UN’s IPCC: “climate change consequences ‘bleak’, but cheap to fix”

Screen shot 2014-05-19 at 19.02.42Back in March the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published its latest Working Group II report.

The report predicted:

  • food insecurity due to more intense droughts, floods, and heat waves
  • a decline in crop yields starting in 2030, even as global food demand continues to rise
  • water insecurity, due to shrinking of glaciers and changing precipitation patterns
  • consequent wars, for food and water
  • flooding, erosion, and continued extinctions of whole and degradation of habitats

There are more details here.

In addition, a third and final report published in April told us that “diverting hundred of billions of dollars from fossil fuels [subsidies] into renewable energy and cutting energy waste would shave just 0.06% off expected annual economic growth rates of 1.3%-3%.”

In other words growth rates would be cut from 1.3%-3% to 1.24%-2.94%.

There are two clear things we can say about this.

  1. The report is talking about diverting existing dollars given to fossil fuels, not creating new subsidies.
  2. Forecast growth is 2.15%, give or take 0.85%. In other words, the ‘cut’ of 0.06% is less than a tenth of our accuracy in being able to predict what the growth is going to be. There are other factors that will have a much bigger effect on what eventual growth turns out to be.

On top of this, the analysis did not include the benefits of cutting greenhouse gas emissions, which “could outweigh the costs” altogether.

So, diverting money from fossil fuels into cutting waste and generating more renewable energy would either cost so little we wouldn’t be able to measure it, or might even generate growth.

So why are we not doing it?

I can see only two ‘rational’ reasons:

  1. the decision makers are benefiting from the current situation (fossil subsidies), and
  2. they are (relatively) insulated from the negative effects of climate change.

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