Economists and policymakers have spent decades
debating how much the world will have to pay to avoid the worst
impacts of climate change, and whether it's worth the cost. A key
finding in the UN's latest big climate report should help move that
debate along: tackling climate change could slow economic growth by
just 0.06 per cent a year, it says.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released
the third instalment of its review of latest climate change
research last Sunday. While the first two instalments aimed
to better define the
climate change problem, the third report focuses on potential
solutions - from ramping up wind and solar power, to halting
But governments don't just want to know what they must do to
avoid the worst impacts of climate change, they also want to know
how much it will cost. So the IPCC's latest report spells out the
choice: governments either pay a bit to curb emissions now, or risk
much larger costs in the future.
Or, as IPCC co-chair Ottmar Edenhofer put it during the report's
launch, "Climate policy isn't a free lunch but could be lunch
[that's] worthwhile to buy".
Taking action is relatively cheap
In 1992, countries agreed they would curb emissions to prevent
temperatures rising by more than two
degrees above pre-industrial levels. 22 years on, after
more than two decades of increasing emissions, that goal looks ever
So it may come as a surprise to find that the IPCC says the cost
of keeping the pledge may be relatively low.