Cost estimates vary widely. One recent research found that keeping a warming of 2 degrees Celsius would require a total investment of $4 trillion to $60 trillion, with an average estimate of $16 trillion, while keeping warming by 1.5 degrees Celsius has could cost anywhere from $10 trillion to $100 trillion, with an average estimate of $30 trillion. (For reference, the world economy as a whole hit about $88 trillion in 2019.) Other studies have found that reaching net zero will require annual investments from less. 1.5 percent global gross domestic product is equal to 4 percent. That’s a lot, but in scope historic energy investment in countries like the US
Now, let’s look at the costs of unchecked climate change, which will fall hardest on the most vulnerable. These include damage to property and infrastructure from sea level rise and extreme weather, deaths and illnesses related to natural disasters, pollution and infectious diseases, reduced agricultural output and lost productivity. labor due to rising temperatures, reduced water availability and increased energy costs, and species extinction and habitat destruction. Dr. Hsiang, UC Berkeley economist, describes it as “the death of a thousand cuts.”
As a result, it is difficult to quantify climate damage. Moody’s analysis estimates that a warming of just 2 degrees Celsius will cost the world $69 trillion by 2100, and economists predict that number will continue to rise with temperature. In recent survey, economists estimate the cost will be 5 percent of global GDP to warm by 3 degrees Celsius (our trajectory under current policies) and 10 percent for 5 degrees Celsius. Other research indicates that, if current warming trends continue, global GDP per capita will fall between 7 percent and 23 percent by the end of the century – an economic blow equivalent to many coronavirus pandemics each year. And some fear this is underestimate.
Currently, studies suggest that climate change has decrease in income in the poorest countries up to 30% and decrease global agricultural productivity up 21 percent since 1961. Extreme weather events have also cost a fortune. In 2020, in the United States alone, climate-related disasters such as hurricanes, droughts, and wildfires have caused nearly 100 billion dollars damage to businesses, property and infrastructure, compared with an average of $18 billion per year in the 1980s.
With the high cost of inaction, many economists say that tackling climate change is a better deal. It’s like the old saying: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In this case, limiting warming would significantly reduce future damage and inequality caused by climate change. It will also create so-called co-benefits, like save a million lives every year by reducing air pollution and millions of others from eating healthier, climate-friendly foods. Some studies have even found that meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement can Create jobs and increase in global GDP. And of course, curbing climate change will make many species and ecosystems dependent on humanity – and things that many believe have their own innate value.
The challenge is that we need to reduce emissions now to avoid the damage later, which will require huge investments over the next few decades. And the longer we delay, the more it will cost us to achieve the Paris goals. One recent analysis found that reaching net zero by 2050 would cost the US nearly twice as much if we waited until 2030 instead of acting now. But even if we miss the Paris target, economics makes a strong case for climate action, because each additional degree of warming will cost us more – in dollars, and in lives.
Veronica Penney contribution report.
Illustrations by Esther Horvath, Max Whittaker, David Maurice Smith and Talia Herman for The New York Times; Esther Horvath / Alfred-Wegener-Institut
https://www.nytimes.com/article/climate-change-global-warming-faq.html The Science of Climate Change Explained: Facts, Evidence, and Evidence