Two recent studies outline the potentially devastating economic impacts of unchecked climate change. In a recent study released by Citigroup, the economic effects of action on climate change versus inaction on climate change were compared, with the conclusion that inaction brought much greater potential economic impacts. This week the Journal Nature issued a report concluding inaction on climate change could result in a 23% reduction in global income by 2100.
The most recent UN IPCC Report on Climate Change has been released. The full Report, issued on November 1, 2014, has a number of dire predictions, if no action is taken. These are highlighted in an additional document labeled “Headline Statements” which include:
“Surface temperature is projected to rise over the 21st century under all assessed emission scenarios. It is very likely that heat waves will occur more often and last longer, and that extreme precipitation events will become more intense and frequent in many regions. The ocean will continue to warm and acidify, and global mean sea level to rise….
Many aspects of climate change and associated impacts will continue for centuries, even if anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are stopped. The risks of abrupt or irreversible changes increase as the magnitude of the warming increases….
This past week has been World Water Week. NASA has posted some interesting material to mark World Water Week, including an an animation showing our dependence on the oceans and the potential impacts of sea level rise.
The site notes there has been a sea level rise of 5 centimeters just since 1993 and illustrates the effect of a 2 meter rise (the model many are using for the year 2100) on various coastal areas.
The White House has issued a new report on the increased costs associated with delaying action on Climate Change. The report notes that taking action now, rather than waiting, is in some respects the same as purchasing an insurance policy. Plus, once carbon dioxide concentrations reach a certain point, there could be enormous increases in annual costs associated with increased temperature.
The summary of the report states in part:
“Based on a leading aggregate damage estimate in the climate economics literature, a delay that results in warming of 3° Celsius above preindustrial levels, instead of 2°, could increase economic damages by approximately 0.9 percent of global output. To put this percentage in perspective, 0.9 percent of estimated 2014 U.S. Gross Domestic Product ( GDP) is approximately $150 billion. The incremental cost of an additional degree of warming beyond 3° Celsius would be even greater. Moreover, these costs are not one-time, but are rather incurred year after year because of the permanent damage caused by increased climate change resulting from the delay.
Today the White House issued the latest National Climate Assessment. The summary of the report notes impacts in every region of the country and what it calls “key sectors of society and the U.S. economy.”
Summarizing areas of impacts it notes:
“Climate-Change Impacts on Key Sectors of Society and the U.S. Economy
Portions of the new IPCC report have been leaked and they do not provide good news. As reported by National Geographic, the report comes with some dire predictions for the future unless action is taken.
“The leaked draft from Working Group II further warns: ‘Impacts from recent extreme climatic events, such as heat waves, droughts, floods, and wildfires, demonstrate significant vulnerability and exposure of some ecosystems and many human systems to climate variability (very high confidence). These experiences are consistent with a significant adaptation deficit in developing and developed countries for some sectors and regions.'”
The U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society have published a primer of Climate Change facts. Entitled “Climate Change Causes and Facts” the booklet tries to provide a fact based summary of what scientists now know and don’t know about Clinate change.
The stated purpose of the report is:
“The Royal Society and the US National Academy of Sciences, with their similar missions to promote the use of science to benefit society and to inform critical policy debates, offer this new publication as a key reference document for decision makers, policy makers, educators, and other individuals seeking authoritative answers about the current state of climate-change science. The publication makes clear what is well established, where consensus is growing, and where there is still uncertainty.”
A recent study by the University of Toronto looks at the potential of Perfluorotributylamine (PFTBA), a greenhouse gas, to have long term impacts upon climate change. An article in the Geophysical Research Letters reports the results of the study.
While only noted in trace amounts in the atmosphere, the significance of PFTBA on climate change going forward relates to its “potency”. Angela Hong the lead researcher is quoted as saying:
“Calculated over a 100-year time frame, a single molecule of PFTBA has the equivalent climate impact as 7,100 molecules of CO2,”
An insurance industry group has come out with a report on the significant and unpredictable risks caused by climate change. The Geneva Association Report warns that models previously used by the insurance industry to predict climate related events are no longer reliable. The report focuses on the uncertainty resulting from sea level rise and ocean warming.
“Another implication of ocean warming is the potential for longer tropical cyclone seasons….A longer hurricane season, starting earlier and ending later, can change some of the storm characteristics and increase the damage potential of cyclone season. There are indications that this is the case for example in the Hurricane Sandy on the U.S. East Coast at the end of October 2012….The impact of ocean warming on other loss-relevant hurricane characteristics, such as size, genesis potential and location of landfall, is deeply uncertain and, because of the sparse data, it will take some time until a potential signal may appear in observational time series.”
In addition to calling for internal actions by the industry in risk assessment, the report calls for “external” actions.
NASA is continuing a multi-year study which, so far, is demonstrating that Arctic permafrost is warming more rapidly than the air. In a release this week the situation in the Arctic is referred to as the “canary in the coal mine” for climate change.
The extreme conditions in the Arctic prevent decomposition of most plant and animal material. Each year there is a partial thaw which allows vegetation to grow, which then dies and is added to the permafrost when the colder weather returns. The result is thousands of years of stored organic material. The report notes:
“…Arctic permafrost soils have accumulated vast stores of organic carbon – an estimated 1,400 to 1,850 petagrams of it (a petagram is 2.2 trillion pounds, or 1 billion metric tons). That’s about half of all the estimated organic carbon stored in Earth’s soils. In comparison, about 350 petagrams of carbon have been emitted from all fossil-fuel combustion and human activities since 1850. Most of this carbon is located in thaw-vulnerable topsoils within 10 feet (3 meters) of the surface.”