The present cost of climate change

The cost of climate change is something that has usually been described as a future cost. Climate change is a slow disease, wearing away existing structures bit by bit but accelerating all the time. Mr Stern’s review explained that climate change will cost us plenty, if we do nothing about it. Nevertheless, we have done nothing about it, having regard to the scale of the problem and the measures that must be taken, and having done nothing about climate change we are now beginning to suffer the costs of climate change.

In the summer of 2007 the United Kingdom suffered from extraordinary floods. Thirteen lives were lost. 48,000 homes were damaged and now Robert Runcie, Environment Agency Director in charge of flood and coastal risk management estimates that the cost to the United Kingdom was £3.2 billion, which is more than $5 billion.

Some of these costs could not be laid at the door of climate change. For example if Councils give permission for developers to build in flood plains then the damage that is suffered by natural flooding of rivers, which is not always related to climate change, should not be counted.

I do not know what percentage of the cost of the floods is down to climate change – but if we take a rough and ready guess and estimate it at half, then the cost is substantial and significant. It amounts to billions of our hard earned taxes being thrown away.

Every year there are weather events that we experience that are caused by climate change and every year we suffer great cost as a result. In 2009 there were floods again, particularly in Cumbria, and it is arguable that the recent very cold weather is down to climate change. If that weather is not down to climate change then the effect of thirty years of mild winters (which is down to climate change) left us unprepared and allowed us to be lulled into a false sense of security that we can manage very cold weather by “just in time” processes that were developed for the sale of consumer luxuries, not life sustaining necessities.

We therefore did not hold enough stocks of salt and grit, we had few snow ploughs, we were sometimes inexperienced in the best way to use these resources and as for equipment like de icing machines at airports, we were woefully ill prepared and as a result the economy suffered greatly. A stitch was not sewn in time and it therefore failed to save not only nine stitches but rendered a new garment necessary.

As a country which produces directly and indirectly probably around 4% of the world’s carbon emissions (here I count those produced on our behalf in places like India and China) if we put billions of pounds of real money (as opposed to the imagined stuff that Governments like to boast about) in cutting emissions by carrying out emission saving measures it would only marginally impact on the global greenhouse effect directly.

It would indirectly impact as it would create the conditions to encourage other large polluters to do likewise.

It is equally important, however, to put money into things that will mitigate the worst effects of climate change. These are things like flood and coastal defences, better road and building construction, plenty of salt and grit, and even de-icing machines at airports, even if they lie unused for several years at a time.

The Environment Agency predicts that unless the UK doubles its spending on sea and flood defences to £1 billion by 2035, the cost of damage would rise to £5.2 billion a year by then. As an exercise in mathematics it seems a no brainer, but then again it was a no brainer when Nicholas Stern set out his sums which have been studiously and manfully ignored.

2 Responses

  1. I agree, We have done nothing much to help re-balance any damages and our exhaustive feeding upon the other species, and its a real shame because the planet works for us every day for nothing and is having a really hard time keeping up with us.

    I just watched the film when the earth stood still last night and the visitor summed it up perfectly in that we were are slowly destroying the planet, but in the end he took back his decission, let mankind live on but took away all of our factors that we are using today, a small price to pay for the longevity of the whole.

    At the end of the day, the true cost to the enviornment and the monetary costs are completely different things, we cannot base our natural needs on that of money, if we do we will most definately fail ourselves, the Georgia Guidestones in the USA are saying the same message, less can most definately be more, the 500,000 figure they mention is about the number of people that a populous working not against nature can survive in pure luxury using and benefitting from the fruits of our (own labour).

    There is a long way to go into destroying the enviornment but we are getting pretty close to that goal in evolutionary terms, very close indeed.

    As the dinosaurs died out so will we, but our intelligence should be able to let us survive much longer than they did surely, Hmm, I’m not to sure about that are you ?.

  2. And now for a live report into climate change or was that humans changing the figures, its all out there if you look hard enough.

    What is a secret is, how much would someone stand to gain for cooking the planets books, sorry to be so blunt but this report does have a sting in its tail doesn’t it.

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