Climate change, ecosystem services, and costs of action and inaction: scoping the interface

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Abstract

Cost calculations related to climate change have accrued much intellectual effort. However, few works approach the assessment from the point of view of the effects of climate variability and change in ecosystem service provision. Failure to act plausibly leads to ecological, social, and economic damages as a result of ecosystem change. The necessary actions to cope with unavoidable damages from such change generate adaptation costs, while mitigation costs are associated with actions to tackle undesired future changes in the ecosystems. Examples of these effects and related costs, based on representative studies, are reviewed following the organizing scheme of the ecosystem services approach. The examination of case examples reveals the potential and limits of monetary versus non-monetary estimations of impacts in human wellbeing from climate change-related changes in the ecosystems, trade-offs between types of ecosystem service provision and implications of timing in action. This article further discusses the necessary steps to advance in an inclusive scrutiny of the costs associated with the effects of climate change on ecosystem service provision. WIREs Clim Change 2013, 4:555–573. doi: 10.1002/wcc.247

Conflict of interest: The author has declared no conflicts of interest for this article.

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