Costing Climate: It is All Relative
- Aug 1, 2014 7:00 pm GMT
- 462 views
The White House released a report recently on “The Costs of Delaying Action to Stem Climate Change” (here in PDF). The report concludes (based on a summary by William Nordhaus in his book, The Climate Casino):
Based on a leading aggregate damage estimate in the climate economics literature, a delay that results in warming of 3° Celsius above preindustrial levels, instead of 2°, could increase economic damages by approximately 0.9 percent of global output.
The report seeks to place 0.9% of output into context by presenting it in terms of the US economy in 2014:
To put this percentage in perspective, 0.9 percent of estimated 2014 U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is approximately $150 billion.
The New York Times, mistakenly, assumes from this that the future impacts of climate change will be $150 billion:
Failing to adequately reduce the carbon pollution that contributes to climate change could cost the United States economy $150 billion a year, according to an analysis by the White House Council of Economic Advisers released on Tuesday.
The first surprise is that, for the range of changes that have been calculated, the estimated impacts of climate change are relatively small.
Postscript: For any trouble makers looking to misrepresent my views, I presented a more in depth analysis along these lines before the House Science Committee in 2007 (here in PDF). In that testimony I concluded:
Mitigation provides benefits under all scenarios discussed here, and almost all scenarios presented by the IPCC. According to the IPCC these benefits increase as the time horizon extends further into the future… nothing in this testimony should be interpreted as being opposed to or contrary to the mitigation of greenhouse gases. To the contrary, under all scenarios discussed here the benefits of mitigation exceed its costs. Mitigation is good policy, and many decision makers are now coming to understand that it is good politics, as well.