Experts “grossly underestimate” the economic cost of global warming
A group of authors from several backgrounds, including Thomas Stoerk of the Environmental Defense Fund, Gernot Wagner of the Harvard University Center for the Environment, and Bob Ward of the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science, have written a paper warning that the true economic damage of global warming is “grossly” underestimated.
The authors state that there is “ … mounting evidence that current economic models of the aggregate global impacts of climate change are inadequate in their treatment of uncertainty and grossly underestimate potential future risks.”
One of the key components of their analysis is that the models used currently ignore the possibility and potential for “tipping points.” These are points beyond which “… impacts accelerate, become unstoppable, or become irreversible.” An example might be the melting of the Antarctic ice sheet; this would greatly accelerate the rate of change.
The projected economic damage, which will affect the southern United States much more seriously than the north, is already daunting: 30 percent of GDP destroyed, and a world cost of $535 trillion by the end of this century using existing climate/economic models.
Climate change has transformed much of Alaska over the past three decades
Climate change disproportionately impacts the Arctic, where rising global temperatures wrought by the burning of fossil fuels have brought rapid, fundamental changes to places like Alaska. In a new study published in Global Change Biology, researchers conclude that 67,000 square miles of land in Alaska, 13 percent of the total land, have been affected over the past three decades.
The land has been impacted by what the study calls ‘directional change,’ in which a location has experienced fundamental change in its ecology from historic levels. For example, some areas have become greener and wetter and others have dried out as glaciers shrink and wildfires rage across the state. Even trees have shifted, with treelines moving farther north to adjust to a warming Arctic.
Climate change has also disrupted the state’s historic water patterns. Melting permafrost has led to depressions, allowing wetlands to form in unusual places. This has also exacerbated erosion along the coasts, which are being tested by an ever-shorter season of sea ice.