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Nicholas Stern Warns Of Greater Climate Costs

January 15, 2011

The price of fighting climate change is even higher than what was estimated in a 2006 study, said British economist Nicholas Stern, who earned an estimated 500,000-dollar Spanish award on Friday for his work.

Stern won the BBVA Foundation award for measuring the economic cost of climate change, notably in his 2006 Stern Review which found that economically, it was better to fight climate change than to do nothing about it.

His “advanced economic analysis” quantified the impacts of climate change and provided “a unique and robust basis” for decision-making, said the jury for the Frontiers of Science Award.

It “fundamentally changed the international climate change debate and stimulated action,” the jury said in a statement received by the AFP news agency.

The Stern Review found world economic growth would shrink by 20 percent if nothing was done to combat climate change, while a switch to a low-emissions economy would cost about one percent of global output per year.

After receiving notification of his award, Stern said he would revise the figures in his study if he was writing it now, according to statement by the BBVA Foundation.

“The cost of cutting back emissions is more than we estimated, but that is because the consequences of climate change are already here,” Stern was quoted as saying.

“Emissions are rising rapidly, and the capacity of the ocean to absorb carbon is less than we thought. Also, other effects, particularly the melting of the polar ice, seem to be happening much faster. We need to take more drastic steps, so the costs will inevitably be higher,” said Stern.

Countries should still rise to the challenge, he said.

“Climate change economics is the next industrial revolution. The countries who invest now in this new growth market will gain the advantage of a first mover. Those who don’t risk being left behind,” said Stern.

Stern said that China and some European countries had “woken up to the benefits” and taken steps to adopt a low-emissions economy. But the United States and other rich countries were moving more slowly toward those goals.

The BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Awards, established in 2008, recognize research and artistic creation.

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