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Prioritization of individual damage and cost dimensions of climate change impacts Short study within the project Costs of Climate Change Impacts in Germany

The short study recommends prioritizing the damage and cost dimensions of climate change by fully considering the categories of direct and indirect material and immaterial costs (cf. Hirschfeld et al. 2021: Kostendimensionen von Klimaschäden - eine systematische Kategorisierung). In a first step, the absolute costs are to be considered, which can be systematized differently in further steps depending on the specific issue: according to fields of action of the German Adaptation Strategy, economic sectors, regions, or their impacts on different social groups.

However, in addition to the absolute levels of damage and costs, the relative impacts of individual fields of action, economic sectors, regions, and social groups should also be analysed. Furthermore, irreversibilities, such as the loss of human life or the extinction of animal and plant species, should be prominently considered in the prioritization process.

Highest priorities are:  

  • the avoidance of fatalities and adverse health effects
  • the avoidance of further irreversible damage, such as the loss of biodiversity
  • from a macroeconomic perspective, reducing the absolute total economic costs of climate damage, which can result from the destruction or impairment of national and international infrastructures, as well as damage to suppliers and customers
  • from a sectoral and regional perspective, the relative damages that affect the respective sector or region
  • from a social perspective, the respective relative income and property damages of different social groups

In a number of cases, the damages can be reduced and, to a certain extent, avoided by the timely and consistent adoption of appropriate adaptation measures. However, residual damages of varying amounts remain in almost all cases. Taking into account the adaptation costs incurred, the respective total costs of climate change can be derived specifically for each field of action, sector or group.