Brighter Planet's blog
Everyone talks about the costs of climate legislation. Opponents distort the numbers to make it seem too costly while supporters point out that cutting greenhouse gas emissions will be pretty cheap. But the cost is only half the story – what about the benefit?
It’s hard to monetize the benefits of avoiding climate change. But as Grist reported, a federal interagency task force has been hard at work and they recently released an interim estimate of the ‘social cost of carbon’ - the cost of inaction. They peg this at $19 per metric tonne of CO2.
What does this mean for pending climate legislation? An NYU law school paper (summarized here) applied the interim estimate to the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act. They found it would create $1.5 trillion in benefits, more than twice the EPA-estimated cost of $660 billion. Strengthening the bill to reduce more emissions would only improve the cost/benefit ratio.
Now factor in that the EPA says their cost estimate is almost certainly too high while the interagency task force says their benefit estimate is almost certainly too low (it leaves out things like the impacts of weather variability on agriculture, threats to national security, ocean acidification and coral reef death, and the spread of infectious diseases).
The upshot may have already been obvious to all of us who think it’s worthwhile to avoid catastrophic climate change. But it’s nice to have some numbers to throw around when you say passing strong climate legislation is the investment opportunity of an era.