The cost of natural disasters caused by extreme atmospheric disturbances as a result of climate change has cost Greece 780 million euros over the past five years in the form of compensation paid to businesses, farmers and municipalities. Obviously the payments do not cover the entire cost of the damage and the above amount does not include compensation paid to private individuals at the state’s discretion, nor the cost of lost working hours, nor the inconvenience to people’s daily lives. «Prevention is the cheapest of all courses of action taken after the disaster has happened,» said Professor Dimitris Lalas. According to the findings of the second National Program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions between 2008-2012, to be updated by the end of the year, action costing 6.1 billion euros must be implemented. Of that amount, the state is to contribute 1.35 million, the rest is to take the form of investments that businesses will be required to make. «These investments will pay off immediately – it is estimated that the indirect profit from implementing these measures will amount to 635 million euros annually,» explained Lalas. Nevertheless, these steps are not being taken, nor are the investments being made. Instead, large amounts of money are being spent on rectifying problems that could have been averted. Compensation In 2002, extreme weather conditions resulted in compensation payments to farmers of 34.6 million euros (not including the usual payments for destroyed crops). This amount shot up to 128.2 million euros in 2003, 116.1 in 2004, and 81.7 in 2005. For this year, the total is expected to reach 96.7 million. Since 2002 the state authorities have paid out 18.3 million euros to businesses that have sustained damages, chiefly from flooding, an amount that accounts for just 30 percent of total damages. Through the Interior Ministry, municipalities and prefectures have received a total of 299,418,000 euros since 2004 to repair destroyed infrastructure. Although Greeks are not in the habit of insuring their homes against natural disasters, an executive in a major insurance firm explained that over the past five years the company had paid out 15 million euros in damages resulting from natural disasters, an astronomical amount given the small number of those insured. According to the experts, the worst is still to come. The European Union’s environment ministers’ draft conclusions on climatic change make it clear that if nothing is done to halt the course of climatic changes, the ensuing disasters will cost much more than any measures to reduce greenhouse gases. Greenhouse effect The accumulation of greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere before the industrial revolution was 250 ppm (parts per million). Today this is estimated to have risen to 370 ppm and the forecast is not encouraging. There is no doubt that the situation is deteriorating. The question is: how fast? If the increase is contained at 450 ppm, scientists say the average temperature is likely to rise about 2 degrees Celsius by 2050. This seems to be the best-case scenario and is the desired target set by the EU. Although considered difficult to achieve, it calls for expenditure equivalent to 3-4 percent of the world GDP. If the concentration of greenhouses gases rises to 550 ppm, it will represent a financial outlay of just 0.5-1 percent of the world GDP. «These amounts do not include the clear benefits to be derived from reducing these emissions,» emphasized Lalas. Unfortunately, however, temperatures are continuing to rise.