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Increased Costs of Delaying Action on Climate Change

The White House has issued a new report on the increased costs associated with delaying action on Climate Change. The report notes that taking action now, rather than waiting, is in some respects the same as purchasing an insurance policy. Plus, once carbon dioxide concentrations reach a certain point, there could be enormous increases in annual costs associated with increased temperature.

The summary of the report states in part:

“Based on a leading aggregate damage estimate in the climate economics literature, a delay that results in warming of 3° Celsius above preindustrial levels, instead of 2°, could increase economic damages by approximately 0.9 percent of global output. To put this percentage in perspective, 0.9 percent of estimated 2014 U.S. Gross Domestic Product ( GDP) is approximately $150 billion. The incremental cost of an additional degree of warming beyond 3° Celsius would be even greater. Moreover, these costs are not one-time, but are rather incurred year after year because of the permanent damage caused by increased climate change resulting from the delay.

An analysis of research on the cost of delay for hitting a specified climate target (typically, a given concentration of greenhouse gases) suggests that net mitigation costs increase, on average, by approximately 40 percent for each decade of delay. These costs are higher for more aggressive climate goals: each year of delay means more CO2 emissions, so it becomes increasingly difficult, or even infeasible, to hit a climate target that is likely to yield only moderate temperature increases.”

-Steven Silverberg