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The Spiraling Costs of Climate Change Denial

The costs of climate change denial are already apparent Climate change deniers continue to try to hammer home the idea that enacting proactive climate change policies would cost too much, would hurt consumers, and hamper economic growth. These assertions have consistently been challenged and refuted, but in recent weeks there’s been a string of events and new research reports that highlight the spiraling costs of climate change denial and inaction in greater-than-ever detail.

The following list is a summary sample of them:

  •  Marking World Habitat Day, Oct. 4, UN officials warned that climate change could create as many as 200 million refugees around the world. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon noted that 60 million people live within one meter of sea level. As thousands fled densely populated Luzon – home to Manila and the Philippines’ main island – due to heavy rainfall and two successively close typhoons,  the increasing frequency of severe storms and rise in mean global sea level put coastal cities at greater and greater risk, the Secretary-General said.
  • Cambodia’s Deputy Prime Minister Yim Chhay Ly called on local and international organizations public and private to assist the country as it tries to cope with the latest series of floods. Climate change is already taking a particularly heavy toll on countries that don’t have the resources to develop and enact long-term, large-scale climate change action plans. Yim pointed out the Cambodia has suffered heavily from Mekong River and flash floods over the last decade. “It cost human lives, destroyed agricultural crops, infrastructure, homes and so on,” he said. “It has slowed down Cambodia’s efforts to develop the nation.”
  • Climate change could cost Caribbean countries as much as 5% of their collective annual GDP between 2011 and 2050 if climate change mitigation and adaptation actions aren’t taken, according to a report from the Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean (ECLAC). Caribbean countries are among the first to be substantially affected by climate change, given their geographies and economies, Hirohito Toda, Office-in-Charge of ECLAC sub-regional headquarters stated. “Since more than half of the population lives near the coast, increase in temperature, change in precipitation and rise in sea level due to human activities will not only lead to loss of land but to lowered prospects for economic growth as well as quality of life for its people,” he said.
  • The cocoa industries of Ivory Coast and Ghana – the mainstays of their economies – are threatened by climate change, according to research conducted by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture. An anticipated rise in global mean temperature by as much as 2 degrees Celsius would make many cocoa-producing areas in West Africa unsuitable for cocoa agriculture and chocolate production by 2050, according to the report. Rising mean temperatures have already adversely affected cocoa crops in some marginal areas, noted Dr. Peter Laderach, the report’s lead author.
  • Climate change is affecting land, plants, water resources and wildlife in Yellowstone National Park. Temperatures in the Yellowstone area have risen faster in the past ten years than the global average 20th century rise, according to a study by the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. The changing climate could increase the frequency and severity of wildfires, eliminate moisture-dependent trees such as aspen — whose numbers are already falling precipitously in Colorado — lower water volume and flows of mountain streams with world-class trout fisheries and further degrade habitat for threatened and endangered species including grizzly bears.
  • The Canadian government’s advisory panel on business and environmental issues submitted a report warning that increasing greenhouse gas emissions could cost the Canadian economy as much as $43 billion a year by 2050 if a strong action plan to combat global warming isn’t put into effect. The consequences could include major flooding in coastal cities, effects on human health and dramatic changes in the forestry industry, agriculture and other economic sectors, according to the panel’s report, “Paying the Price: The Economic Impacts of Climate Change for Canada.”

It’s long been said that “an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.” That’s becoming abundantly clear with respect to climate change and the effects a world population equipped with 21st-century technology is having on our environment and climate.

As the authors of Canada’s National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy stated, “Ignoring climate change costs now and will cost us more later.”

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