What is the cost of staving off climate change?

April 1, 2009

Republicans in the U.S. Congress say they know how much it is going to cost to save the world from the predicted ravages of climate change. But others say their math is way off.
“It would cost every family as much as $3,100 a year in additional energy costs and will drive millions of good-paying American jobs overseas,” warned House of Representatives Republican leader John Boehner in response to House Democrats unveiling their climate-change bill on Tuesday.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell offered the same figure. “According to some estimates, this tax could cost every American household up to $3,100 a year just for doing the same things people have always done, like turning on the lights and doing laundry.”
There’s a problem, though. 
The Republicans cite a Massachusetts Institute of Technology study as the basis for their cost estimate. But a lead author of that study complained in a letter to Boehner on Wednesday that the calculation is way off.
John Reilly, an economist at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, said the average annual cost to U.S. families for controlling emissions of carbon and other harmful greenhouse gases is actually $340.
In a telephone interview with Reuters, Reilly said updates to his 2007 study that take into account some higher costs could nudge the figure up to around $440 per household per year.
Republicans say they simply took a $366 billion revenue estimate from a climate change bill that sputtered in Congress last year and divided by the number of U.S. households to come up with $3,100. The thinking is that the revenues would be collected in pollution permits to industries, a cost that likely could be passed on to consumers.
“Taking that number and saying that is the cost is just wrong,” Reilly said, adding that many other calculations, including government rebates to consumers, have to be factored in.
Don Stewart, a spokesman for McConnell, said there are no assurances yet that consumers would get rebates, which the MIT study assumed, and thus the $3,100 figure is accurate and possibly even higher.
“If they (Democrats) change their bill to give money back to consumers, the numbers on cost would change (downward),” Stewart said.
Eben Burnham-Snyder, a spokesman for Representative Edward Markey, one of Congress’ leading advocates of climate control legislation, saw other possibilities.
If a range of energy initiatives in coming legislation is factored in — electric vehicles, improved transmission and other alternative energy steps — he said that would “significantly cut down the costs and some say would save people money on energy bills.”

For more Reuters political news, click here

Photo credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque (Demonstrators for clean energy hold a rally on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 2) 


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Then when nothing happens we can congratulate ourselves on saving the world

Posted by Stevo | Report as abusive

a number of years ago weather experts determind by digging down thrue 350 years of snow that weather had 90 year cycles ,for 45 years the weather gets warmer and for 45 years it gets colder,the 1880’s were bitterly cold with heavy snow falls,1920’s were very hot the earth dried out and winds coused terrible dust storms,in mid canada there was no rain for 7years thats where the term the dirty 30’s came from now it is due to get warmer until about 2015,when it should start to cool again,i have lived thrue a lot of these years and in my life time it hs bin true check it,comments,?.

Posted by stephen chornenki | Report as abusive

Yada yada yada, GOP politicians picking and choosing what intel to release to the public to get the result they wanted, what’s new about that?

Posted by borisjimbo | Report as abusive

Well I for one am not prepared to pay anything for the pseudo scientific “global warming” bull. The same story for 30 years now, yada yada. It’s bunk, thankfully people when faced with the actual cost of this nonsense will do what they always do.. ignore it. Let the 3rd world do something to save itself, because lets be real that’s where the real damage will occur. If there’s one thing the 3rd world has is excess population, so maybe it’s a good thing.

Posted by steve rogers | Report as abusive

I am here to inform everyone that climate change has been going on since the beginning of time and will continue until the end of time.

It is the biggest scam being forced on the world. As always, it is all about money.

Posted by TC | Report as abusive

bit like the new york times intentionally squashing a story about the direct connection between the the obama election team and acorn,who are still under investation, for voter fraud.

Posted by brian lee | Report as abusive

Our next generation will certainly know the cost for this staving …

In Mumbai we already are experience +4 degree rise in temp compared to last year and summer have just started…

Posted by Vikram | Report as abusive

I am amazed that folks will believe in electrons that they have never seen, but not the solid science behind the ongoing catastrophe of global warming.
I for one want my grandchildren to have a planet they can live in.
Soon the dying will commence. Will the nut cases that have blocked action that might have saved lives repent?

Posted by Nell | Report as abusive

Neil- Show me the catastrophe. Show me the dying. All you really have are predictions. Of Doom. Sound familiar?

Posted by Stevo | Report as abusive

it’s amazing that millions of years ago’ an ice age killed nearly everthing on this planet couldn’t “destroy” earth,but a couple billion people can.im gonna get my hard hat on because im convinced that the next prediction will be “the sky is falling”

Posted by keith anderson | Report as abusive

For all the unbelievers of anthropogenic climate change, I suggest you read up on the Permian extinction and the Eocene Epoch. You have time to write, you have time to read. One was the greatest mass extinction on the planet due to global warming 200 million years ago. The other a much less destructive one that occurred about 34 million years ago. Subsequent to the less destructive event, no large mammals survived at all. Glacial ice disappeared and the fresh water essential for life that these glaciers provided. More importantly was the time scale which these events unfolded. As with all other climate warming events they unfolded over tens of thousands of years. The current warming event is unfolding at an exponentially faster rate. But don’t believe me, start with Wikipedia and learn about these events and while you at it,the contributions of Roger Revelle and Charles Keeling. Repentance I’m afraid will do nothing for posterity.

Posted by Anubis | Report as abusive

Anubis. So what I am hearing from you is that global warming is not caused by humans. It will occur whether we do anything about it or not.

So, the bottom line is we can’t control climate change/global warming. Spending money to save our planet will not stop our destruction.

Good, we need to save our money for important things that we can control.

Posted by TC | Report as abusive

No tc, what he is clearly stating is that what formerly took tens of thousands of years is now happening at an exponentially faster rate, thanks to the technologies of our species.

With the absolutely overwhelming scientific evidence out there about this issue, not to mention the consequences of inaction, I simply don’t understand what the counter-argument is.

Why would anyone be against helping the planet?? But then, many of these people arguing against it also believe that woman was developed from a man’s rib, a man hung out inside a whale, and Noah was hundreds of years old. That’s clearly more plausible.

Posted by sf | Report as abusive

i’ve said before and I’ll say it again, whether you believe that the planet is warming or not there are plenty of good reasons for getting off fossil fuels.

First, they are going to run out. No question no debate, oil and coal are finite resources. We are going to have to deal with this someday so why not now?

Second, does anyone remember the term “acid rain”? You know, when pollutants are brought back to earth in rainwater. There are advisories in Maine about eating fresh water fish due to mercury and other lovely things that are caused by burning coal and from factory emissions in the mid-west. Before anyone says anything, there is no such thing as “clean coal”. Also, Goggle images of coal mine runoff in states like W. Virginia. It has ruined so many streams and rivers to the point that even coal miners are against strip mining and other mining methods.

Third, nuclear energy is expensive and time consuming to start up. It takes ten years just to get through the permitting. If you are in favor of nuclear energy then I suggest that you volunteer to store some waste in a bunker in your back yard because I don’t want it near me.

Fourth, how long are we going to send billions a year to the Saudis for their oil? Has every one forgotten that fifteen of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi? Has everyone forgotten that Osama Bin Laden is a Saudi who’s family (and Osama) made some of their fortune rebuilding Kuwait after Bush 41’s war? Let me say that again, some of the US tax payer money that helped rebuild Kuwait went to the Bin Laden construction company that won no-bid contracts to help with rebuilding. Now this is where it gets good, some of the Bin Laden fortune was given to Osama and that was used to plan and execute the attacks on 9/11. WE PAYED FOR IT WITH OUR TAX DOLLARS !! Irony is cruel sometimes huh?

Fifth, despite the governments slow start to the economic think of the jobs that could be created if started building wind turbines here instead of buying them from Denmark. There are plenty of skilled hard working people in my state being laid off from mill jobs who could be retrained and plenty of mills that could be retooled to produce turbines and solar panels. Not to mention all those auto workers and factories that are idle.

I could go on but lately these blogs bore me. So debate all you want about climate change, bad mouth Al Gore all you want but remember we are wasting time and right now time is about all this country has.

Posted by Eric H | Report as abusive

One more thing….We do not have enough oil underground in the US to meet our needs.
We would have to become the worlds leading producer of oil to cover what we currently use. So why should we mess up a place like ANWAR when we will never be able to get enough out of it to meet our needs?

Posted by Eric H | Report as abusive

Few people dispute fostering sound environmental practices. However, the debate (and the debate is not over) should not be about climate change or global warming or anything with a dire “the sky is falling” mentality is nonsense and a total scam. We are not on the edge of extinction. So stop with the scare tactics.

As someone stated earlier, the earth has been through this before and it survived and it was not caused by humans. No matter what we do, it will not save the earth.

There is also no argument about renewable energy (even though it won’t save our planet, just our natural resources). I just don’t want the government to run it. It should be left up to entrepreneurs and private enterprise because if any group is going to do it right, it is the private sector (yes, it is a debate, but not everyone is for big government).

In my opinion, a bigger problem is the government spending us into oblivion, not global warming or climate change. Time will prove this to be true.

SF. It doesn’t matter at what rate climate change occurs. It means nothing when compared to the bigger picture, that climate change has occurred since the beginning of time and will take place long after we are gone.

Also, you might believe any scientist that agrees with your point of view. However, I agree with the scientists that support my point of view. So no, the debate is not over and will never be over. You should read “Environmental Overkill” and “Trashing the Planet” both written by Dixie Lee Ray (former governor of Washington. She also worked as a scientist in the Environment Protection Agency before turning to politician.

Eric. I happen to support your point of view. I just don’t want the government to control it. They don’t have a very good track record running things. Also, I live in a state with nuclear power, it isn’t so bad and I do support nuclear power (though I am not passionate about it…just support it). Lastly, I am going to continue to criticize Al Gore because I think he is a hypocrite and a demagogue who does not practice what he preaches. But my criticism has nothing to do with sound environmental policies, just Al Gore.

Posted by TC | Report as abusive

I challenge everyone to begin reading the information at www.iceagenow.com for a balanced perspective and then decide for yourself…

Posted by Dan | Report as abusive

Richard, is it possible someone could publish an article about the cost of doing nothing to mitigate climate change and global warming? I know if my engine leaks coolant and I do nothing because of the cost, eventually the leak will get worse and almost certainly overheat and destroy the engine if I continue to drive. Fixing the leak is far less expensive than rebuilding or replacing an engine.

As climate change progresses, glaciers will disappear. Drought will destroy farmland in some regions and flooding in others. Sea levels will rise displacing hundreds of billions of people on all continents. Storms will become more frequent and severe.

It would appear at first glance the cost of doing nothing would be for many intolerable and catastrophic. The cost of mitigating climate change is what it is. The longer we wait to address this issue, the more it will cost and most likely not yield the results we will need.

Posted by Anubis | Report as abusive

To those who don’t want the government running alternative power and would rather leave it to private industry, I would only remind you of what a great job private industry has done getting us into this mess: private auto and oil companies pushed gas guzzling cars on the public and helped kill public transportation, thus worsening the problem. In other areas, private industry has been equally “successful”: private banks, private mortgage companies, private health insurance companies, provate drug companies–they have all been a disaster for this country, and now some of you want private companies to fix global warming? How many times does a plan have to fail before the dumbest among us finally see the light–and why do we have to wait for them to see it before we make needed changes?

Posted by JCon | Report as abusive