New Report Urges Quick, Aggressive Action to Stem Carbon Emissions

Published on
by
The Oregonian

New Report Urges Quick, Aggressive Action to Stem Carbon Emissions

by
Abby Haight

A group of economists have come up with a simple formula for climate stabilization: Pay now, or pay a whole lot more later.

The
sound way to deal with the threats of climate change is to spend the
money now to rapidly convert the world to carbon-free energy, according
to a report that debunks claims that acting quickly will destroy the
world economy.

"The Economics of 350" looks at the benefits and costs of climate action. The report arrives as world leaders prepare for the United Nations summit
on climate change this December in Copenhagen, as the U.S. Congress
grapples with bills to reduce greenhouse emissions and as a grassroots
movement -- 350.org -- gains momentum toward its Oct. 24 International Day of Climate Action.

The report was released this week by Economics for Equity and the Environment, a network of 200 economists that is a project of Portland-based Ecotrust.

Impetus
for the report, the biggest project by the network, grew as more world
leaders accepted 350 parts per million of carbon in the atmosphere as
the limit for the planet's health -- the Earth's carbon budget.
Emissions are at about 385 parts per million now.

"As the news
keeps sounding worse and worse, what we're talking about is not that
the cost of doing something has changed -- the cost of doing nothing is
really what's escalating," said Frank Ackerman, of the Stockholm Environment Institute at Tufts University.

The
economists estimated a cost of about 2.5 percent of the gross world
product would be needed to begin transforming the way we live and work
in the world. Such a radical action could create jobs, they said, and
could hurry technological advances -- much like the Cold War did in the
1950s and 1960s.

"It does not mean stopping growth," Ackerman said. "It does not mean living in caves.

"The
Cold War spending jumpstarted technology -- really transformed our
lives now," he said. "Nobody looks back at that and says it was a bad
deal because our grandparents had less to spend at the department store
because they were paying a few extra on taxes."

Delaying or
taking smaller steps against carbon emissions risks even greater
financial and human costs as temperatures rise, ice sheets melt and
ecosystems die, the reports says.

Its authors hope the report will get wide readership.

"We
need people on the ground to convey to lawmakers that this is the price
they're willing to pay, that they've seen the future and the future
scares them," said Kristen Sheeran, director of Economics for Equity
and the Environment and co-founder, with Ackerman, of RealClimateEconomics.org.

"We
aren't going to get there by small actions," she said. "We aren't going
to get there by turning out the light and walking to work a few days a
week."

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