Rising sea levels are not only imperiling people, the cost to property and infrastructure amounts to trillions of dollars a year. However, if governments act now they can significantly reduce the costs associated with sea level rises. Failure to act soon will cause the costs to increase exponentially.
According to a study from the Stockholm Environment Institute called “Valuing the Oceans”, if the rise of greenhouse gases continues to go unchecked, it will result in lasting damage that will cost $2 trillion each year.
A warmer planet will also continue to cause ocean acidification and diminished levels of oxygen in the seas. These events will destroy coral reefs and decimate fish stocks which will impact people and economies around the world.
As reviewed in a PhysOrg article, in addition to material costs there is also a dramatic human cost, as low-lying areas particularly those around the the coastlines of Africa and Asia are at risk of inundation.
The report states that if temperatures continue to rise with a projected increase of four degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century, the cost in 2050 will be $428 billion annually, or 0.25 percent of global domestic product (GDP). By 2100, the cost would rise to $1,979 billion, or 0.37 percent of output.
If global governments choose to act now and warming is limited to 2.2 C (4 F), the cost in 2050 would be $105 billion, or 0.06 percent of worldwide GDP, rising to $612 billion, or 0.11 percent, by 2100.
“This is not a scaremongering forecast,” says the report. ”The ocean has always been thought of as the epitome of unconquerable, inexhaustible vastness and variety, but this ‘plenty more fish in the sea’ image may be its worst enemy.”
The actual impact of rising sea levels may prove to be even worse than suggested in this study. The report did not consider the costs to small island states which are subject to the most acute risks, nor did it factor the extraordinary disruption of the world’s food chain.
© 2012, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.
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