Global Warming: Adapt or Prevent?

NCPA Study Shows Living With Climate Change Is Less Costly, More Beneficial


DALLAS (September 14, 2005) - Trying to stop global warming imposes huge costs and provides very few benefits, according to a study authored by a Bush Administration analyst and released today by the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA).

"Living with global warming costs a fraction of what it would take to stop it," said Indur Goklany, author of the NCPA study. "The costs of trying to prevent global warming far exceed any benefits of doing so for the foreseeable future."

The NCPA study compared the costs and benefits of adapting to global climate change with strategies that prevent global warming, such as the Kyoto Protocol, and found that problems most often projected to dramatically worsen as a result of global warming are more effectively and economically lowered by adapting to climate change rather than trying to prevent it. For example:

  • Meeting Kyoto emission targets would reduce fatalities from malaria by one-half of one percent, but investing an additional $1.5 billion annually for treatment would cut the death toll in half.
  • Meeting Kyoto targets would reduce the population at risk for hunger by only 2 percent by 2085, but investing an additional $5 billion to solve agricultural problems in developing countries would reduce hunger by 50 percent beginning today.
  • The population at risk for coastal flooding would decline by meeting Kyoto emission standards, but at a cost of $165 billion a year. By contrast, investing an additional $1 billion annually in preventive measures would address the problem just as well, if not more effectively.

Moreover, adapting to climate change would enhance both economic development and human capital and increase the capacity for technological innovation in developing countries.

"By confronting problems head on we can save lives now, especially in developing countries," Goklany added. "Preventive strategies, like the Kyoto Protocol, will by default condemn thousands to poverty, disease and death."