The cost of global warming will run into trillions of pounds and the environmental and social costs will be incalculable, a survey has revealed. The report, Climate Change – the Costs of Inaction, was compiled by leading economists for Friends of the Earth.

The survey highlights the enormous costs that would result if Governments allow temperatures to rise by more than two degrees. The report also reveals the comparatively small amounts of money needed to keep temperatures in check.

Global temperatures have already risen by 0.6 degrees above pre-industrial levels. If emissions continue to rise unchecked global temperatures could increase by more than four degrees centigrade in the next hundred years.

An increase of 2 degrees would mean decreased crop yields in the developing world will spell disaster for many poor farmers and poor countries whose economies are dependent on agriculture production. Widespread drought and water shortages will also hit the developing world hardest. Other impacts include a near total loss of coral reefs – of vital importance to fisheries and the tourist industry; the expanded northward spread of tropical diseases such as malaria; and the potential extinction of arctic species including the polar bear.

Director of the Research and Policy Program at the Global Development and the Environment Institute and one of the authors of the report, Dr Frank Ackerman said:

“The climate system has enormous momentum, as does the economic system that emits so much carbon dioxide. Like a supertanker, which has to turn off its engines 25 km before it comes to a stop, we have to start turning off greenhouse gas emissions now in order to avoid catastrophe in decades to come.”