The cost of climate change: Ecosystem services and wildland fires

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Lee, Christine, Claire Schlemme, Jessica Murray, and Robert Unsworth
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Little research has focused on the economic impact associated with climate-change induced wildland fire on natural ecosystems and the goods and services they provide. We examine changes in wildland fire patterns based on the U.S. Forest Service's MC1 dynamic global vegetation model from 2013 to 2115 under two pre-defined scenarios: a reference (i.e., business-as-usual) and a greenhouse gas mitigation policy scenario. We construct a habitat equivalency model under which fuels management activities, actions commonly undertaken to reduce the frequency and/or severity of wildland fire, are used to compensate for climate change-induced losses in ecosystem services on conservation lands in the contiguous U.S. resulting from wildland fire. The benefit of the greenhouse gas mitigation policy is equal to the difference in fuels management costs between the reference and policy scenarios. Results suggest present value ecosystem service benefits of greenhouse gas mitigation on the average of $3.5 billion (2005 dollars, assuming a three percent discount rate). Our analysis highlights the importance of considering loss of ecosystem services when evaluating the impacts of alternative greenhouse gas mitigation policies.


Lee, Christine, Claire Schlemme, Jessica Murray, and Robert Unsworth. 2015. “The Cost of Climate Change: Ecosystem Services and Wildland Fires.” Ecological Economics 116 (August): 261–69. doi:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2015.04.020.