Fighting global warming offers growth and development
-Leading economist proposes "Climate Marshall Plan"
12 March 2009.
Combating climate change may not be a question of who
will carry the burden but could instead be a rush for the
benefits, according to new economic modeling presented today
at "Climate Change: Global Risks, Challenges & Decisions"
hosted by the University of Copenhagen.
Contrary to current cost models for lowering greenhouse
gas emissions and fighting climate change, a group of
researchers from the University of Cambridge conclude that
even very stringent reductions of can create a macroeconomic
benefit, if governments go about it the right way.
"Where many current calculations get it wrong is in the
assumption that more stringent measures will necessarily
raise the overall cost, especially when there is substantial
unemployment and underuse of capacity as there is today",
explains Terry Barker, Director of Cambridge Centre for
Climate Change Mitigation Research (4CMR), Department of
Land Economy, University of Cambridge and a member of the
Scientific Steering Committee of the Congress.
"There is some evidence that harder greenhouse gas
targets and regulation may actually increase benefits
through improved innovation and distribution of low carbon
technologies, and increased revenues from taxes or permits.
These revenues can be spent to further support new
technology and to lower other indirect taxes, ensuring the
fiscal neutrality of these measures", says Barker.
"The current global financial crisis must be seen as a
timely stimulus to tackling climate change, not a hindrance.
If all G20 countries adopted a Green New Deal similar to
that proposed by President Obama, the world economy could be
greatly strengthened, especially the sectors producing
low-carbon technologies," he adds. "But global coordination
is critical. Any single country's New Deal may fail if its
extra demand for goods and services are met with imports. If
we act together, everyone's exports will increase and we can
recover employment much quicker".
The prospect of extra growth for the economy from
mitigating climate change also raises the possibility of
generating funds for helping developing countries adapt to
the changes that are now inevitable.
"This 'New Marshall Plan' for the climate would be
beneficial to all parties", says Barker.
Though the debate on whether tackling climate change will
be a burden or a boost to the economy is still ongoing, the
findings presented at the IARU Climate Change Congress show
that inaction on climate change has significant and often
unexpected economic costs.
One study presented today shows that productivity among
New Delhi's outdoor laborers has already declined 10 percent
since 1980 as a direct result of climate change. A further
temperature rise of 2 degrees Celsius could cut productivity
by another 20 percent.
"Increasing excessive heat exposure affects the daily
life, work and health of poor people in tropical countries –
that effect of climate change has been ignored until now",
says Tord Kjellström, visiting fellow at the National Centre
for Epidemiology and Population Health at Australian
A forestry study shows that a shift in production from
cold adapted coniferous species such as Norway Spruce to
more heat tolerant broadleaves like oak would create
significant net losses in the value of forestland in Europe.
The forest area of Europe (excluding Russia) is
approximately 1.6 million km2. Applying a model that
predicts the shift of 32 major tree species in this area
reveals that under a scenario with an assumed increase of
temperature of almost 6°C in 2100, large areas of Europe
will be covered by a Mediterranean oak vegetation type with
rather low economic productivity.
"The loss of the value of forest land linked to that
process is estimated to be worth an average of 200 billion
Euro," said Marc Hanewinkel, professor at the Forest
Research Institute of Baden-Wuerttemberg, University of
Similarly a study shows that while it will cost up to 128
billion yen (1 billion euro) to secure Japanese harbors
against stronger winds and more frequent storms, failure to
do so could result in the loss of 1.5 to 3.4 percent of
Japan's GDP by 2085 (Japanese GDP in 2007 was 3.41 trillion
euro). This is due to an increased number of days where
harbors will be forced to close.
"Port planners should factor this in when designing port
capacities. Their designs must be able to prevent delays and
increased downtime due to winds and rain. Similarly, they
must plan for sea defenses that can limit damage caused by
waves. Failure to do so could lead to bottlenecks in the
shipments of products and constrain Japanese economic growth"
urges Miguel Esteban, Postdoctoral Fellow at the United
Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies.
About the congress
The International Scientific Congress on Climate Change
is taking place in Copenhagen 10-12 March. More than 2,000
participants are registered. The congress has received
almost 1,600 scientific contributions from researchers from
more than 70 countries. The preliminary conclusions from the
congress will be presented Thursday 12 March at the closing
session of the congress and will be developed in a synthesis
report to be published in June this year. The synthesis
report will be handed over to all participants at the United
Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) in December in
Copenhagen by the Danish Government. It is organized by
International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU):
- Australian National University
- ETH Zürich
- National University of Singapore
- Peking University
- University of California, Berkeley
- University of Cambridge
- University of Copenhagen
- University of Oxford
- University of Tokyo
- Yale University
DISCLAIMER: THIS PRESS RELEASE IS WRITTEN BY THE CLIMATE
SECRETARIAT AT THE UNIVERSITY OF COPENHAGEN. THE PEOPLE
QUOTED DOES NOT NECESSARILY SHARE THE OPINIONS EXPRESSED BY
OTHERS IN THIS TEXT.