Sunday, December 15, 2013

Who pays for climate adaptation?

Indymedia (Australia): Climate extremes are already straining the resources of many countries, the Philippines being the latest victim. As the cycle of increasing damage and incomplete recovery accelerates the costs of disaster relief will grow. Occasionally, governments have used one off levies to help meet these demands eg Australia in 2012. Such levies have been accepted with limited complaint but future impacts are projected to be harsher, more frequent and more widespread.

In contrast, controls on green house gases have been relentlessly opposed as an impediment to economic growth and even portrayed as a threat to individual rights. Carbon markets, taxes and international agreements have been undermined and stalled. At the same time, adaptation to climate change risks has broadly been accepted, even though a key change in liability has occurred.

A home owner threatened by sea level rise faces adaptation costs but the cause is no longer just an “act of God”. Everyone who uses fossil fuels is contributing to the problem and has a portion of responsibility. Though it may be difficult to ascribe how much of a particular storm is due to climate change it is possible to calculate the rising cost of weather damage and the costs of adaptation.

So far, the costs of climate change have been reflected in soaring insurance premiums and struggling communities. Calls for government assistance and forward planning are certain to increase with the relentless march of global warming. Sooner or later the debate will turn to liability and a climate levy on fossil fuels.

Why would a national levy on fossil fuels be so different to a carbon price? A climate levy cannot be portrayed as a restriction of rights or a market impediment since it is simply a reflection of the liability from choosing to burn fossil fuels. The social engineering tag cannot be applied since the primary aim is to defend property and assets. While a carbon price has no effect on steeply rising insurance rates an adaptation levy would apply downward pressure on premiums by limiting risk, sharing damages and spreading cost....

Bondi Beach in Sydney, shot by Sardaka, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license

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