GLOBAL WARMING REPORT: Right-Wing Fiction vs. Economic Reality

As the scientific consensus on the reality of global warming’s effects have strengthened, global warming deniers have resorted to arguing that, even if it is real, it’s too expensive to mitigate. Some examples:

National Review’s Jason Steorts: “Even if warming is predominately the result of human activity, and even if its harms will outweigh its benefits, the question is whether it will be bad enough to justify the economic castration that significant greenhouse-gas reductions would require.”

Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK): “The Kyoto Protocol is a lot of economic pain for no climate gain.”

Rush Limbaugh: “’Would you get off the global warming stuff,’ some people are saying. No, I’m not going to get off of it because what’s at stake is the US economy, folks, what’s at stake is our lifestyle. The people that are trying to force this on everybody and take the natural fluctuations of our climate.”

The right wing is right, but for all the wrong reasons. The U.S. economy and our lifestyles are indeed at stake if we continue to listen to the deniers. According to a new groundbreaking report commissioned by the British government — “the most comprehensive review ever carried out on the economics of climate change” — the economic costs of doing nothing far outweigh the costs of mitigating global warming’s effects. Here are a few of the report’s key conclusions:

Using the results from formal economic models, the Review estimates that if we don’t act, the overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least 5% of global GDP each year, now and forever. If a wider range of risks and impacts is taken into account, the estimates of damage could rise to 20% of GDP or more.

In contrast, the costs of action — reducing greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the worst impacts of climate change — can be limited to around 1% of global GDP each year.


The transition to a low-carbon economy will bring challenges for competitiveness but also opportunities for growth. … Markets for low-carbon energy products are likely to be worth at least $500bn per year by 2050, and perhaps much more. … [F]rom implementing strong mitigation policies this year, shifting the world onto the better path: the net benefits would be of the order of $2.5 trillion. This figure will increase over time. This is not an estimate of net benefits occurring in this year, but a measure of the benefits that could flow from actions taken this year; many of the costs and benefits would be in the medium to long term.

The message for those willing to heed reality is that if you’re concerned about global warming’s impact on the economy, now is the time to act.