Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

Failing to fight global warming now will cost trillions of dollars by the end of the century even without counting biodiversity loss or unpredictable events like the Gulf Stream shutting down, a study recently showed. But acting now will avoid some of the massive damage and cost relatively little, said the study commissioned by Friends of the Earth and the Global Development and Environment Institute of Tufts University in the United States.

Most scientists now agree average temperatures will rise by between two and six degrees Celsius by the end of the century, driven by so-called greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels for power and transport.

[ … ]

The study said the cost of inaction by governments and individuals could hit 11 trillion pounds [US $20.55 trillion] a year by 2100, or six to eight percent of global economic output then.

So why are we taking so long to fix this damage?

Cited story.


  1. #1 bigTom
    October 18, 2006

    As I read the storey (it was a couple of days ago, and I didn’t read the whole thing, so correct me if I’m wrong). The basic claim was:
    1.6T/year today saves 6.4T/year in 100 years from now. Most economists would assume that 1.6T/year spent on something other than reducing GHG would have a compounding effect. At say 2.3%/year that would mean a dollar invested today would be worth $10 in a century. So I think economists will not be terribly excited about following such a program.

  2. #2 Alon Levy
    October 18, 2006

    bigTom, spending 1.6 trillion on stemming climate change will have a compounding effect, too. The money spent on environmentally friendly growth won’t go to slowing down the economy, but to inventing greener technologies, which will pay off later. Just like how military technologies invented in the Cold War later became useful in civilian life – ARPANET became the Internet – so will some discoveries meant to reduce carbon emissions be adapted for non-environmental uses.

  3. #3 Malthus
    October 19, 2006

    What’s more, the 11T / year? That’s just the _interest_. That’s just what you have to pay to keep society functioning on a even keel. It doesn’t touch the principal.

    The 1.6T they’re talking about, on the other hand, makes a serious dent in the principal, to the tune of decreasing your interest payments 100 years hence by 6.4T.

  4. #4 bigTom
    October 19, 2006

    I didn’t say we shouldn’t act now, I just pointed out that by standard economic measures, measures wouldn’t be regarded as good investments.
    If it is a one shot 1.6T, not 1.6T/year for decades, than clearly the math changes dramatically.

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