Global Warming Could Devastate Economy
Monday October 30, 12:07 pm ET
By Thomas Wagner, Associated Press Writer
British Government Report Says Unchecked Global Warming Will Devastate
LONDON (AP) -- Unchecked global warming will devastate the world
economy on the scale of the world wars and the Great Depression, a
British government report said Monday, as the country launched a bid to
convince doubters that environmentalism and economic growth can
Britain hired former Vice President Al Gore, who has emerged as a
powerful environmental spokesman since his defeat in the 2000
presidential election, to advise the government on climate change -- a
clear indication of Prime Minister Tony Blair's dissatisfaction with
current U.S. policy.
Blair, President Bush's top ally in the Iraq war, said unabated climate
change would eventually cost the world between 5 percent and 20 percent
of global gross domestic product each year. He called for "bold and
decisive action" to cut carbon emissions and stem the worst of the
"It is not in doubt that, if the science is right, the consequences for
our planet are literally disastrous," he said. "This disaster is not
set to happen in some science fiction future many years ahead, but in
The report emphasized that global warming can only be fought with the
cooperation of major countries such as the United States and China, and
represents a huge contrast to the Bush administration's wait-and-see
global warming policies.
Sir Nicholas Stern, the senior government economist who wrote the
report, said that acting now to cut greenhouse gas emissions would cost
about 1 percent of global GDP each year. He recommended a "low-carbon
global economy" through measures including taxation, regulation of
greenhouse gas emissions and carbon trading.
"That is manageable," he said. "We can grow and be green."
Bush kept America -- by far the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide and
other gases blamed for global warming -- out of the Kyoto international
treaty to reduce greenhouse gases, saying the pact would harm the U.S.
economy. The international agreement was reached in Kyoto, Japan, in
1997 and expires in 2012.
Blair made his displeasure with U.S. environmental policy clear when he
signed an agreement this year with California Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger to develop new technologies to combat the problem. The
measure imposed the first emissions cap in the United States on
utilities, refineries and manufacturing plants in a bid to curb the
gases that scientists blame for warming the Earth.
The prime minister and the report also said that no matter what
Britain, the United States and Japan do, the battle against global
warming cannot succeed without deciding when and how to control the
greenhouse gas emissions by such fast-industrializing giants as China
Stern's 700-page report said evidence showed "that ignoring climate
change will eventually damage economic growth."
"Our actions over the coming decades could create risks of major
disruption to economic and social activity, later in this century and
in the next, on a scale similar to those associated with the great wars
and the economic depression of the first half of the 20th century," he
The report said at current trends average global temperatures will rise
by 3.6 to 5.4 degrees within the next 50 years or so, and the earth
will experience several degrees more of warming if emissions continue
It said such warming could have effects such as melting glaciers,
rising sea levels, declining crop yields, drinking water shortages,
higher death tolls from malnutrition and heat stress, and widespread
outbreaks of malaria and dengue fever. Developing countries often would
be the hardest hit.
The report acknowledged that its predictions regarding GDP relied on
sparse data about high temperatures and developing countries, and
placed monetary values on human health and the environment, "which is
conceptually, ethically and empirically very difficult."
Treasury Chief Gordon Brown, who is expected to replace Blair as prime
minister next year, said Britain would lead the international effort
against climate change, establishing "an economy that is both
pro-growth and pro-green." He called for Europe to cut its carbon
emissions by 30 percent by 2020 and 60 percent by 2050 -- and Blair's
government on Monday said it would propose a British law to that
Under the 1997 Kyoto accord, 35 industrialized nations committed to
reducing emissions by an average 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.
But Britain is one of only a handful of industrialized nations whose
greenhouse gas emissions have fallen in the last decade and a half, the
United Nations said Monday.
The U.N. said Germany's emissions dropped 17 percent between 1990 and
2004, Britain's by 14 percent and France's by almost 1 percent.
Overall, there was a 2.4 percent rise in emissions by 41 industrialized
nations from 2000 to 2004, mostly because former Soviet-bloc countries,
whose emissions declined in their economic downturn of the 1990s,
increased emissions during the recent four-year period by 4.1 percent.
The British government is considering new "green taxes" on cheap
airline flights, fuel and high-emission vehicles.