Hello and welcome to the very first blog in the new “Cost of Climate Change” series. My name is Jessica Hicks, a climatologist working in coordination with MyCarbon, and I’m going to take you around the world blog by blog to illustrate the disruption climate change has had—and will continue to have—on unique earth system processes and the costly impacts that are associated.
You may have seen or read in the news about the wildfires in California and Australia, flooding in Malawi and India, underground methane explosions in Siberia and so many other natural hazard events. And as you are probably well aware, the link between these events and climate change is quite strong, with the frequency of these occurrences increasing at an alarming rate. However, mitigation and adaption efforts to protect against these impacts – on top of making global progress in making our world more sustainable – is very, very slow.
At the moment, there are local to global targets in place which help aid the speed and reach of sustainable actions (policy creation, physical developments, etc.), however the process can be quite extensive and time consuming for all parties involved. The reason for this is that there needs to be a balance between the environmental efforts, the social efforts and the economic efforts in order to meet the needs of all pillars within the approach. There are many different focus areas that researchers dive into, but in this blog series, I will be placing a gentle focus on the economic side of things.
In a broad grasp, climate change impacts water access & availability, energy, transportation, agriculture, ecosystems and human health… which all have associated economic costs. However when monetising these impacts, this can be an essential factor in facilitating action as this adds an extra criterion of urgency to the matter in modern day societies.
For example, if we look at a recent study from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU)1 , they’ve estimated that by 2050 – without proper climate resistance efforts – the global economy will shrink by 3%... that’s approximately $7.9 trillion worth in climate change-related damages. Think that could get a few feet moving? Maybe. But it’s also important to recognise that these costs are not spread out evenly among different countries around the world. This means where certain countries could be taking the brunt of the costs, a more accelerated approach could mean more money saved in the long run.
So what actually is happening? Academics spend their entire careers focusing on single aspects of these processes, but in an elevator pitch: The Earth’s water cycle is balanced, moving water between the land, ocean and atmosphere. However, as anthropogenic (human-sourced) greenhouse gases build up in the atmosphere, this is ultimately increasing the global average temperature at an unprecedented rate and thus disrupting global atmospheric dynamics, which is messing with the Earth’s water cycle.
Why is this important? This has an impact on where water is moving in our regional environments. One example that you might be familiar with is with rising global temperatures, we’re seeing an increase in the rate at which our polar ice caps are melting, which is tied to global sea level rise. Another example I’d like to include is tied to the rate of evaporation and storage capacity of water vapour in our atmosphere. In this example, we’re seeing longer stretches of dry weather – causing drought-like conditions – which are then disrupted by brief periods of excessive precipitation – causing flooding in some cases. There are many consequences that can emerge from this, including crop failure, foundation instability, disease propagation, habitat destruction and many, many more.
In the following blog posts, we’ll explore specific case studies from different regions around the world to examine the impacts of climate change in these areas and their associated costs. Check back in the next few weeks to dive into the details of the Northern Polar Ice Cap and weigh the balance of increased shipping routes versus albedo effect impacts and so much more!
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