A new report by a global commission says the costs of fighting global warming will be modest and greatly outweighed by the benefits to public and environmental health.
The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate reports that curbing global warming would only cost $4 trillion over the next 15 years, which would go toward “low-carbon” energy and infrastructure projects. This is on top of the whopping $90 trillion the report claims counties will spend on infrastructure during that time.
But $4 trillion is only the tip of the costberg, as the report also urges countries to enact policies to reduce their carbon footprints, like halting deforestation, pricing carbon dioxide emissions, land-use reforms, and cutting fossil fuel subsidies.
“We are proposing a way to have the same or even more economic growth, and at the same time have environmental responsibility,” said former Mexican President Felipe Calderón, the chairman of the commission. “We need to fix this problem of climate change, because it’s affecting all of us.”
The commission’s report comes one week ahead of a United Nations climate summit in New York City, where world leaders, including President Barack Obama, will try and pave the way for a global climate agreement. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has been personally calling for countries to craft a binding international climate agreement, especially in the wake of the Kyoto Protocol’s expiration.
The U.N.’s climate summit, however, has already hit some snags. The heads of government for both China and India have opted not to attend next week, and reports keep circulating about the now 215-month “pause” in global warming. The Global Commission’s report is likely intended to spur world leaders to action on global warming.
The commission’s report says that the benefits accrued from fighting global warming would essentially make cutting greenhouse gas emissions a costless venture. The report says that limiting temperature rises to 2 degrees Celsius this century would spur global economic growth and help reduce poverty.
“Building the new climate economy will not be an easy journey,” the report says. “It is certainly not the ‘path of least resistance,’ and will require constant adjustment of policies, economic structures and institutions. But it is our opportunity to choose and shape a better economy, where equitable growth and a safer climate are not in opposition.”
But the report has already taken criticism for being too optimistic, especially on the costs of switching economies to run on green energy.
“I believe there is a significant problem with climate change, although the magnitude is hard to quantify,” Professor Gordon Hughes, an energy economist at Scotland’s Edinburgh University, told BBC News. “Choices can still be made but the idea that we can suddenly make changes to development patterns underway is assuming we have a blank slate and that people are prepared to radically depart from current trends — and that’s not plausible.”
The report also sidesteps the fact that the planet has not warmed in nearly 18 years, with the warming hiatus as long as 26 years in the lower troposphere. This so-called “pause” in global warming has baffled climate scientists who now give 52 explanations for why warming has stopped.
Carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere have skyrocketed in the last two decades to 396 parts per million last year, and concentrations are expected to hit 400 parts per million by 2015 or 2016. But during this time, there has been no warming trend — in fact, there has been a slight cooling trend since the early 2000s.
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