How much will addressing climate change cost?

I’m interested in seeing good analysis, please send recommendations.

Remember, the goal is to reduce carbon emissions by 70% worldwide in the next 20 – 25 years, to reduce by more than 90% each in the US. This will cut carbon emissions to the amount the oceans can absorb, and keep atmospheric carbon levels below 400 parts per million. Afterwards, we need to cut carbon emissions further in order to protect the oceans.

Some costs will be negative, that is, more efficient air conditioners and light bulbs cost more initially, but soon more than make up for it in energy savings. Some pundits make this appear the only way to go, but at some point, it costs a lot of money to save a very little money.

All analysis shows that there is absolutely no way to address energy costs or carbon emissions without major improvements in efficiency; progress will require both research money and legislation. When I last looked, the difference in price between the most expensive and the cheapest model of refrigerators was made up in a year or so of use, so why is the cheapest model even manufactured?

Additional energy can be saved by simple behavior changes, such as turning off lights and air conditioner in unused rooms. In one interest group, someone said this isn’t rocket science, but personal choices often follow paths that don’t help the person making them. So we may need techniques that go beyond clear rational explanations to see changed behavior.

Other changes require some thinking just because the ideas may be new: paying upfront for improved building or industrial construction, such as insulation, light colored roofs where air conditioning costs are high, better layout. Better construction usually costs immediately and saves later, often, not much later. Unfortunately, the costs of the building are too frequently handled as a separate consideration, and buildings that will stand for decades or more than a century are not constructed with an adequate consideration of the costs of maintenance and operation.

As energy is saved by these methods, the most expensive methods of reducing carbon emissions can be discarded or delayed, and the average price of energy will be substantially lower. We save by buying less energy, we also save because the price is lower. (To lower gasoline prices: buy half as much gasoline in the US through a combination of improved mileage and fewer miles, and gasoline prices will drop.)

The costs of limiting atmospheric carbon levels to 400 ppm will be high, the costs to failing to address our behavior will likely be much higher, and could be horrendous: the costs to us, to future generations, to peoples who haven’t contributed to the problems and who aren’t able to pay for the solutions.

After we make the simple changes, the cost of addressing climate change will depend on other behavioral decisions. The more we find and use methods of reducing energy use, the cheaper it will be for us to accomplish this goal.

Comments that go beyond praise and nays Thanks to Johan, who responded to requests for reasons why people oppose nuclear power. I will be addressing his second point in a future post.

Comments are closed.