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Scientists Detail Social, Economic Costs of Unbridled Climate Change

by Catherine Komp

Oct. 17, 2006 – A pair of scientists at Tufts University have catalogued the social and economic effects of unabated global climate change.

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In a study released last week by Tufts’s Global Development and Environment Institute, researchers predict that upon reaching an increase of 2 degrees Celsius in the mean global surface temperature, "incalculable" social and environmental harms could be triggered, including more tropical diseases, decreased crop yields in the developing world and a "total loss of arctic ice and the extinction of many arctic species."

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the best current estimate of the earth’s increase in surface temperature is 0.6 degrees Celsius since the late Nineteenth Century.

Ackerman and Stanton, noting that all future temperature change predictions are estimates, state that if mean global temperatures rise by more than 2 degrees Celsius, the result could be widespread species extinctions, the collapse of the Amazon ecosystem, a major increase in sea levels and a shut-down of the ocean’s circulation system.

The report also points to previously conducted research indicating that trillions of dollars in climate change damage could be averted by immediately reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In a 2005 study for the German Institute for Economic Research, economist Claudia Kemfert estimated that the repercussions from climate change could cost up to $20 trillion in the year 2100. Kemfert warned that even with climate protection policies to cap warming increases at 2 degrees Celsius, the costs would be about $8 trillion.

In another study, University of Cambridge researcher Chris Hope estimated in 2003 that average annual damages would be $26 trillion from 2000 through 2200 if no new climate change policies are enacted.

The Tufts report also casts doubt on the supposed short-term benefits of global warming, like higher agricultural yields, decreased temperature-related deaths and increased enjoyment for people who live in cold climates. Researchers forecast that these benefits do not apply to all geographic areas, but that all areas will begin to experience the extreme effects of climate change after surface temperature rises by 2 degrees.

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Catherine Komp is a contributing journalist.

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