This figure includes the wealthiest of nations – the US, China, and Japan – but importantly, poorer countries will stand to benefit the most, particularly those in the tropics and sub-tropics where the mercury is already unsustainably high. Certainly, study after study shows that the world’s poorest countries, and indeed the poorest communities in any country, will suffer the greatest as a result of climate change – despite, of course, driving it the least.
Although unequally, climate change nevertheless threatens everyone, and this paper is another piece of evidence that shows fighting it benefits everyone in a variety of ways. It’s not perfect, though; estimating economic savings isn’t exactly easy.
“There are definitely a lot of uncertainties, and we can only quantify some of them well,” Burke explains. He explains that their approach doesn’t allow them to explore or consider unprecedented events. If new mitigation or defensive technologies arise, the calculated benefits are too large; if there’s a sudden sea level rise, the figures are too small.
These values, then, are well-reasoned best guesses. Considering that we don’t appear to be that great at dealing with or adapting to climate change just yet, the team have a hunch that their values are underestimates.
At present, the vast majority of Americans – and the planet – accept that the climate is changing dangerously and that we are the (by far) leading cause of it. Naysayers, particularly those in the Trump administration, often claim that the cost of acting on climate change is too great, without pointing out the benefits.
Regardless of the precise figures - which will no doubt be debated by economists for some time - it’s increasingly clear that decarbonization brings with it major economic benefits, as well as all the more heavily discussed others. This is how studies like this prove to be most useful: They remind everyone that fighting this gathering storm has no downside, even when it comes to people’s wallets.