recent climate changes have allowed the biting midge vector to persist in the region (Mellor and Boorman, 1995).

Introduced diseases are costly—a single case of domestic rabies in New Hampshire led to treatment of over 150 people at a cost of $1.1 million. The cost of introduced diseases to humans, livestock, and crop plant health is estimated today at over $41 billion per year (Daszak et al., 2000). Abrupt climate change-driven disease emergence will significantly increase this burden. Furthermore, the economic implications of biodiversity loss due to abrupt climate change-related disease events may be severe, as wildlife supports many areas (fisheries, recreation, wild crops) very significant to our well-being.

Other Sectors and Technological Responses

Work in other sectors is still in its infancy. The results for sea-level rise (without storms) were reviewed earlier in the chapter, and the preliminary results reported there indicate that the cost of unforeseen climate change was only modestly more expensive than anticipated climate change. These estimates would change if storms were also included (West et al., 2001), emphasizing that work will need to consider variability and extremes as well as trends.

In addition, little attention has been given to the impact of abrupt climate change on leisure and recreational activities such as tourism. Such attention may seem frivolous, but in fact a substantial part of human time and of economic output is devoted to outdoor recreation—fishing, hunting, bird-watching, golfing, skiing, swimming, walking, and so forth. Efforts to understand the impact of climate change on leisure and recreation are hampered by lack of systematic data on time use of the population.

It is useful to remind ourselves that over the longer term, technological changes can modify the impact of climate and of abrupt climate change on human activities, on ecosystems, and on economic welfare. Irrigation and fertilization change the impact of climate on agriculture; plant and animal breeding have produced drought- and pest-resistant varieties; forest management practices have changed the pattern of tree growth and timber harvesting; land fills, dikes, and sea walls have kept the sea at bay in low-lying regions; dams and drip irrigation have spread out available water supplies; heat pumps and white roofs can change local energy balances; social and private insurance have reduced individual vulnerability to extreme weather events; vaccines and medications have reduced the impact of many diseases

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement