Climate Change Part III
In the rich countries, it is easier to adapt – both for the individual and for business. This will also make it easier to adapt to climate change. But even in rich countries, those who live off the land or on the fish, or in other ways depend on nature, will be harder hit by climate change than others. Adaptation also requires time, and the faster the changes come, the greater the problem of adapting.
If the fish disappear from the coast, the consequences will be far more serious if the changes occur from one year to the next, than if they occur over 20 to 30 years. In the event of abrupt changes, unemployment can arise in smaller coastal communities, not only among fishermen, but also in service industries that base their activities on fishing. This leads to evictions and loss of wealth because the value of residential and commercial buildings declines, and can also lead to social problems. A more gradual change could lead to an easier closure of operations.
When assessing the socio-economic consequences of climate change, there are therefore good reasons to distinguish between gradual and abrupt changes. Gradual changes will often affect more people in a population, but since the opportunities for adaptation are relatively large, economic and social consequences could be moderate.
When talking about how much climate change will be able to reduce gross national product, the numbers are therefore not so large. Calculations indicate that an increase of 3–3.5 ºC during this century will reduce GDP between 0.5 and 2 per cent in the rich part of the world. According to GETZIPCODES, local communities can, as mentioned, be hit harder because they are small and vulnerable, but the effects “drown” easily when one has to assess them as a whole for an entire country.
Many international studies conclude that the effects of climate change for countries far to the north can be positive if the global average temperature does not rise more than 2 ºC. Many people believe that increased temperature and more precipitation can stimulate growth in forests and agriculture. In addition, more precipitation will increase the potential for power production. At a temperature week above 2 degrees, the negative effects will dominate.
But Norway will also experience negative consequences – even with moderate climate change. Several winter sports cities are facing uncertain times. Even if the snow does not disappear completely, it is likely that “bad winters” will become more common, with snow-free periods in high seasons. There are many indications that fish stocks are very sensitive and move themselves with small changes in sea temperature. Many fear that the cod will move north and into the Barents Sea. This can lead to large financial losses. Danger of more pests in the forest or diseases of farmed fish is another concern. Locally, however, the changes can be large even if the average temperature or annual rainfall does not change as much:
What weighs heaviest of the positive and negative consequences is difficult to determine, and no one has yet calculated the costs of climate change in Norway. For the time being, we must stick to what researchers in other countries have done, without them having looked specifically at our country. Their conclusions, including that the overall effect should be positive, apply to larger regions where Norway only makes up a part. However, it is not enough to refer to possible positive effects for agriculture, forests and power production to say that the effects for Norway will be positive. The sign can be reversed when one includes negative effects for winter tourism and fishing.
7: What can be done?
Climate change can be counteracted through smaller emissions of greenhouse gases or increased carbon uptake. It costs money, and how much one is willing to invest depends on how large the effects of climate change will be. In many contexts, a global warming of 2 ºC is seen as a maximum of what the globe can withstand without the consequences being too great. However, it has proven to take a long time to agree on how much the world’s countries will contribute with climate measures. In addition, the climate system itself contains a slowness that means that the temperature will rise even long after the concentrations have stabilized. Seen in that light, there is little indication that the target of limiting global warming to 2 ºC will be reached. But between 2.5 and 3 ºC should be within reach if the countries of the world agree on significant reductions within 10 to 15 years.