Inaction on Climate Change will HURT our Economy

A major new report warns that the cost of failing to take action on climate change could devastate the economy. As one British newspaper put it:

Sir Nicholas Stern, a former chief economist with the World Bank, will warn that governments need to tackle the problem head-on by cutting emissions or face economic ruin. The findings … will turn economic argument about global warming on its head by insisting that fighting global warming will save industrial nations money. The US refused to join the Kyoto protocol, the international agreement on greenhouse gas emissions, because George Bush said it would harm the economy.

The Stern report was commissioned by the British government. Sir David King, the government’s chief scientific adviser, called the 700-page report “the most detailed economic analysis that I think has yet been conducted.” Stern added:

“If no action is taken we will be faced with the kind of downturn that has not been seen since the great depression and the two world wars.”

The report notes that avoiding catastrophic climate change might cost countries 1% of gross domestic product (spent largely on clean energy technologies that have many other benefits such as reductions in urban smog), but failing to act could cost up to 20% of GDP as the world must deal with impacts such as massive flooding and hundreds of millions of environmental refugees.

Sir Nicholas believes a window of 10 to 15 years exists to save the global economy from severe damage – but after that it will be too late.” Since America is both the biggest polluter and the biggest roadblock to international action, and since our President steadfastly refuses to take serious action, that means we really have a window of 7 to 12 years, and that means the fate of the planet will be in the hands the next president.

Let’s hope he or she understands the central lesson of the Stern report: The cost of an inaction on climate far, far exceeds the cost of action.

6 Responses to Inaction on Climate Change will HURT our Economy

  1. Albert says:

    My fear is how little coverage this may get in the press here in the U.S. Hopefully the word will get out and sink in before the next presidential election.

  2. Paul Baer says:

    There is much to say about the Stern Report, some good, some bad. However, your conclusion that the remaining years of the Bush administration are somehow “subtracted” from the time available to us are unnecessarily pessimistic; the rest of the world, and much of the US beyond Federal control, can do an enormous amount in two or three years if we’re sufficiently motivated.

    Paul Baer
    Research Director, EcoEquity

  3. […] Samuelson attacks the UK’s Stern Report in a column titled “Greenhouse Guessing.” He claims With today’s technologies, we don’t know how to cut greenhouse gases in politically and economically acceptable ways. The world’s 1,700 or so coal-fired power plants — big emitters of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas — are a cheap source of electricity. […]

  4. […] Columnist Samuelson’s attack on the UK’s important Stern Commission Report does more than merely ignore key greenhouse-gas-reducing technologies. Samuelson titles his piece “Greenhouse Guessing,” because he (mistakenly) thinks that determining the impact of global warming is a guessing game: […]

  5. […] Columnist Samuelson’s attack on the Stern Report does more than merely ignore energy efficiency and avoid any serious discussion of climate impacts. Here is how it ends: We need more candor. Unless we develop cost-effective technologies that break the link between carbon dioxide emissions and energy use, we can’t do much. Anyone serious about global warming must focus on technological progress – and not just assume it. Otherwise, our practical choices are all bad: costly mandates and controls that harm the economy, or costly mandates and controls that barely affect greenhouse gases. Or, possibly, both. […]

  6. Abdoul Yessoufou says:

    Although, i haven’t read the stern report or the full text of the critique by Robert Samuelson. The only thing that i have read is what is written above. And i will tell you frankly that he is right in saying “anyone serious about global warming must focus on technological progress-and not just assume it”. There is no point in spending billions on emissions trading schemes if it will deliver the goods- inflow of investments into research and development of low-emissions and no-emissions technologies. And will later be hijacked by agressive hedge funds and private equity.We should make another historical error and commit fallacies of misplaced concreteness. Just as we have done with the neoclassical economics that used the laws of physics in the designing theories.