Somehow, the potential collapse of our civilization as well as global ecosystems isn’t a good enough argument for Republican Teabaggers, beholden to their dirty energy corporate masters, to take action in the global warming arena. For a few paltry thousand of dollars per Representative and Senator, but millions upon millions in slick advertising, dirty energy interests have delayed and obstructed meaningful national efforts to clean up our act before it’s too late. All too often, Republican Teabaggers use the “economic destruction” talking point to convince the public that we just. can’t. take. action.
Just how “destructive” would action actually be? Far less expensive than doing nothing, to be honest. Action won’t be free. But inaction will be many times more destructive to our economy. And after spending much, much more money, societies would likely unravel and global ecosystems would likely collapse. That’s how absolutely stupid Republican Teabagger efforts to delay action on global warming is: it will cost us more and we could end up with broken societies and a planet that’s harder to live on. Or, we could take some action now and our societies will stay strong and our planet will remain mostly inhabitable. Beyond being able to live and do so in a civilized society, taking action would actually make economies stronger, something that should easily resonate in today’s world.
What are Republicans planning on doing on the global warming/energy topic? They’re planning witch hunts and character assassinations. They’re going to investigate things that don’t need to be investigated (where were they during the Bush Regime’s trampling of the Constitution, eh Teabaggers?). They’re going to try to defund federal agencies and departments. They’re going to waste taxpayer dollars chasing phantoms. What they won’t do is create jobs.They don’t want Americans to have full-time jobs that pay a living wage. They would rather help their corporate masters set up shop in foreign lands where there are no environmental or labor regulations to get in the way of obscene profits. What they won’t do is take the necessary steps to avoid the biggest crises of the future. Think geopolitics are complex and challenging now? They’re not likely to be simpler or easier if 1/3 of Earth’s habitable land becomes desert and billions of people experience famine and drought.
Back to the critical question at hand: what will global warming action cost? Well, recommendations have been made to spend up to 1% of GDP annually for the next couple of decades. Like I said, this won’t be free. If policy makers decide that’s too expensive (mostly because they’re ignoring scientific realities), what will we be forced to spend dealing with global warming effects instead?
Climate change will cost the United States about $1.9 trillion per year by 2100 (2% GDP) – Center for American Progress (by way of the NRDC).
The Union of Concerned Scientists came up with similar numbers on a closer time-frame: between 1.4% and 1.9% of annual GDP between 2025 and 2100. So they estimate that inaction will cost 1.4% of ~$14 Trillion (or ~$200 Billion per year) as soon as 2025.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimated in Nov 2009 that global warming costs to the world will go up by $500 Billion every year on top of the $10,500 Billion that is already needed between 2010 and 2030 to curb global warming pollution.
The IEA released data earlier this month showing that $1 Trillion was tacked onto the costs of reaching global warming goals that weren’t pursued in 2009 alone. Those last two pieces of news are actually worse for climate realists – the IEA is only estimating costs to stabilize atmospheric CO2 concentrations at 450pppm, while climate scientists have identified 350ppm as the goal that we need to be pursuing instead. It will cost even more to stabilize at 350ppm.
Additional estimates are available. In 2001, Bjorn Lomborg estimated the cost of compliance at up to $350 billion per year by 2010 (in 2000 values). We’re obviously in 2010 and we haven’t started paying much of anything to comply yet. The costs will only go up because of our relative inaction to date. The 2006 Stern Report concluded that inaction would essentially reduce global GDP by at least 5 percent annually, but that mitigation would only use about 1 percent of global GDP annually. Who wants to pay 5 times as much only to get a world that is much more hostile to live on? On the high end of the scale is a 2005 study by Claudia Kemfert of the German Institute for Economic Research puts annual global warming-related costs at “up to 20 trillion U.S. dollars” in 2100. These numbers, and others, are covered in this 2006 Grist post.
This Climate Progress post discusses the cost issue in some depth.
The biggest problem with discussing this particular topic is the relative lack of substantial information on the inaction side. Plenty of cost analyses have been conducted, mostly because legislation that carries a cost has to be explored and reported. Inaction, by its very nature, requires more effort. Studies on inaction’s costs further suffer from a lack of standardized methodology. A wide range of assumptions and financial models are used to come up with costs resulting from inaction. Like so many other facets of global warming, many of those assumptions and models aren’t as robust as is needed, mostly because we simply don’t know how robust the assumptions themselves are. A note of caution here: global warming deniers will argue at this point that cost estimates must therefore be too high. Again, as with many other global warming facets, the assumptions and results have been too low or too weak when first made. When additional evidence borne of observations come to light, global warming projections have been too slow or of too low magnitude. That is, we have underestimated the speed and strength of global warming and its effects to date. Continuing to do so means that the cost estimates discussed above are likely too small. Do Americans know that? Not in today’s successful disinformation paradigm.