IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report

5.7 Costs, benefits and avoided climate impacts at global and regional levels

Impacts of climate change will vary regionally. Aggregated and discounted to the present, they are very likely to impose net annual costs, which will increase over time as global temperatures increase. {WGII SPM}

For increases in global average temperature of less than 1 to 3°C above 1980-1999 levels, some impacts are projected to produce market benefits in some places and sectors while, at the same time, imposing costs in other places and sectors. Global mean losses could be 1 to 5% of GDP for 4°C of warming, but regional losses could be substantially higher. {WGII 9.ES, 10.6, 15.ES, 20.6, SPM}

Peer-reviewed estimates of the social cost of carbon (net economic costs of damages from climate change aggregated across the globe and discounted to the present) for 2005 have an average value of US$12 per tonne of CO2, but the range from 100 estimates is large (-$3 to $95/tCO2). The range of published evidence indicates that the net damage costs of climate change are projected to be significant and to increase over time. {WGII 20.6, SPM}

It is very likely that globally aggregated figures underestimate the damage costs because they cannot include many non-quantifiable impacts. It is virtually certain that aggregate estimates of costs mask significant differences in impacts across sectors, regions, countries and populations. In some locations and amongst some groups of people with high exposure, high sensitivity and/or low adaptive capacity, net costs will be significantly larger than the global average. {WGII 7.4, 20.ES, 20.6, 20.ES, SPM}

Limited and early analytical results from integrated analyses of the global costs and benefits of mitigation indicate that these are broadly comparable in magnitude, but do not as yet permit an unambiguous determination of an emissions pathway or stabilisation level where benefits exceed costs. {WGIII SPM}

Comparing the costs of mitigation with avoided damages would require the reconciliation of welfare impacts on people living in different places and at different points in time into a global aggregate measure of well-being. {WGII 18.ES}

Choices about the scale and timing of GHG mitigation involve balancing the economic costs of more rapid emission reductions now against the corresponding medium-term and long-term climate risks of delay. {WGIII SPM}

Many impacts can be avoided, reduced or delayed by mitigation. {WGII SPM}

Although the small number of impact assessments that evaluate stabilisation scenarios do not take full account of uncertainties in projected climate under stabilisation, they nevertheless provide indications of damages avoided and risks reduced for different amounts of emissions reduction. The rate and magnitude of future human-induced climate change and its associated impacts are determined by human choices defining alternative socio-economic futures and mitigation actions that influence emission pathways. Figure 3.2 demonstrates that alternative SRES emission pathways could lead to substantial differences in climate change throughout the 21st century. Some of the impacts at the high temperature end of Figure 3.6 could be avoided by socio-economic development pathways that limit emissions and associated climate change towards the lower end of the ranges illustrated in Figure 3.6. {SYR 3.2, 3.3; WGIII 3.5, 3.6, SPM}

Figure 3.6 illustrates how reduced warming could reduce the risk of, for example, affecting a significant number of ecosystems, the risk of extinctions, and the likelihood that cereal productivity in some regions would tend to fall. {SYR 3.3, Figure 3.6; WGII 4.4, 5.4, Table 20.6}