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Saturday, October 28, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Economist: Global warming will be costly

The Associated Press

LONDON — A comprehensive report on the global economic cost of climate change, to be released by the British government Monday, is expected to be the world's most serious effort to quantify the long-term effect of doing nothing.

The Independent newspaper reported Friday that the long-awaited review would say global warming could cost the world's economies up to 20 percent of their gross domestic product if urgent action is not taken to stop floods, storms and natural catastrophes.

Author Sir Nicholas Stern met privately with Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Cabinet ministers Thursday to brief them about his findings. Stern, a government adviser on climate change, is a former chief economist of the World Bank.

Quoting unidentified officials at the briefing, The Independent said Stern warned the world would have to pay 1 percent of its annual gross domestic product now to avert catastrophe but that doing nothing could later cost five to 20 times that amount.

"Business as usual will derail growth," the paper quoted Stern as saying as he briefed the government on his 700-page report, covering a period up to the year 2100.

The report was mandated by Blair's treasury chief, Gordon Brown, who is expected to replace Blair when he steps down as prime minister next year. Brown recently said he would use the report to alert governments around the world that they have been too slow to recognize — let alone fight — the threat of climate change.

Blair and his Dutch counterpart, Jan Peter Balkenende, wrote an open letter last week to their fellow European leaders on global warming.

"We have a window of only 10 to 15 years to take the steps we need to avoid crossing catastrophic tipping points," the letter said. "These would have serious consequences for our economic growth prospects, the safety of our people and the supply of resources, most notably energy."

Earlier this week, the European Union's environment agency said member states such as Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain were not doing enough to fight global warming, jeopardizing the bloc's commitments to cut down gas emissions by 8 percent by the year 2012 under the Kyoto treaty.

Sweden and Britain are the only EU-15 nations that can meet their targets without implementing any additional measures, the European Environment Agency said.

The international agreement was reached in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997 and it expires in 2012. President Bush has kept the United States out of the Kyoto international treaty to reduce greenhouse gases, saying the pact would harm the U.S. economy.

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