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Klaus Esterluß | Ideas

Climate Change: The longer we wait the more expensive it will get.

(Photo: Mark Jensen, CC BY-SA 2.0: on -

The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) recently released a new study that offers two different and probably controversial results. At first the researches say that everything is going to be extremely expensive the longer we wait until political leaders get active. „Global economic growth would be cut back by up to 7 percent within the first decade after climate policy implementation if the current international stalemate is continued until 2030“, the paper says. That‘s an awful lot compared to the 2 percent that are expected if there‘s a climate agreement reached by 2015.

The researchers conclude that it is most relevant to not further postpone mitigation to keep climate targets (the 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels-target e.g.) in reach. “Economists tend to look at how things balance out in the long-term, but decision-makers understandably worry about additional burdens for the people and businesses they are responsible for right now. So increased short-term costs due to delaying climate policy might deter decision-makers from starting the transformation. The initial costs of climate policies thus can be more relevant than the total costs”, lead-author Gunnar Luderer says.

On the other hand Ottmar Edenhofer, he’s the co-author of the study and chief-economist of PIK, formulates a goal that could make it possible to keep the earth’s rising temperatures below the 2 degrees-target mentioned above. But his demands seem to be quite optimistic. At first, he said, a wordwide carbon trading system must reach prices for CO2 emission rights of 20 to 50 Euro (27 to 67 Dollar) per ton. That would be the only way to increase the price of fossil energy sources at a level that could force the industries to switch over to green energy alternatives. Here we should keep in mind that a ton of CO2 is currently traded at just about 3 Euro (4 Dollar) in Europe.

According to Edenhofer especially technologies for carbon dioxide removal from the atmosphere might be required in the future to reach the climate targets. This implies the use of bio-energy alongside wind or solar power, with plants consuming CO2, combined with carbon capture storage (CCS), storing underground the emissions from biomass combustion. The longer it takes to start climate policies the higher is the world’s reliance on these technologies will be, the study adds.

For the study the scientists produced 285 alternative climate change mitigation scenarios, with varying assumptions on the course of international climate negotiations on the one hand and on the other hand the availability of low carbon technologies from solar and wind power to bio-energy, CCS and energy efficiency. For the economic evaluation, they considered indicators like mitigation costs, energy prices or potential financial transfers induced by an international carbon market.


September 22, 2013



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