Putting a Price Tag on Climate Change

cost of climate change

For years, scientists have talked about the costs of global warming. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon took those warnings literally.

Yesterday, Ban announced in a 52-page report that efforts to address climate change may cost a staggering $20 trillion over the next two decades. According to coverage from the Associated Press, the report lays the groundwork for a major two-day General Assembly debate on climate change scheduled for mid-February. While the 192-nation GA will address a broad range of policies and initiatives pertaining to global warming, the primary objective of the summit is to establish a framework for negotiations of a new climate treaty. This treaty, which would take effect in 2009, is intended as the successor to the Kyoto Protocol. (And just to dispel any confusion-- no, the US still has not signed on to Kyoto).

Notably, Ban's report acknowledged not only that developing nations are disproportionately affected by climate change, but also that "the challenge of climate change is unlikely to be gender-neutral." From the AP's "UN: Climate Change May Cost $20 Trillion":

In his report, Ban warned that global warming would probably affect women more than men. "The challenge of climate change is unlikely to be gender-neutral, as it increases the risk to the most vulnerable and less empowered social groups," he said.


Annie Petsonk, a lawyer for the advocacy group Environmental Defense, said global warming will most affect poor people and minorities, because the wealthy can spend more to adapt. "Women in poorer communities are going to face greater challenges protecting their children from the spread of diseases, polluted water, water shortages and so on," she said.

While the figures cited in the report are certainly daunting, Ban should be congratulated for his efforts to put climate change at the forefront of the UN's agenda. His attention to environmental justice and commitment to getting each and every member nation on a carbon conscious path could mark an exciting time of international collaboration on climate issues. Keep your eyes peeled for reports on the February summit!


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