18 May 2009

Correcting Joe Romm on IPCC’s Cost Estimate

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At MasterResource today I take on our good friend Joe Romm:

In a provocative post, Joe Romm argues that even “strong climate action” would be well worth the effort. Yet Romm’s claim that stabilizing atmospheric greenhouse gases at 445–535 ppm (CO2-eq) would cost only “one tenth of a penny on the dollar” (through 2050) understates the IPCC’s actual cost estimate by about 95%. In reality, the IPCC’s reported estimate translates into a mitigation cost of about 2.2 cents on the dollar–far far higher than Romm’s figure. Romm’s mistake has nothing to do with climate science: he simply confuses the rate of growth in income, with income itself.

After deriving my own figure (of 2.2 cents rather than Romm’s 0.1 cents) I quote the IPCC to show that its figures refer to a textbook case of perfect implementation of these policies for a century. If any major government buckles, even if just for a few years, then the cost estimates would rise above the number Romm and I are taking as a given.

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