Counting the Costs of Climate Change

March 29, 2014

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change working group 2, (IPCC WGII) is finalizing its report in Yokohama, to be released March 31. There has been a lot of noise and several purported leaks on what the document will say.  Per IPCC – “The Working Group II contribution to the Fifth Assessment Report considers the vulnerability and exposure of human and natural systems, the observed impacts and future risks of climate change, and the potential for and limits to adaptation. The chapters of the report assess risks and opportunities for societies, economies, and ecosystems around the world.”

Above, useful summary by the increasingly impressive Al Jazeera. (the video also contains other reports, the IPCC stuff is front loaded..)


This will be the second of three reports on the causes, consequences of and solutions to climate change, drawing on researchers from around the world.

The first report, released last September in Stockholm, found humans were the “dominant cause” of climate change, and warned that much of the world’s fossil fuel reserves would have to stay in the ground to avoid catastrophic climate change.

This report will, for the first time, look at the effects of climate change as a series of risks – with those risks multiplying as temperatures warm.

The thinking behind the decision was to encourage governments to prepare for the full range of potential consequences under climate change.

Nearly 500 people must sign off on the exact wording of the summary, including the 66 expert authors, 271 officials from 115 countries, and 57 observers.

But governments have already signed off on the critical finding that climate change is already having an effect, and that even a small amount of warming in the future could lead to “abrupt and irreversible changes”, according to documents seen by the Guardian.

“In recent decades, changes in climate have caused impacts on natural and human systems on all continents and across the oceans,” the final report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will say.

Some parts of the world could soon be at a tipping point. For others, that tipping point has already arrived. “Both warm water coral reef and Arctic ecosystems are already experiencing irreversible regime shifts,” the approved version of the report will say.



A United Nations panel of scientists is joining the list craze with what they call eight “key risks” that are part of broader “reasons for concern” about climate change.

It’s part of a massive report on how global warming is affecting humans and the planet and how the future will be worse unless something is done about it. The report is being finalized at a meeting this weekend by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

They assembled the list to “make it understandable and to illustrate the issues that have the greatest potential to cause real harm,” the report’s chief author, Chris Field of the Carnegie Institution of Science in California, said in an interview.

But a draft of the list — called by the acronym RFCs — includes science-heavy language, caveats and uses lowercase Roman numerals, for example using iv instead of 4.

A boiled-down version of what the scientists say the warmed-up future holds for Earth if climate change continues:

1. Coastal flooding will kill people and cause destruction.

2. Some people will go hungry because of warming, drought and severe downpours.

3. Big cites will be damaged by inland flooding.

4. Water shortages will make the poor even poorer in rural areas.

5. Crazy weather, like storms, can make life miserable, damaging some of the things we take for granted, like electricity, running water and emergency services.

6. Some fish and other marine animals could be in trouble, which will probably hurt fishing communities.

7. Some land animals won’t do much better and that’s not good for people who depend on them.

8. Heat waves, especially in cities, will kill the elderly and very young.



27 Responses to “Counting the Costs of Climate Change”

  1. omnologos Says:

    The observers don’t sign anything, do they? (asking)

    Ps hopefully “crazy weather” is journalistic only 🙂

  2. […] The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change working group 2, (IPCC WGII) is finalizing its report in Yokohama, to be released March 31. There has been a lot of noise and several purported leaks o…  […]

  3. redskylite Says:

    “In recent years, for instance, scientists have been ferreting out the connections between climate change and human health. They’ve found that spasms of cholera correlate with changing sea surface temperatures and that diarrhea outbreaks arrive as the mercury climbs. They’ve discovered associations between seasonal weather patterns and malaria that are so strong that outbreaks can be predicted with the weather forecast.”

    Research has found that the health risks caused by heat waves, drought and flooding also include more likely spread of dangerous disease.

  4. cyhalothrin Says:

    I think that the “disease” issue is one of the weaker arguments we should be using in trying to get the public to understand why they should be concerned about AGW. The assumption that “a warmer world will be a sicker world” is not necessarily true, in my opinion. Sure, the zone where malaria can exist will spread, but the real public health menace is overpopulation and poverty, not malaria. I’ve had malaria twice, by the way – it’s a survivable problem. I’ve suffered more from flu in the cold regions of the world.

    On the other hand, having your home submerged by a rising sea is a lot harder to ignore. Starvation caused by drought-induced crop failure can ruin your whole day.

    • redskylite Says:

      Yes there are anti-Malaria drugs, but no cure for Ebola to date:

      • And it should be noted that Ebola has now broken out in the capital of Guinea and that capital has an international airport. This particular strain of Ebola has a 90% mortality rate.

        • Ebola epidemic could become global crisis, experts warn
          8 confirmed cases in capital of Conakry, city of 2 million with an international airport
          Mar 29, 2014

        • Doug Alder,

          I would be more worried about the densely populated ghettos of the capital than the airport. Speaking as someone living in the developed world, where medical resources are fairly advanced, Ebola doesn’t present that great a threat to me personally. However, poor densely populated areas where medical resources are limited, it would at least be possible for the virus to become endemic to the population. With a higher population density, there is a greater chance of their being transmitted before they burn through those that they have already infected. Ghettos will have reduced sanitary conditions, making transmission by bodily fluids easier, and lack of medical resources will, for example, make the sharing of needles more likely.

          Please see:

          “Ebola is transmitted person to person by direct contact with infected body fluids, or by direct inoculation via contaminated instruments such as needles or razors. The incubation period of Ebola haemorrhagic fever is usually between four and 21 days. The illness is characterised by an acute onset of fever, malaise, myalgia, severe frontal headache, and pharyngitis. One of the great difficulties in making the diagnosis is that these symptoms are typical of many acute infective syndromes that occur in Ebola-endemic areas.”

          Cohen, Jonathan. “Containing the threat—Don’t forget Ebola.” PLoS medicine 1.3 (2004): e59.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            We should be careful when using the word “endemic” to talk about Ebola and related viruses. They are really only “endemic” in the carrier/host species (chimps, monkeys, macaques). Humans who survive infection do not typically “carry” or “host” the disease except in very limited ways.

            The worry is that these viruses can become epidemic in humans, who have little resistance to them (as evidenced by the high mortality rates). Tim is correct to say that the densely populated areas are the biggest worry. Outbreaks to date have been in fairly isolated areas, and were recognized early enough to be contained. An outbreak in a city of 2 million with poor medical care can result in hundreds of thousands of deaths and overwhelm any attempts to contain it as people “run for the hills”. It is easy to just stop flying planes INTO an airport, although the worry would be that some of the “rich folks” fleeing by air on the last planes OUT could be infected and carry the disease with them. Outbreaks could then happen in several places, even in the developed world, and we’d need to be on the ball to contain them quickly. The long incubation period doesn’t help.

            PS Remember the Bruce Willis move “Hot Zone”? The world has a lot of excess nukes sitting around—-want to bet that someone will suggest using them to deal with a serious Ebola outbreak? When Reston Ebola was discovered less than 20 miles from where I live outside DC, some folks DID make that suggestion. Of course the fact that Reston was perceived as being a hotbed of liberals made it more palatable—-a two for one kind of thing.

          • dumboldguy wrote, “Remember the Bruce Willis move ‘Hot Zone’?”

            I never saw it. My wife doesn’t like Bruce Willis, although she did enjoy “The Fifth Element.”

            “… a two for one kind of thing.”

            Ah, the more things change…

        • From the same people (CBC) who brought us the headline “Ebola epidemic could become global crisis, experts warn”…

          “Although Ebola violently attacks the body, it kills up to 90 per cent of those infected and can only be transmitted via bodily fluids, which greatly reduces its ability to spread, says Jay Keystone, a travel physician and professor in the department of medicine at the University of Toronto.

          “‘If we had a case in Canada we’d isolate the case, the patient would live or die, and we’d be highly unlikely to have it transmit,’ says Keystone.

          “In terms of transmission, he adds, ‘there are far worse diseases out there.'”

          Guinea’s Ebola outbreak: ‘There are far worse diseases out there’
          Travellers should be more concerned about malaria and hepatitis A, experts say
          26 Mar 2014

          … but I would still be worried about the dense slums with limited medical resources and the possibility that Ebola could become endemic to the population.

          • Gingerbaker Says:

            Marburg mutated to an aerosol-transmitted variant in the Reston (USA) outbreak, which was – thank dog – only in monkeys.

            May just be a matter of time for humans.

          • Gingerbaker writes, “Marburg mutated to an aerosol-transmitted variant in the Reston (USA) outbreak, which was – thank dog – only in monkeys. May just be a matter of time for humans.”

            Actually the aerosol transmission of Ebola Zaire and Marburg between rhesus monkeys has already been demonstrated. Please see:

            Johnson, E., et al. “Lethal experimental infections of rhesus monkeys by aerosolized Ebola virus.” International journal of experimental pathology 76.4 (1995): 227.

            As such Ebola Reston does not appear to have recently mutated to an aerosol vector in rhesus monkeys. It likely has had that vector in rhesus monkeys for some time. It does not have that vector in humans.

            If I remember correctly, this may have something to do with there being an additional layer of cells in the pulmonary-arterial barrier, although it might also be a matter of cell receptors facilitating this vector being present in certain lines of cells in rhesus monkeys but absent in corresponding lines of cells in humans. Regardless, there isn’t much reason to argue such a vector is only a mutation or two away in humans.

    • Redskylite, other diseases will likely be much more of a problem, but I wouldn’t worry too much about Ebola or Marburg. Both are especially nasty, but to no small extent their own detriment. They have short incubation times and the signs of infection are quite obvious. Thus the disease will have its breakouts, but it won’t have much of a chance to spread.

      Additionally, in no small part, we owe the breakouts to burial customs that involve among other things washing the dead, thereby increasing the likelihood of transmission through the exchange of bodily fluids. (Ebola Reston appears to be transmissible through air, but in humans such transmission results only in flu-like symptoms as the virus is unable to break the blood-air barrier.)

      Mosquito-borne diseases such as West Nile and Dengue and food- and water-borne diseases such as Cholera and Salmonella should be of greater concern. Receding frost lines make it possible for mosquito populations to live all year round, maintaining their populations rather than having to rebuild them each year. Drought concentrates disease and flood facilitates its spread.

      Anyway, here is something I wrote a while back:

      Diseases Under Climate Change

      It includes links to source articles. I believe they are all open access.

      You might also try:

      Shuman, Emily K. “Global climate change and infectious diseases.” New England Journal of Medicine 362.12 (2010): 1061-1063.

      Other papers tend to have a narrower focus, e.g., regional or marine.

  5. John Says:

    Reblogged this on jpratt27 and commented:
    IPCC report its getting hard to deny the science. There is a lot of science in conscience.

  6. The first report, released last September in Stockholm, found humans were the “dominant cause” of climate change, and warned that much of the world’s fossil fuel reserves would have to stay in the ground to avoid catastrophic climate change.

    As if that’s not obvious.  If McKibben is correct and we need to get back to 350 ppm ASAP, we need to put some gigatons CO2 BACK in the ground or otherwise out of the atmosphere.  Such efforts require energy… energy that is available on demand, and does not itself emit carbon.  The “renewables” being touted most heavily do not match these criteria.

    even a small amount of warming in the future could lead to “abrupt and irreversible changes”

    This has forced me to consider questions like “what could reverse a sudden increase in atmospheric methane?”  I’m no chemist, but I suspect that the generation of ozone by corona discharge could help a great deal.  Ozone plus methane might react to CO2 + H2O + H2… with a lot less greenhouse impact than CH4.  Or not.  I’m not a chemist, I’m an engineer who can work out stoichometry of reactions.

    • redskylite Says:

      I suspect that engineers will play a large part in the future to our adaptation and survival. I just hope that it is unnecessary to implement grand engineering solutions to bring our planet back to health. We still have a window to aim for and we have the knowledge and tools. We just need to listen to the experts and commit to a plan.

  7. rayduray Says:

    BBC on the new IPCC resport:

    Headline: “Climate impacts ‘overwhelming’ – UN”

    • redskylite Says:

      “Now, ignorance is no longer a good excuse” – thanks for sharing this excellent piece of reporting.

  8. redskylite Says:

    Local New Zealand report and reactions on the IPCC release, with highly skeptical “minister of climate change”

  9. redskylite Says:

    Talking about crazy weather “It (the Hong Kong observatory) added that as climate change progresses, Hong Kong would see more extreme weather in the future.”

  10. […] 2014/03/29: PSinclair: Counting the Costs of Climate Change […]

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