TABLE 5.1 Scenarios Comparing the Costs of Sea Level Rise for Different Expectations

 

Damages with Perfect Foresight

Damages with Myopic Expectations

Ratio of Myopic to Perfect Foresight

 

10 cm

50 cm

90 cm

10 cm

50 cm

90 cm

10 cm

50 cm

90 cm

Year

[millions of 1990 US dollars per year]

[ratio myopic to perfect foresight]

2050

8.1

90.6

218.7

8.3

110.4

284.4

1.02

1.22

1.30

2100

14.2

158.3

382.3

16.6

221.8

571.5

1.17

1.40

1.49

NOTE: Two scenarios compare the costs of sea level rise for different expectations. The first set of figures shows the cost of sea level rise for different rates of rise assuming that homeowners and communities perfectly forecast the pace and extent of the rise. The second set of figures shows costs if expectations are myopic, (i.e., assume no sea-level rise). The last set is the ratio of the costs under myopic foresight to perfect foresight. Lack of foresight has higher damages because homeowners make improvements even though the home may soon be damaged or inundated. Modified from Yohe and Schlesinger, 1998.

level-rise of about 1 meter could add about 50 percent to the cost of coastal structures damaged by sea-level-rise (Yohe and Schlesinger, 1998); adaptive capacity is diminished by myopia. This analysis also suggests why ecosystems are particularly vulnerable to abrupt climate change: they tend to be long-lived systems, they are generally unmanaged (e.g., coral reefs) and thus lack the ability to anticipate future events, and their ability to migrate or adapt is slow.

It would be useful to extend an analysis such as that above to the entire economy. This task can be readily undertaken for tangible capital, for which comprehensive valuation and lifetime data exist. But undertaking such an analysis for ecological capital presents a greater challenge because no comprehensive inventory and valuation system exists.

Is Abrupt Climate Change Likely to Exacerbate the Effects of Gradual Climate Change?

Until recently, most research on the impacts of climate change has focused on gradual climate change primarily because the early scenarios developed by climate scientists asked questions such as “what would happen if CO2 doubled?” and then simulated a situation in which climate moved



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