The message in a recent Globe & Mail column by Eric Reguly was simple: ignoring the cost of climate change is bad business. Richard Bloomberg, the Mayor of New York City, obviously agrees. When following Hurricane Sandy the New York launched an inquiry into the costs of climate change, Mayor Bloomberg said:
“The biggest challenge that we face is adapting our city to risks associated with climate change. And meeting that challenge will require us to take a leap into the future. . .the good news is, compared to any other American city, we’ve got a running head start.”
The result of the inquiry was a recent report, entitled “A Stronger, More Resilient New York.”
The cost of implementing the conclusions in the report will not be small. They are estimated to be $19.5 billion. Like all cost estimates the actual cost could well be much greater, particularly if implementation is delayed. (For the full report follow this link.)
“As bad as Sandy was, future storms could be even worse. . . . In fact, because of rising temperatures and sea levels, even a storm that’s not as large as Sandy could, down the road, be even more destructive.”
His comments highlight one problem: what is the worst case scenario for which New York, or, for that matter the world, should be preparing? What will be the upper temperature limit of global warming? What degree of protection is necessary? If there is no mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions, will these measures be sufficient? The difficulty with all these questions is that they are unanswerable as our best estimates of what climate change may bring are subject to wide variation.
Our conclusion is that mitigation efforts are required now! We have enough facts about climate change to judge what the future is likely to bring. Yet we don’t act despite recognition of the costs of our inaction. Despite our vast accumulation of knowledge, humans may prove to be no more capable of survival than the dinosaurs.