The Impacts and Costs of Climate Change Page: 1
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The Impacts and Costs of Climate Change
The effects of global climate change from greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) are diverse and
potentially very large.
The IPCC Third Assessment Report (IPCC, 2001) outlines the potential effects of climate change. It
presents an increasing body of observations that give the picture of a warming world and changes in
global and regional climate systems. Taking 1990 as the baseline, the current models project the
following key climate change impacts by 2100.
* Global average temperature is predicted to rise by 1.4 to 5.80C over the period to 2100
(temperatures rose by +0.6 C in the 20th Century);
* Globally precipitation increases, but with regional increases and decreases of typically 5 to 20% in
annual average rainfall;
* Sea levels rise by 0.09 to 0.88 m;
* Extreme events such as drought and severe storms are more likely;
* Beyond 2100 major changes in the climate system (e.g. alteration of North Atlantic Circulation,
collapse of West Antarctic Ice Sheet) become more likely if climate change is not stabilised.
These changes will lead to major impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem services, on economic
activities and on human health and welfare (including the loss of life and forced migration) with
associated implications for international equity.
Traditionally the policy debate on climate change has focused on the costs of mitigation, i.e. how
much it will cost to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to avoid climate change. This paper
focuses on the impacts and economic costs to society from climate change actually occurring3. These
costs represent the benefits of climate change policy and can be compared against the costs of
greenhouse gas emission mitigation.
The EU is committed to providing leadership in the field of climate change and, as such, a key priority
is contributing to global climate stabilisation efforts beyond 2012. As part of this priority, the EU
needs to identify an emission reduction target up to 2030 and indicative targets beyond4. Different
emission reduction strategies and/or different post-Kyoto targets will need to be evaluated in order to
* The Commission Report to the Spring Council 2005;
* Negotiations on future commitments at international level.
In order to balance the climate policy debate, the Commission requires the benefits of climate change
mitigation policies to be evaluated. Quantified benefits will ensure a more even judgement of policy
impacts against the widely reported costs of implementing the policies. Monetised avoided impact
benefits, estimated globally, but with a focus also on the European scale, will enable fully informed
13 The economic costs to society of climate change are also known as the social cost of climate change (and sometime the
social cost of carbon (the SCC)).
14 'Council believes that global average temperatures should not exceed 2 degrees above pre-industrial level and therefore
concentrations lower than 550ppm CO2 should guide global limitation and reduction effort'. Council meeting, Luxembourg,
25 June 1996.
'Council... acknowledges that to meet the ultimate objective of the UNFCC to prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference
with the climate system, overall global temperature increase should not exceed 2 C above pre-industrial levels'. Spring
Council meeting of 2004
AEA Technology Environment, August 2005
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Watkiss, Paul; Downing, Tom; Handley, Claire & Butterfield, Ruth. The Impacts and Costs of Climate Change, text, September 2005; Oxford, England. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc29337/m1/12/: accessed May 24, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; .