NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 14, 2005

Should we try to prevent global warming? Or should we use our resources to adapt to the consequences of warming? Climate change is projected to exacerbate existing problems -- but it is not expected to produce new ones. These problems are a particular concern for developing countries, which lack the economic and human resources needed to cope with them, says author Indur M. Goklany.

Adaptation would reduce society's vulnerability to, or help cope with, the consequences of global climate change due to higher emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the principal greenhouse gas, says Goklany.

According to various United Nations-affiliated organizations:

  • By 2085, the contribution of (unmitigated) warming to malaria, hunger, water shortage, coastal flooding and threats to biodiversity is generally smaller than other factors unrelated to climate change.
  • A $10 billion annual investment in measures to deal directly with these problems would cost much less than the Kyoto Protocol, which will cost participating countries about $165 billion annually.
  • Kyoto, however, will not stabilize, much less reduce, atmospheric concentrations of CO2. Stabilizing atmospheric levels of CO2 at 550 parts per million (much higher than today's levels) would cost several trillion dollars.

Halting climate change, if that were possible, would cost many more trillions of dollars.

Adaptation would help developing countries cope with major problems now, and through 2085 and beyond, whereas generations would pass before anything less than draconian mitigation would have a discernible effect, says Goklany.

Source: Indur M. Goklany, "Living with Global Warming," National Center for Policy Analysis, Report No. 278, September 2005.

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