I stumbled upon an interesting academic journal article regarding climate policies. Ignoring the boring editor-required “climate change is real” disclaimer for entrance into a journal, it actually has some good insights:
Climate change is real and its impacts are mostly negative, but common portrayals of devastation are unfounded. Scenarios set out under the UN Climate Panel (IPCC) show human welfare will likely increase to 450% of today’s welfare over the 21st century. Climate damages will reduce this welfare increase to 434%.
A minor decrease of 16%.
Arguments for devastation typically claim that extreme weather (like droughts, floods, wildfires, and hurricanes) is already worsening because of climate change. This is mostly misleading and inconsistent with the IPCC literature. For instance, the IPCC finds no trend for global hurricane frequency and has low confidence in attribution of changes to human activity, while the US has not seen an increase in landfalling hurricanes since 1900. Global death risk from extreme weather has declined 99% over 100 years and global costs have declined 26% over the last 28 years.
It is important to recognize that this study finds two parts here, as it is slightly confusing upon the first read. It finds both:
- Changes in extreme weather events are not generally found connected to human activity.
- Global deaths and global costs are down dramatically from extreme weather events.
So the climate change activists that push the narrative of extreme weather are wrong twice: once for thinking it is connected to human activity and second for thinking it is a major problem as of late.
Arguments for devastation typically ignore adaptation, which will reduce vulnerability dramatically. While climate research suggests that fewer but stronger future hurricanes will increase damages, this effect will be countered by richer and more resilient societies. Global cost of hurricanes will likely decline from 0.04% of GDP today to 0.02% in 2100.
Again, two points:
- We are adapting and overcoming extreme weather events.
- These are “fewer but stronger” events naturally, not human-invoked.
Climate-economic research shows that the total cost from untreated climate change is negative but moderate, likely equivalent to a 3.6% reduction in total GDP.
Climate policies also have costs that often vastly outweigh their climate benefits. The Paris Agreement, if fully implemented, will cost $819–$1,890 billion per year in 2030, yet will reduce emissions by just 1% of what is needed to limit average global temperature rise to 1.5°C. Each dollar spent on Paris will likely produce climate benefits worth 11¢.
The Paris Agreement, which everyone ragged on Trump about, is shown in true colors here.
Each dollar spent is worth 11 cents. What a great deal.
Shall we likewise pay you 11 cents on the dollar of your current salary and claim it is helping you? Or should we find ways to maximize money spent versus earning received?
Long-term impacts of climate policy can cost even more. The IPCC’s two best future scenarios are the “sustainable” SSP1 and the “fossil-fuel driven” SSP5. Current climate-focused attitudes suggest we aim for the “sustainable” world, but the higher economic growth in SSP5 actually leads to much greater welfare for humanity. After adjusting for climate damages, SSP5 will on average leave grandchildren of today’s poor $48,000 better off every year. It will reduce poverty by 26 million each year until 2050, inequality will be lower, and more than 80 million premature deaths will be avoided.
The SSP5 approach, or the fossil-fuel driven approach, is the obviously superior choice. A 1:1 match, at the very least.
Remember, this is after adjusting for climate damages. So even with climate damages, avoiding the fully sustainable route is long-term more beneficial.
Now, onto some actually reasonable climate policies:
Using carbon taxes, an optimal realistic climate policy can aggressively reduce emissions and reduce the global temperature increase from 4.1°C in 2100 to 3.75°C. This will cost $18 trillion, but deliver climate benefits worth twice that. The popular 2°C target, in contrast, is unrealistic and would leave the world more than $250 trillion worse off.
We are improving the situation, albeit slower. This provides a net benefit, without the extremism.
This is what we are aiming for. For every dollar spent ($18 trillion cost), we receive two dollars in climate benefit ($36 trillion benefit). That’s much better than giving one dollar and getting 11 cents back (shout out to you, Paris Accord).
This policy will not lead to immediate sustainability, but will balance sustainability with fiscal return.
The most effective climate policy is increasing investment in green R&D to make future decarbonization much cheaper. This can deliver $11 of climate benefits for each dollar spent.
More effective climate policies can help the world do better. The current climate discourse leads to wasteful climate policies, diverting attention and funds from more effective ways to improve the world.
As a very staunch eco-nationalist, I’m very strongly in favor of climate-improving policies. Regretfully, the usual leftist discourse on them is very far off the mark.
This paper is very interesting in that it sums up my position rather well. Increasing R&D is the best thing we can do to actually help the climate. That, along with setting reasonable guidelines that do not negatively impact average citizens in the process. That’s the very definition of eco nationalism.
We simply need better tech. Once we have it, the transition to green with be natural, if not rapidly market-driven. Sustainable sources are an obviously superior choice to non-sustainable ones, given the tech is advanced enough.
We cannot sacrifice citizens for sustainability. We need the approach that works in the interests of the citizens while directly guiding research to a more sustainable future.
I fully encourage my readers to read the full research paper. It was well worth the longer read.