Climate consequences of transatlantic flights ‘could cost economy £2,170’

Climate change could slash around 37% from global gross domestic product this century, researchers found.

August Graham
Monday 06 September 2021 16:12
A return flight to the US emits about one tonne of carbon dioxide (Steve Parsons/PA)
A return flight to the US emits about one tonne of carbon dioxide (Steve Parsons/PA)

A return flight from the UK to New York could cost the global economy more than 3,000 dollars (£2,170) in the long run, due to the effects of climate change, a new report has said.

Researchers from several top global universities said that the economic cost of climate change could be up to six times higher than previously thought.

For every tonne of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere, the global economy will be 3,000 dollars worse off by the end of the century, they estimated.

The research was conducted by experts from Cambridge University University College London and Imperial College London as well as international partners from Switzerland, Germany, the US and Austria.

Most past estimates have assumed that fires, floods, droughts and other impacts of climate change do not affect economic growth, the authors said.

We still need a better understanding of how climate alters economic growth, but even in the presence of small long-term effects, cutting emissions becomes much more urgent

Dr Chris Brierley, UCL

There is “mounting evidence to the contrary”, they added.

The consequences of climate change on future growth cut about 37% from global gross domestic product (GDP) this century, the researchers said. This is more than twice the drop seen in the Great Depression.

“Climate change makes detrimental events like the recent heatwave in North America and the floods in Europe much more likely,” said Dr Chris Brierley from University College London.

“If we stop assuming that economies recover from such events within months, the costs of warming look much higher than usually stated.

“We still need a better understanding of how climate alters economic growth, but even in the presence of small long-term effects, cutting emissions becomes much more urgent.”

The economic impact will depend on how much countries do to fight climate change by reducing emissions, said Jarmo Kikstra at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and Imperial College London.

One of the big steps forward in this work is to start capturing the risks of natural disasters, or climate variability, in cost estimates rather than just average changes in temperature

Dr James Rising, University of Delaware

Dr James Rising, at the University of Delaware and London School of Economics and Political Science, said: “The more we know about the risks of climate change, the more urgent action becomes.

“Every year we have seen more natural disasters linked to climate change, and the situation is going to keep growing worse until we can achieve global net-zero emissions.

“One of the big steps forward in this work is to start capturing the risks of natural disasters, or climate variability, in cost estimates rather than just average changes in temperature.

“While climate variability does not change the long-term best estimate of climate change impacts by all that much, it increases the range of risks, and those events can have long-lasting effects.”

The study was published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.