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Climate Change Inaction Will Cost Trillions & Possibly Lead to Human Extinction

Failing to fight global warming now will cost trillions of dollars by the
end of the century even without counting biodiversity loss or unpredictable
events like the Gulf Stream shutting down, a study said on Friday.

"The climate system has enormous momentum, as does the economic system,"
said co-author Frank Ackerman. "We have to start turning off greenhouse gas
emissions now in order to avoid catastrophe in decades to come."

The study said the cost of inaction by governments and individuals could hit
11 trillion pounds a year by 2100, or six to eight percent of global
economic output then.

Most scientists now agree average temperatures will rise by between two and
six degrees Celsius by the end of the century, driven by so-called
greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels for power and
transport.

Already at two degrees they predict a massive upsurge in species loss and
extreme weather events like storms, droughts and floods, threatening
millions of lives. Polar icecaps will melt, raising sea levels by several
meters.

Beyond that, the world enters into the unknown with the possible shutdown of
the life-giving Gulf Stream and possibly catastrophic runaway change due to
so-called climate feedback.

By contrast, spending just 1.6 trillion pounds a year now to limit
temperature rises to two degrees could avoid annual economic damage of
around 6.4 trillion pounds, the Tufts report said.

CHALLENGE

The report came the day after oil major Shell said business should see the
challenge of climate change as a chance to make billions of pounds due to
the demand for new technologies and products to slash carbon emissions.

"For business, tackling climate change is both a necessity and a huge
opportunity. We have to step up to the challenge," Shell UK chairman James
Smith said.

The British government is in the closing stages of a ground-breaking global
study of the economic costs of climate change which is expected to be
published within the next two weeks stressing the massive costs of inaction.

During a debate in parliament on Thursday Environment Minister David
Miliband said the problem was worse than previously thought and the sternest
challenge faced by mankind.

"Preventing the transformation of the earth's atmosphere from greenhouse to
unconstrained hothouse represents arguably the most imposing scientific and
technical challenge that humanity has ever faced," he said.

"It is local, national and international. It will affect all of us as well
as all our children," he added.

Britain is set to meet its Kyoto target of cutting carbon emissions by 12
million tones by 2012, but the government is under pressure from opposition
parties and environment groups to introduce laws setting enforceable
national reduction targets.

Copyright © 2006 Reuters Limited
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