The Costs of Climate Impacts

  • Walter Orr Roberts


The surest prospect for future world climate patterns is that they will differ from present ones. What is uncertain is how much, and exactly in what way in different geographical regions. The anthropogenic CO2 increase will probably exceed the unknown forcing functions of “natural” climate change within 30 to 60 years. It is not unlikely that by AD 2040 the world’s climate, driven by the CO2 increase, will enter a domain warmer than any within the past few million years.

The costs of averting this climate change or of absorbing its impact are likely to be huge, even though today imponderable. Not least among these are intangible and unquantifiable costs associated with changes in human values and the quality of everyday life for future generations.

As Donald Michael and others have said, we live in an emerging society and the evolution of such a society, on a 25–50 year time scale, cannot be predicted from the characteristics of the many components from which it will be built. Thus, economists are powerless to predict, beyond the short term, fiscal policies to stabilize the cost of gold, to predict future population growth rates, or to assess the costs of accommodating to a warmer climate 60 years hence, when the very nature and dynamic interactions of the emergent society are uncertain.

It is probable, however, that food and agriculture will be the sectors most strongly impacted. Better arid land management, increased use of irrigation, water and soil conservation, and the use of yet-to-be-developed genetic strains of food plants and animals will feature among the costly new strategies most promising of benefits. Moreover, these strategies will bring benefits that are entirely independent of their worth in minimizing the impact of climate changes.


Climate Impact Social Innovation Fast Breeder Reactor Genetic Strain Grow Season Rainfall 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Walter Orr Roberts
    • 1
  1. 1.Program on Food, Climate and the World’s FutureAspen Institute for Humanistic StudiesBoulderUSA

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