Stopping Climate Change for Free?

Last Tuesday, the New York Times published an article on the just-published report of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, appointed by Colombia, South Korea, Sweden, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Norway, and the United Kingdom. Created to measure the costs of measures to limit current emissions, the commission’s findings proved less-conservative and more positive than this year’s earlier IPCC report.

The bottom line from the commission’s report: with all of the byproduct benefits from more renewable energy such as lower fuel costs and fewer serious illnesses from air pollution, the monetary benefits from reduced emissions could balance out the costs of changing infrastructure to more “green” technologies.

According to the commission, $90 trillion will be spent on infrastructure in the next 15 years. If such a large portion of budgets are being spent on infrastructure anyways, what is the big deal about spending on green infrastructure anyways? Governments and agencies simply need to plan to do all development in a greener manor than they are currently.

This article points out, and I agree, that the biggest step towards a zero-cost emissions reduction program is to stop subsidies to fossil fuel industries, a step much more easily said than done. If done too fast, like in Libya, subsidy cuts will cause riots. Furthermore, in democracies with such strong lobbyist presences like in the U.S., the government is under tremendous pressure from large fossil fuel companies to continue subsidies.

Sadly, no matter the possibilities of a more carbon-neutral and cost-neutral future, governments stuck in their old ways will block findings like those of the commission from ever coming to fruition. I hope in Lima states more green-development-friendly will use these findings as a rebuttal to those arguing that changing infrastructure will be too costly and thus unrealistic. The bottom line is, nations will have to build new infrastructure no matter what, and unless global climate change is mitigated, the need for new infrastructure will just grow more and more.

Gillis, Justin. 2014. “Fixing Climate Change May Add No Costs, Report Says.” The New York Times, September 16, p. A12.


One Reply to “Stopping Climate Change for Free?”

  1. I was just sent this article by my aunt and was planning on also writing a blog post about this until I saw your post! I completely agree with your analysis of the article and find this a very interesting point to make: that reducing emissions does not need to necessarily mean a damaged economy, in fact it could mean the opposite. Often it seems that in economics all the factors are not accounted for in particular ones that are difficult to quantify, such as health consequences or the value of a forest (one of the challenges in the acid rain debate). What I found to particularly interesting is the article did not even account for the damage and price tag of natural disasters. With the increased frequency and severity of weather disasters (flooding, hurricanes, tornados etc) due to climate change, a switch to a low carbon economy seems even more cost effective.

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