Assessing the costs of adaptation to climate change

A review of the UNFCCC and other recent estimates

field work

Several recent studies have reported on the possible annual costs of adapting to climate change, including one by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), estimating it to be US$40-170 billion. These have been influential in discussions, but they have a number of deficiencies and a group of researchers which set out to examine these, given any underestimate of the costs of adaptation threatens to weaken the outcome of UNFCCC negotiations in Copenhagen in December (Parry et al. 2009). Through an examination of the sectors included by the UNFCCC, they estimated adaptation costs to be 2-3 higher, and when omitted sectors are included, such as energy and manufacturing, the true cost is much greater. Pam Berry was involved in costing adaptation in ecosystems, a particularly methodologically challenging sector and one which was eventually omitted from the UNFCCC study. Nevertheless, the costs of improving conservation in protected areas to enable ecosystems to adapt to climate change could add $65-80 billion per annum to the above costs, and this figure could increase 4-5 times if protection in the wider countryside is included.

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