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Thinking for a cooler world

Gianna Gruen | Ideas

Act now – or you’re (perhaps) wasting money

CC BY 2.0: net_efekt/

If planet Earth’s fate is not strong enough an argument for fighting climate change, perhaps money is? Researchers now calculated the costs of climate change: They found that costs enormously increase the longer politicians put off taking action. So are our economies prepared to take the hit?

About 200 country leaders agreed at the UN climate conference in Doha last December to (further) lower greenhouse gas emissions from 2020 on. That is how they want to keep global warming in check limiting it to two degrees compared to the preindustrial level.  “If you delay action by 10, 20 years you significantly reduce the chances of meeting the 2 degree target”, Keywan Riahi, IIASA energy program leader and study co-author told Reuters news agency.

The scientists developed a freely available software-tool to test under which conditions the two-degree-target is most likely to be obtained. For the first time, they included all important variables in their calculation:  the time elapsed until first action takes place,  future energy demand, carbon prices, new energy technologies, and uncertainty about how the climate system reacts.

Though all of them are important, the most crucial one is the time it takes until you take action, Riahi says: “With a twenty-year delay, you can throw as much money as you have at the problem, and the best outcome you can get is a fifty-fifty chance of keeping temperature rise below two degrees.”


January 4, 2013