08 Dec 2009

The Benefits of Procrastination: The Economics of Geo-Engineering

All Posts No Comments

I don’t think this EconLib article will get me on Joe Romm’s Christmas card list. An excerpt:

Many critics of geo-engineering overlook an important fact: there is a gain from procrastination. In some of their expositions, they argue, implicitly and sometimes explicitly, that because humans will eventually have to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions anyway, we might as well do the adult thing and start the painful adjustment today. But this ignores the principle that a “quick fix” can allow the deferment of solving a particular problem, lowering the total cost of the long-run solution.

Although procrastination is often a sign of immaturity, in the context of climate change it may not be. In the typical debate over geo-engineering, proponents argue that it is “the” solution to global warming, while the critics worry about all the things that could go wrong. Yet this “geo-engineering: yes or no?” debate overlooks the important possibility that the most economically efficient outcome involves the postponement of carbon-abatement strategies, along with the simultaneous research and development of varied geo-engineering techniques to be deployed if they should become necessary. Back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that this strategy could leave our descendants many trillions of dollars richer than the alternative of implementing immediate and large cuts in emissions.

Comments are closed.