Costs of Adapting to Climate Change Double-to-Triple UN Estimates, New Report Says


The biggest omission by the UNFCC was not including a cost for protecting ecosystems and the services they provide, such as the barrier against storms that mangroves provide. Photo: Ken Funakoshi via flickr.

We all know that adapting to climate change is going to cost us -- but that doing nothing will ultimately cost us even more -- however, a new report from the International Institute for Environment and Development says that the real costs of adaptation are likely to be 2-3 times greater than those estimated by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change:This new estimate places the adaptation costs in the range of $80-510 billion annually, rather than the $40-170 billion projection from the UNFCC.

The reason for the discrepancy, the report authors say, is that the UNFCC estimates were "produced too quickly and did not include key sectors such as energy, manufacturing, retailing, mining, tourism, and ecosystems."

Here are the key findings of Assessing the costs of adaptation to climate change:

Water: The UNFCC estimated $11 billion here, but did not include costs for transferring water within nations, from areas of surplus to those of deficit -- which could be substantial.

Health: The UNFCC's projected cost of $5 billion for health only included malaria, diarrhea, and malnutrition, and did not include any costs for developed nations -- omitting 30-50% of global total disease burden.

Infrastructure: $8-130 billion was assumed here by the UN, but the report points out that this assumes levels of infrastructure investment in Africa and other poor areas of the world insufficient for poverty reduction and avoiding continued high vulnerability to climate change -- to account for this, the cost really should probably eight times this.

Coastal Zones: The likely costs for protecting coastal zones from storm activity and sea level rise are probably three times greater than the UN estimate of $11 billion. This is due to the fact that sea level rise predictions have be revised since the 2007 IPCC report, and the UN used low sea-level rise scenarios in calculating the original figure.

Ecosystems: The UNFCC excluded entirely from its cost estimates the price tag of protecting ecosystems and replacing lost ecosystem services. The report estimates that including this in the cost of climate change adaptation could add up to an additional $350 billion.

Read more: Assessing the costs of adaptation to climate change
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