Screenshot of the home page for 'The New Climate Economy', Graphic:

By Paul Krugman
18 September 2014

(The New York Times) – This just in: Saving the planet would be cheap; it might even be free. But will anyone believe the good news?

I’ve just been reading two new reports on the economics of fighting climate change: a big study by a blue-ribbon international group, the New Climate Economy Project, and a working paper from the International Monetary Fund. Both claim that strong measures to limit carbon emissions would have hardly any negative effect on economic growth, and might actually lead to faster growth. This may sound too good to be true, but it isn’t. These are serious, careful analyses.

But you know that such assessments will be met with claims that it’s impossible to break the link between economic growth and ever-rising emissions of greenhouse gases, a position I think of as “climate despair.” The most dangerous proponents of climate despair are on the anti-environmentalist right. But they receive aid and comfort from other groups, including some on the left, who have their own reasons for getting it wrong.

Where is the new optimism about climate change and growth coming from? It has long been clear that a well-thought-out strategy of emissions control, in particular one that puts a price on carbon via either an emissions tax or a cap-and-trade scheme, would cost much less than the usual suspects want you to think. But the economics of climate protection look even better now than they did a few years ago.

On one side, there has been dramatic progress in renewable energy technology, with the costs of solar power, in particular, plunging, down by half just since 2010. Renewables have their limitations — basically, the sun doesn’t always shine, and the wind doesn’t always blow — but if you think that an economy getting a lot of its power from wind farms and solar panels is a hippie fantasy, you’re the one out of touch with reality.

On the other side, it turns out that putting a price on carbon would have large “co-benefits” — positive effects over and above the reduction in climate risks — and that these benefits would come fairly quickly. The most important of these co-benefits, according to the I.M.F. paper, would involve public health: burning coal causes many respiratory ailments, which drive up medical costs and reduce productivity.

And thanks to these co-benefits, the paper argues, one argument often made against carbon pricing — that it’s not worth doing unless we can get a global agreement — is wrong. Even without an international agreement, there are ample reasons to take action against the climate threat.

But back to the main point: It’s easier to slash emissions than seemed possible even a few years ago, and reduced emissions would produce large benefits in the short-to-medium run. So saving the planet would be cheap and maybe even come free.

Enter the prophets of climate despair, who wave away all this analysis and declare that the only way to limit carbon emissions is to bring an end to economic growth. [more]

Could Fighting Global Warming Be Cheap and Free?


  1. Anonymous said...

    It's not just greenhouse gas that is caused by "growth". It's the destruction of everything else in the biosphere that also has to be considered.

    Growth demands resources, space and more people. This means energy demands, resource expansion, and the use of more and more of the Earth's space (water and land). All that activity creates pollution and waste (not just more greenhouse gas).

    Every bit of this relies on monetizing all of the Earth's resources (air, water, soil, land, minerals, fauna) and human labor and virtually all industrialized and business activity (factories, farms, businesses). A "price tag" is assigned to everything.

    It's a whirlpool of deepening darkness, an endless vortex of "more, more, more" - all on a finite planet.

    Economist have always been wrong regarding the infinite limits they claim. There is no such thing on Planet Earth.

    Krugman is poorly situated to identify these issues and their long-term problems. He doesn't even have a basic comprehension of the resource or climate issues. The article is ridiculous on its face.

    Krugman simply broad-brushes known fallacies, such as "renewables" and Jevon's Paradox that applies to all of this. The efficiencies gained are consumed and to this day - all of this depends on the declining resources of oil (and always will).

    Here is your proof (Krugman's closing sentence): "Climate despair is all wrong. The idea that economic growth and climate action are incompatible may sound hardheaded and realistic, but it’s actually a fuzzy-minded misconception."

    Hogwash. There is nothing "fuzzy" about environmental collapse, species extinctions and a highly-monetized, overcrowded planet facing catastrophic climate change.

    I read the report. Every single word was carefully chosen to "convince" the unread. An embarrassing list of authors hell bent on planetary destruction. the report is a ploy designed to drum up interest and investors. A last-ditch effort to plunder and monetize what remains. This is their "grab" at the real money shot and a deliberate attempt to co-opt conservation globally. This was predicted by the way (by me).

    It begins with "synthesis" and some nifty but bogus graphics. The hard-sell begins. Economic prosperity is sold as "compatible" with the monetized biosphere.

    Everyone remember - Nature, the natural world is not subject to economic "theory" or demands. Physics rules the natural world.

    Everything else, including human population and human activity depends on physics - in a finite world.

    There may be "endless energy from the sun" using finite resources extracted from the Earth (massive pollution and destruction). Or even better - use no resources and "permit" Nature itself to "harvest" the energy (zero pollution and destruction).

    Investors and economists and political hacks and idiot journalists will salivate over this deception. The rest of us are unfortunately saddled by such stupidity and ignorance and will no doubt, be sold down the road as they continue to plunder what remains.

    It is not "more" that is needed. It is less. A LOT less.  


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