Economists Warn Climate Change Will Cost Trillions without Government Action

Economists Warn Climate Change Will Cost Trillions without Government Action

LONDON (UK) / WASHINGTON DC – The cost of allowing global temperatures to increase by two degrees centigrade or more above pre-industrial levels will run into the trillions of dollars and the environmental and social costs will be incalculable, according to a report released today.

The report, Climate Change the Costs of Inaction, was compiled by leading economists at Tufts University’s Global Development and Environment Institute for Friends of the Earth’s climate campaign.  The report is available online at

The report, which brings together the very latest scientific and economic thinking on climate change, highlights the enormous costs that will result if world governments fail to keep the rise in average global temperature below two degrees centigrade.

It is estimated that annual economic damages could reach $20 trillion by 2100, equivalent to six to eight percent of global economic output at that time [1]. However, even this figure is likely to be an underestimate because it does not account for the cost of biodiversity loss or of unpredictable events such as extreme weather or the collapse of Gulf Stream. The true costs of climate change are, according to Tufts University economists, incalculable.

The report also reveals the comparatively small amounts of money needed to keep temperatures in check. Action to limit temperature increases to two degrees centigrade could avoid $12 trillion in annual damages at a quarter of the cost.

Global temperatures have already risen by 0.6 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels. If emissions continue to rise unchecked global temperatures could increase by more than four degrees centigrade by 2100. The report looks at scientific and economic predictions on the impact of climate change as temperature rise:


Decreased crop yields in the developing world will spell disaster for many poor farmers and poor countries whose economies are dependent on agriculture production. Widespread drought and water shortages will also hit the developing world hardest where millions of people are already living without access to clean safe drinking water. Other impacts include a near total loss of coral reefs, the expanded northward spread of tropical diseases such as malaria, and the potential extinction of arctic species including the polar bear.


Decreasing crop yields in developed countries, will lead to decreasing world food supplies. Disease will spread:  For example, the incidence of diarrhea, a killer in the developing world, is predicted to increase by six percent in Africa. The rise in temperature will also lead to widespread species extinctions, increasing desertification, the wholesale collapse of the Amazon ecosystem, and the complete loss of all boreal and alpine ecosystems.


Melting of the West Antarctic ice sheet will gradually increase sea levels by five to six meters, putting vast tracks of land underwater and producing millions of environmental refugees. In Bangladesh, where half the population lives in areas less then five meters above sea level, permanent flooding and shortages of drinking water could result in 30

40 million people being displaced from their homes. Elsewhere entire regions will have no agricultural production whatsoever as a result of the changing climate.


There is a 50 percent chance that the ocean’s circulation system will shut down, removing the crucial currents that warm and stabilize the climate of Northern Europe.

Dr. Frank Ackerman, Director of the Research and Policy Program at the Global Development and the Environment Institute and one of the authors of the report said, “The climate system has enormous momentum, as does the economic system that emits so much carbon dioxide. Like a supertanker, which has to turn off its engines 25 km before it comes to a stop, we have to start turning off greenhouse gas emissions now in order to avoid catastrophe in decades to come.”

Elizabeth Bast from Friends of the Earth – US said, “This report demonstrates that climate change will not only be an environmental and social disaster: it will also be an economic catastrophe, especially if global temperatures are allowed to increase by more than two degrees centigrade.”


In Washington, DC:

Elizabeth Bast, Friends of the Earth US, 202-222-0719

In London, UK:


Catherine Pearce, Friends of the Earth International Tel: +44-7811 283 641 (mobile)


Friends of the Earth Press Office in London, UK, on +44-207 566 1649 or on +44-7764 364 187 (mobile)



 [1] Based on a study by the German Institute for Economic Research; estimates in U.S. dollars