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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

July 25, 2013 at 10:15 AM

Research starts to plumb the costs of climate change

Up until now, the school we might call the Climate Change Triumphalists has held that while human dumping of carbon into the atmosphere will cause some big problems, especially in poor countries, it will provide new economic opportunities. Chief among them is a rapidly melting Arctic Ocean that would open to year-round shipping and where perhaps 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and 30 percent of its natural gas lies. Unfortunately, the trade-offs won’t balance out.

The most authoritative study yet comes from the University of Cambridge and Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands showing that climate change in the Arctic would cost at least $60 trillion in damage to the planet. Yes, trillion with a “T.” Included in the list are more floods, wrecked infrastructure and destroyed crops. As Financial Times noted, “This is likely to end up creating costs that will outstrip any benefits by three or more orders of magnitude.” Cambridge’s Chris Hope said, “People are calculating possible economic benefits in the billions of dollars and we’re talking about possible costs and damage and extra impacts in the order of tens of trillions of dollars.”

One of the big drivers of damage will happen as permafrost melts, releasing methane into the atmosphere and accelerating a feedback loop of warming (something the New Yorker’s Elizabeth Kolbert wrote about years ago).

Efforts to limit greenhouse gases and keep most fossil fuels safely in the ground run up against economic arguments: Any change from the status quo will cost jobs and hurt the economy. But the costs of doing nothing are more substantial. This is only one of many studies we’re likely to see. Whether they can move a Congress frozen by money from the Koch brothers, Big Oil and Big Coal is another matter. But it’s something to think about as the Northwest debates whether to be an enabler of coal shipments in exchange for some fleeting shekels.

And Don’t Miss: Microsoft is doomed, but first it’s going to make a ton of money | Washington Post

Today’s Econ Haiku:

SAC is in the bag

Criminal charges are filed

Hedge against that, boyz

0 Comments | More in Climate change | Topics: climate change, Northwest coal exports

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