Climate Change

The Very High Cost of Doing Nothing

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report this week that says we will blow past the 2 degree warming target set by the Paris climate accord if we don't make significant changes by the year 2030.

The report acknowledges that doing that will be difficult and expensive, but the cost of doing nothing will be astronomically higher.

The authors of the IPCC report tried to calculate the cost of doing nothing and they estimate that it would cost over $50 trillion if the world warms just slightly more than the 2 degree target of the Paris climate accord.

The report attempts to put a price tag on the effects of climate change. The estimated $54 trillion in damage from 2.7 degrees of warming would grow to $69 trillion if the world continues to warm by 3.6 degrees and beyond, the report found, although it does not specify the length of time represented by those costs.

The report concludes that the world is already more than halfway to the 2.7-degree mark. Human activities have caused warming of about 1.8 degrees since about the 1850s, the beginning of large-scale industrial coal burning, the report found.

In other words, the cost of doing nothing will be equivalent to the cost of waging another world war.

Just the same, even if we spring into action and make significant changes over the next 12 years, the IPPC report found that the world will warm by at least 1.5 degrees by 2030 and that in itself will come with a large price tag.

When you consider what we're facing in the relatively near future, it's even more maddening that Republicans chose to flush a trillion dollars down the toilet by passing their tax cuts for corporations and the rich.

We're going to be staring down the barrel of trillion dollar deficits at a time when we should be investing in the future.

Raising taxes on the rich could literally be a matter of life and death for millions of people and I believe that's how Democrats should frame it when the time comes (probably in 2020). And for their part, rich property owners on the coast of Florida or the Hamptons need to recon with the fact that they will lose everything if we don't act. Cutting your marginal tax rates by 15 percent won't mean shit if everything you own is destroyed.

  • muselet

    The Rs were—surprise, surprise!—irresponsible in seeking yet more tax cuts. A catastrophe looms and they’re busily lining the pockets of people (and corporations) that are likely to contribute to the campaigns of R candidates.

    Part of the problem is, of course, that many people don’t understand what’s going on or what’s at stake. Climate isn’t a sexy topic and reporters don’t want to waste time learning about science, so reporting on the subject is sparse. (The LA Times, to its credit, put the story of the IPCC report on A-1, column 1, above the fold.) Worse, all too many politicians and political commentators have deliberately misinformed people on the subject.

    If anyone you know claims not to understand what the big deal is, point them to this explainer from BBC News.

    As I said yesterday, it will be expensive in the short term to combat warming, but it’ll be cheaper than extinction.


    • Tony Lavely

      But extinction, that means the lord is coming to save our souls, right? amirite? Evangelicals need not apply, your place is saved.

      • Aynwrong

        Can God push the rapture date up so we can get on with the business of NOT cooking the planet?

      • Draxiar

        More likely God would be like a parent walking in on a high school house party asking with rage, “What the hell are you doing to my house?!”

        • Tony Lavely

          To my way of thinking, I’d pay to see that!