The effects of the climate crisis get more devastating year on year as images from the Australian wildfires have recently demonstrated. We have both moral and ethical obligations to act. We also have political obligations, which are stipulated in the Paris Agreement. Many have also discussed the economic side of things, as it makes sense to invest in a greener economy. A new study shows that this is not just a good idea, it is the cheapest scenario.
The research, published in the journal Nature Communications, confirms that the Paris Agreement passes the cost-benefit threshold. It is better and cheaper to keep the global temperature rise well below 2°C (3.6°F), as stipulated in the agreement, than have to deal with the consequences of what will happen if we cross that threshold.
“The world is running out of excuses to justify sitting back and doing nothing – all those who have been saying that climate stabilization would be nice but is too costly can see now that it is really unmitigated global warming that is too expensive,” senior author Anders Levermann, from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and Columbia University’s LDEO, said in a statement. “Business as usual is clearly not a viable economic option anymore. We either decarbonize our economies or we let global warming fire up costs for businesses and societies worldwide.“
The cost of climate policies is estimated based on the physical costs associated with reducing greenhouse gas emissions. For example, how much it would cost to build solar panels or the cost of closing down a shale gas powerplant. What is often not taken into account is the cost of inaction.
Damages due to climate crisis-related events like extreme weather and failing crops have a huge cost both in terms of lives and government money. The research puts a price tag on these events and it is clear that stopping climate change will never be as cheap in the future as it is right now.
“We did a lot of thorough testing with our computers. And we have been amazed to find that limiting the global temperature increase to 2°C, as agreed in the science-based but highly political process leading towards the 2015 Paris Agreement, indeed emerges as economically optimal,” Levermann added.
So far, the carbon dioxide reduction promised falls way below what’s needed to reach the goal of the Paris Agreement. Now we know that acting rapidly to decarbonize our world will not only save countless lives, it’s also the best deal money-wise.