainty is leading to its
omission from the overall figures, which will compound the

The study's other findings include:

         Water: The UNFCCC estimate of $11 billion excluded costs of
adapting to floods and assumes no costs for transferring water within
nations from areas of surplus to areas of deficit. The underestimate
could be substantial.

         Health: The UNFCCC assessed only malaria, diarrhoea and
malnutrition and excluded developed nations in coming to a figure of
$5 billion. But this may cover only 3050 per cent of the global total
disease burden.

         Infrastructure: In arriving at a cost of $8130 billion, the UNFCCC
assumed that low levels of investment in infrastructure will continue
to characterise development in Africa and other relatively poor parts
of the world. But the researchers point out that such investment must
increase in order to reduce poverty and thus avoid continuing high
levels of vulnerability to climate change. Their report says the costs
of adapting this upgraded infrastructure to climate change will be
eight times more than the higher estimates predicted by the UNFCCC.

         Coastal zones: The UNFCCC estimate of $11 billion excluded
increased storm intensity and used low IPCC predictions of sea level
rise. New research on sea-level rise published since the 2007 IPCC
report, and including storms, suggests costs will be about three times
greater than predicted.

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Received on Tue Sep 15 00:41:45 2009

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