Words Rania Zahia

Experts have been warning us about the negative effects of climate change, which results from the emission of greenhouse gases. In the long run, these emissions will pose a threat to economic development. It is incumbent upon us to find a solution to this problem.

Changes in climate stem from global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has projected the trajectory of global greenhouse gas emissions that are expected through 2100 according to the highest-emissions scenario and the lowest-emissions scenario, along with the accompanying expected changes in the global average surface temperature. According to the highest-emissions scenario, which represents a continuation of current trends, temperatures would increase on a near-linear trajectory throughout the century. According to the lowest-emissions scenario, temperatures would increase through the middle of the century and then level off. Average surface temperatures in 2081-2100 would exceed those that prevailed in 1986-2006 by about 4–6°C. These temperature increases would be added to the increase of 0.61°C that was observed between 1850 and 1900 and between 1986 and 2005.

Estimating the economic burden of climate change 

According to a study on the economic costs of climate change to Lebanon that was carried out by  the Ministry of the Environment and the United Nations Development Programme, these costs may reach more than $80 billion in 2040 if the world does not implement quick and serious measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Around 33 prevent of these costs would be borne by the Lebanese government in 2040, according to the assumptions adopted in the study, whereas climate change would cost each Lebanese household around $60 thousand in the same year. In the event that countries around the world, including Lebanon, implement their pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with the new Paris Agreement on climate change, Lebanon’s economy will save $50 billion in 2040, thanks to the reduced impact of climate change on the economy, society, and the environment. The report estimated the economic impact of climate change on eight economic sectors in Lebanon for the years 2020, 2040, and 2080. In addition, the report presented policy recommendations that Lebanon could adopt to better adapt to the adverse economic and environmental effects of climate change.

Climate change has both direct as well as indirect costs. Direct costs result when higher temperatures, changes in precipitation, and extreme weather events, such as storms, reduce agricultural productivity, adversely affect human health, cause flooding, and hence damage different segments of the economy. Indirect costs result when the direct costs slow the country’s economic growth. The slower growth means a decline in Lebanon’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), lower incomes for workers and households, lower government revenues, and higher government costs.

Regional insecurities, in particular with regard to the distribution of natural resources, might be aggravated by climate change. This could exacerbate political conflicts and lead to an increase in migration, which would make it more difficult for different countries to deal with the negative effects of climate change. Thus it is important to develop a climate response system that would make communities more resilient to the adverse impacts of climate change. This can be done by following the recommendations that are presented in the aforementioned report on the economic costs of climate change to Lebanon.