Study: Climate legislation could cost $2 trillion by 2050

June 9, 2009

Here some results from a Brookings study on the costs of reducing carbon emissions:


The study estimates that alternative paths to reach an emission reduction target of 83% below 2005 levels by 2050:

• reduce cumulative U.S. emissions by 38% to 49%, about 110 to 140 billion metric tons CO2

• reduce total personal consumption by 0.3% to 0.5%, or about $1 to $2 trillion in discounted present value from 2010 to 2050

• reduce the level of U.S. GDP by around 2.5% relative to what it otherwise would have been in 2050

• reduce employment levels by 0.5% in the first decade, with large differences across sectors

• create an annual value of emission allowances peaking at around $300 billion by 2030, and a total value of about $9 trillion from 2012 to 2050.

Me: And the following chart illustrates why cap-and-trade is really an energy tax of sorts:



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What would be the cost of replacing or moving a few dozen coastal US cities? If action isn’t initated quickly rising ocean levels of a meter are what the world will be facing.

Posted by John Morarre | Report as abusive

Reduce GNP? That means more people living withless? That sounds like a poliically explosive sell for an idea that does have a few billion of us doubting WE cause climate change. A few questions? When is sunbathing at distant beaches going to be outlawed. The sun in our backyard is just as hot, and can cause just as many cancer cases? Why have places built to shelter people, businesses or shopping not fallen on some sort of CAFE standard. Other than paying more for a bigger house, there is no proposed graduated tax, or even a madated block on the size of builidings. When are we going to see the EPA estimated cost and energy consumption placed on new homes? Did some bureaucrat forget. Or does housing get a pass because it doesn’t compete with foreign companies? Unionizing the construction industry would be difficult, the government still hands out tax breaks to get business buidings built in its area, and doesn’t seem to care about anything if it brings taxes in. Everybody except those who must live in that area.

Posted by mike hammer | Report as abusive

Ocean levels rising a meter? LOL! Wake up to the truth. As a scientist, I profoundly reject consensus as a method of arriving at a conclusion. Consensus is what one uses to conclude something without evidence. There is NO empirical evidence that man is causing global warming. Also, CO2 is NOT a pollutant. It’s food for plants. We like plants, don’t we?

Think for yourself. . .

Posted by Isaac | Report as abusive

Remember: The opposite of Global Warming is Global Cooling. “Climate Change” is the standard… there will never be a “normal” earth temperature. More temperate areas in the world vs glaciers in Nebraska. I’ll take global warming anyday over global cooling. You?

Posted by Gary W | Report as abusive

And what are the health costs of breathing the pollutions in our air that are the cause of climate change. Even if climate change were not man-caused, the benefits of breating clean air far outweigh the costs.

Posted by Richard | Report as abusive

No-one is suggesting that we create an ice age, as slowing or stopping the warming trend does not equate to reversing it. But, if my choice is between the death of all life on the planet or a few extra glaciers, I choose life.

Posted by Richard | Report as abusive

This article is only half complete. A true cost-benefit analysis would have to include an estimate for the cost of not curbing emissions. $2 trillion may well be a bargain.

Posted by Marlin | Report as abusive

Even if you do believe in man made global warming – what good will it do for the U.S. to bankrupt itself when the worst polluters like China, India, etc. not only don’t curtail their industry but actually increase it?

Posted by John | Report as abusive

These are very obtuse findings – $2tr needs to be considered in the context of the whole world over 50 years. As for the above comments I don’t see what all the fuss is about.

Cutting carbon emissions can be looked at from many perspectives not just as a means to reduce the impact of global warming rather as an end in itself. By increasing efficiency and reducing consumption of already limited resources the reduction should naturally follow.

Maybe by 2050 we’ll have devised a more useful measure of wealth and GDP will have been long since been consigned to the dustbin of history.

Posted by Vincent | Report as abusive

Wow, that’s just too expensive… I’d rather just die a horrible death from one of the various cancers caused by breathing in toxic air, or perhaps an illness brought on by the new types of bacteria that will thrive off the surface heat. Better yet, my stubbornness will keep me in the Southern home until I literally roast.

No point in retirement savings, I guess… let’s all go out and buy expensive SUVs and have fun while we’re still alive. Not much time left!

(NOTE: this is sarcasm, hippies, don’t put your doobie down to type out some bash response – you’ll just look silly)

Posted by j | Report as abusive

This whole emissions and pollution theory is to take more money out of the pocket of workers and give it to the phony experts and governments to spend as they see fit. This is about control and freedom removal. Surfs we will be if we don’t wake up and demand they stop placing chains around our necks and quality of life. These tyrants fly around on private jets, and are transported by a long parade of Hummers, and then demand that we cut back emissions. When they practice what they preach I will consider listening, until then their hot air is creating global warming!

Posted by Val | Report as abusive

If we weren’t short sighted fools we could have averted the current financial crisis…
Because all we seem to be able to do is to concentrate on the very nearest threat we behave like imbeciles. There is climate change, probably, and although there might be no certainty as to our contribution I am in favour of taking precautionary meaures, there is peak oil, so not wasting the stuff is common sense anyway, and moreover we have been polluting the air, the water and the soil. So please stop moaning and learn to have fun with less. Or do you simply lack the imagination to do that – which means you are likely to vote right of the spectrum!!!

Posted by Esther Phillips | Report as abusive

Which is more likely: that big energy companies with a great deal of profits to lose would campaign to spread doubt about the measures that would create greater efficiency and less dependence on their product…

…or that the vast majority of climate scientists are engaged in a conspiracy to help politicians destroy the economy.

I mean, come on. Let’s not be naive here. We’ve let politics become our means of interpreting science, against all better judgment. The real world out there doesn’t care about our partisan bickering. It will react mindlessly to the CO2 we pump out, carrying out its role in the atmosphere’s thermodynamics with little concern for how much money we think we could save by being cheap and shortsighted.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty | Report as abusive

What difference will that make? By 2050, it will take a wheelbarrow full of currency just to buy a loaf of bread, just like Germany in the 1920’s.

Posted by Joseph Joyce | Report as abusive

So Richard, how does man stop global warming? I know how nature does it in an instant… Massive Volcano spewing millions of tons of earth into the atmosphere, instantly cooling the earth for months to years. I know it does it slowly. I know the earth will always fluxuate its temperature. The question becomes, what temperature do you want it to be and how do we convince nature that that is earth’s “correct” temperature? How do we get earth to stop climate change? What do you want? I am all for clean air to breath…I am not pro-pollution or anything…but what are we attempting here? Stopping climate change is not attainable. Nature will win every time.

Posted by Gary W | Report as abusive

Gary, nature does not win every time. Nature put massive rain forests in place which filters the air and dramatically stabilizes the climate, and we are cutting them down at an alarming rate. We have already destroyed more species than currently exist (and yes animals go extinct anyway, but that doesn’t mean we should intentionally cause it). You obviously missed the “slowing or” in my statement and suck only with the “stop”. I am not suggesting that the climate never changes. I am suggesting that we stop pouring pollutions into our air and water and that we start replacing and conserving the trees that would have protected us, because these things are causing or greatly contributing to the kind of dramatic change that means our extinction. Even if we can only extend our survival for a few centuries, that would be preferable to the alternative. Even if it isn’t enough, we get to live healthier lives now from breathing clean air.

How can you say that you are not pro-pollution when you are arguing against slowing pollution because we don’t have a target “correct temperature” and because the climate changes anyway.

Posted by Richard | Report as abusive

Let’s see, about 35 years ago we were in another ice age.?! The facts are the ice caps are currently melting. Volcanos and forest fires cause more CO2 emissions than we do. So I would think we need to find a way to use more CO2 that is currently in the air as well as make less. More plants is one small way, though a very small one. Just for laughs. I wonder have much CO2 is released with all of the soda, champagne and other carbonated beverages. Let’s target them next! :)

Posted by Ralph | Report as abusive

Richard do you have any other talking points that you want to repeat without a moment of consideration or are you done now?

CO2 IS NOT POLLUTION. As long as you say it is, people will continue to give you those pained expressions that you probably don’t understand. Plants evolved over billions of years to breathe CO2. FACT. So CO2 was here before man got here, and in much higher concentrations than now. FACT. Plants, the most abundant life form on earth did not evolve to breathe the scarcest resource. Evolution doesn’t work that way. THEORY (but an accepted FACT if you believe the theory). If you actually knew something about science you would understand this like everyone else does.

Instead what you understand is that you read somewhere that the EPA and special interests have tried to have CO2 CALLED a pollutant so that they can regulate it. And again everyone but you sees what a money printing scam that is at our expense. But since you are armed with “headline knowledge” you are going to dictate to us the sacrifices we must make to fall for this con as thoroughly as you have. But again the facts are different. In fact, as long as you are able to breathe you will be breathing in CO2 and it won’t be a bad thing. Because if we got rid of it all, all plant life would die, and the idea of “Green” would seem pretty effing retarded wouldn’t it?

Try thinking sometime instead of just repeating someone else’s hooey. It feels good and will make you look like a lot less of an idiot.

Posted by DublD | Report as abusive

Americans really are weird people, and it’s most likely born from ignorance and the constant bombardment of advertising and other corporate propoganda. Most would have no problem spending thousands of dollars on useless crap to protect their children from things that have a 0.0001% chance of happening… but weakly project that they might have to give up hundreds of dollars on becoming more energy efficient on something that, shall we say, is 33% likely (i.e. climate change -> global warming) and they balk as if the Queen of England has returned and is stomping on their necks. Put down the remote and start reading some scientific articles, reviews, journals, and think for yourselves; once you take the politics and propoganda out of the equation the picture becomes exceedingly clear.

Posted by the Shah | Report as abusive

Global climate shift/warming – what a joke. Val in the earlier comments hit the nail on the head. “Climate change” has been around forever (it was the cooling trend they were worried about when I was in elementary school), and this legislation is just a get rich quick scheme for the government. It’s all about growing the government and reducing our freedoms. Misguided liberal hippies have run out of whales to save. They should be worried about our pollutants bleaching the reefs and killing life from the sea outward, if they have excess time to worry about something.

Posted by EngineerGA | Report as abusive

Those of us who are scientists and have lived a long time know that:

(1) Fashion determines what is the ‘global crisis’ of choice at any given time. In the 60s and 70s there was panic about population increase. The increase went roaring on, but who now gets hot under the collar about it?

(2) Even within a particular class of crisis there can be 180 degree turns in opinions as to its exact nature. Hence, after a cool period from the 40s to the 80s, an imminent ice-age was predicted by the experts. Now, after a few years of warming, there is panic afoot that this trend will continue ad infinitum.

(3) Computer programs for forecasting cannot possibly achieve the pin-point accuracy being claimed for them. Even if no real ‘black swan’ events, such as a colossal volcanic eruption or a nuclear war occur, to try forecasting beyond 5 years is just plain silly. How often has the Meteorological Office of the UK successfully predicted temperature for the following Summer, let alone for 50 years in the future? It has taken to predicting a hot summer every year so it has to be right some time.

(4) As another contributor has pointed out, we should beware ‘scientific’ conclusions arrived at by consensus. Consensus, at best, represents the lowest common denominator which, in this case, it is probably the greed for funding. A precisely similar circumstance arose when President Nixon ‘declared war’ on cancer. Suddenly, every grant application was being skewed [often to a bizarre degree] to find some connection between what the researchers wanted to do and the ’cause celebre’ of the moment.

(5) Even if warming is to continue, the discussion of what should be done has entered the realm of insanity. Of course, the European political left sees an opportunity to destroy what it thinks it hates, namely, western capitalist economies. There are individual voices raised to ask for a sensible approach where reducing damage to the planet is taken into account but that destroying living standards is not an acceptable price to pay for it. However, the hysteria is probably now so great that madness will prevail, at least for a few years.

I am sorry for my grandchildren, not because they will be exposed to global warming, but because the infrastructure which makes life possible, even enjoyable, will likely have been destroyed by the psychopaths and their assorted hangers-on who rule us.

Posted by John Lamble | Report as abusive

DubID, like all Oil company marketing staff, you attack the person rather than talk about facts. If you think CO2 is so healthy, then I suggest an all C02 environment for you. No-one is talking about eliminating it from the planet, so suggesting that so you will have something to argue just might make you look like an idiot. If you actually read and have capacity to understand my post, you will have noticed the part about us cutting down all of the trees that convert that CO2 to something we can breath healthily, because in too high of a quantity it is poison, yes pollution. Don’t argue otherwise until you are willing to prove your point by breathing pure CO2 for a while to show us it is safe.

It is very clear here who is just repeating someone else’s hooey. That would be the one arguing the health benefits of breathing more CO2.

Posted by Richard | Report as abusive

If I were a climate scientist I would tell you there’s a huge problem on the horizon and I need more money for my computer climate modeling project. How else would I get my funding? By the way we change from “global warming” to “climate change”. There has always been climate change. I now have a job for life.

If I were a government I would say it was all rubbish because the cost of the remedies is too great.

But hang on there! What if I could collect money from everyone based on their carbon emmisions. Now that’s brilliant! We’ll go for it. We now have fuel taxes, road taxes and carbon emission taxes. My government is now environmentally friendly and caring and collect more taxes into the bargain and everyone is happy.

Sir Philip Green owner of Top Shop & BHS said today on the BBC, his company paid £5 million in carbon taxes. A tidy sum. They must be a really heavy polluter! By the way he hasn’t paid for it, we have because we pay more for the goods.

Margaret Thatchers government listened to climate scientists and told us our emissions were bringing on global cooling and possibly the next ice age. We need to move to nuclear power. Convenient if you want to shut the coal mines.

Climate change or “weather” is more a function of the activity of the sun and the relative position of the earth. Our weather is significantly influenced by the jet stream. That’s why we’ve gone cooler instead of warming

Posted by Fish | Report as abusive

For all the comments about CO2 is not bad, they are right – provided there are enough new plants and florae to absorb it. See, nature is about balance, and plants and animals developed over hundreds of millions of years the proper balance between CO2 and O2 (the oxygen we breath). They eat up our CO2 we exhale and they spit out O2 fr us to inhale. Pretty neat concept! The trouble is that now we are spewing exponentially more CO2, and at the same time ripping down enormous swaths of forest around the world. The balance has been lost, not forever mind you, but it will take a very long time to right itself for sure.

And, by-the-way, CO2 IS a poison to animals. People can suffocate in an environment with too much CO2, regardless of whether enough O2 is present or not. So for the people in denial, lay off the Kool-Aid and open your eyes.

Posted by pragmatist | Report as abusive

I’m afraid most of this thread just reinforces how the rest of the world sees America: introspective, parochial and greedy gas guzzlers. Even if you don’t believe in climate change don’t you think it’s worth curbing some extravagances to make things better for future generations?
Personally I wouldn’t be upset if the human race perished, it’s the plant and animal life that doesn’t have a say in all this that I feel sorry for. Hopefully they’ll fight back before it’s too late.

Posted by Trisha | Report as abusive

I can’t believe Americans are so disconnected from the reality… Even if climate changes don’t cause the end of the life on Earth what about preserving the resources? For millions years life on Earth was a question of equilibrium. Humans are breaking that equilibrium. We consume resources more faster than the Earth can produce it. We are pumping large quantity of water to have green lawn in the desert (think Las Vegas).

Will you dump garbage in your home, in your backyard? No. The Earth is our home. We should collectively taking care of it.

Open your eyes, stop the waste, act:

Posted by Etienne | Report as abusive

Richard, again the whole “Oil Industry schill” name calling is straight from the playbook. So instead of making any relevant point, you just affirmed in plain view of everyone that everything I said was spot on.

Do you really believe that who I work for would have any bearings on what the facts anyway? They don’t, but so you know, I work in genetics. I also have degrees in Chemistry and Physics and was an Air Force Scientist under Bill Clinton. So my information comes from US Universities and the US government. And thus I’m well qualified to not only stand by what I’ve already said, but also to call you out for your ridiculous claim that we “have already destroyed more species than currently exist”. Absolutely verifiably WRONG.

Maybe you should enlighten us as to how YOU came by these so called facts that aren’t even remotely true. Seeing as how I’ve already called your every move before you’ve made it, it seems that maybe it is you who needs to come clean about who you are and where you’re getting your information?

And to Pragmatist. Your idiotic argument about CO2 being poison is giving Richard a run for his money. CO2 is a poison at 100% concentration. The concentration of CO2 in our atmosphere is about .04%, so your profound point is profoundly absent of relevance. And so you know cars emit oxygen as well as CO2, so whatever idiotic point you were going to follow up with, you can save…

Anyone else want to step up?

Posted by DublD | Report as abusive

I don’t buy the global warming crap. Maybe 150 years from now there could be a problem, if we kept burning fossil fuels. But GOVERNMENT is not the solution. I’ve been alive a long long time and I can tell you the air has never been cleaner than it is today, back in the forties and fifties you could smell the air all the time.
Wind power is also a joke, California has lost billions and effectively generates nothing with the wind.
What we need is UNLIMITED energy not less and the only answer is FUSION or extraterrestrial solar. Unlimited energy will solve all our problems conservation will solve nothing.

If I hear Obama say we are three percent of the people using twenty five percent of the resources one more time I’ll puke. Carry that thought to it’s final conclusion what it means is WE are going to have to live with (32/33) less that’s thirty-two thirty thirds less in order for every one else to live one thirty third better. Is that want Obama wants? Does he want us to become less than a third world country. It’s our development of technology that has made the world a better place and if we don’t wake up we are going to be left behind.

Posted by Dave K | Report as abusive

Reading your comments, I can only think one thing: We are all doomed.

Many American people are so blind of anything else going on outside their country that’s a shame. Your banks caused the economy crisis by giving money to people that were not able to pay back their debt. Your army invaded other countries (despite the opposition of the ONU). Your are wasting resources and energy pursuing the American Dream.

Sorry, I should stop complaining… Thank you America for making the world a better place to leave in. Yeah, God bless America and fuck the world!

Posted by Etienne | Report as abusive

The real problem for generations to come is pollution and use of unsustainable natural resources. CO2 is not the culprit but is a great scapegoat. I am more worried about oxides of sulphur and nitrogen, lead, dioxins, VOC’s and radioactive waste to name some. We are spending too much reducing CO2 and not other really serious pollutants.

Unfortunately the climate science model is seriously flawed. The data comes from so many different sources and is combined in an unrealistic way by computer models that can give lots of “if/then predictions. All are guesses but are used to make Armageddon predictions intended to make us listen.

Temperature data has been collected for hundreds of years. We know nothing of the precision and accuracy of this data or the circumstances under which it was collected. Weather stations on the edge of rural villages may now be in the center of a big town or city. It’s going to be hotter not due to CO2 though.

Tree rings and ice cores ae a subjective method of speculating what the climate was like. It doesn’t give a real temperature. I was surprised NASA data is mostly from ground stations and not satellite data so no help there.

Does anyone know of any comprehensive and extensive database for global CO2 levels or even in a single location for that matter? I think we will find there are only a few studies.

Posted by Fish | Report as abusive

DublD, spewing more lies and misquotes does not turn your previous lies and misquotes into facts, not does it lend any credibility to your claims of expertise.. You did not call anything before or after and have not stated a single fact. I threw in the oil stab just to show you how childish your accusation was; so everything you accuse me of seems to apply quite well to you.

Posted by Richard | Report as abusive

I still don’t understand what offends people so much about reducing pollution. We spend many times the cost of reducing pollution on health care increases caused by pollution related illnesses and on fighting wars to secure more oil.

The extremists want to hide behind the possibility that global warming isn’t real or isn’t affected by us, when anyone with a brain has to see that breathing clean air and having clean water to drink is also important.

Posted by Richard | Report as abusive