Editor’s note: As the November global climate conference in Glasgow approaches, important facts about climate change are not always part of the mainstream media coverage. We are here to help you. Each Thursday, contributor Bjorn Lomborg will provide important information so that readers can better understand the real effects of climate change and the real costs of climate policy.
Politicians around the world regularly promise unprecedented reductions in carbon emissions, but make little mention of the cost, often covering up bright projections of green jobs. Yet the economic damage these policies would cause is far greater than most voters would tolerate, while the climate benefits are less than many imagine.
The annual cost of the promises that President Obama made under the Paris climate agreement is estimated to have reached about $ 50 billion in 2030, or about $ 140 per person. Numerous studies show that Americans are willing to pay a few hundred dollars a year to address climate change, but this data is heavily skewed by a small minority willing to spend thousands of dollars. A recent Washington Post poll found that a majority of Americans would vote against an annual climate tax of $ 24 on their electricity bills. Even if they handed over $ 140, it would buy them little. If Mr. Obama’s deal was held until 2100, it would reduce global temperatures by a tiny 0.06 degrees Fahrenheit.
President Biden advocates much stronger climate policies with much higher prices. Before his election, he promised to spend $ 2,000 billion over four years on climate policies, the equivalent of $ 1,500 per person per year. And Mr Biden’s current promise – a 100% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 – will be even more phenomenal.
A new study published in Nature reveals that a 95% reduction in U.S. carbon emissions by 2050 will cost 11.9% of U.S. gross domestic product annually. To put this in perspective: Total spending on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid amounted to 11.6% of GDP in 2019. The annual cost of trying to meet Mr. Biden will grow to $ 4.4 trillion by 2050. That’s more than anything the federal government stands for. is expected to generate tax revenue this year. It breaks down to $ 11,300 per person per year, nearly 500 times more than what a majority of Americans are willing to pay.
Although the United States is currently the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases, the fact that the United States reaches net zero would not matter much to global temperature. If the whole country were to become carbon neutral tomorrow, the standard United Nations climate model shows that the difference by the end of the century would be a barely noticeable reduction in temperature of 0.3 degrees Fahrenheit. Indeed, the United States will account for a smaller and smaller share of emissions as the populations of China, India and Africa grow and become richer.
As India’s Energy Minister Raj Kumar Singh said at a recent climate conference, net zero is ‘pie in the sky’ and ‘you can’t stop’ developing countries from use more and more fossil fuels. Rather, a realistic climate solution would focus on innovation to bring down the price of cleaner energy at a price that American and Indian voters are willing to pay.
Mr Lomborg is Chairman of the Copenhagen Consensus and Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution. His latest book is “False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet”.
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Published in the print edition of October 14, 2021.