Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Cost of Climate Change Keeps Going Up

Let’s discuss the cost of climate change. The fossil fuel industry and its lackeys keep telling us climate change is good for us – the more the better. Literally, that is what they are saying. For example, take this quote from The Spectator:
Climate change has done more good than harm so far and is likely to continue doing so for most of this century. This is not some barmy, right-wing fantasy; it is the consensus of expert opinion. Yet almost nobody seems to know this. Whenever I make the point in public, I am told by those who are paid to insult anybody who departs from climate alarm that I have got it embarrassingly wrong, don’t know what I am talking about, must be referring to Britain only, rather than the world as a whole, and so forth.
By the way, his "expert" for all of this information is Richard Tol, an economist and well-known denier with a reputation for getting his facts wrong. In one of the big "Oops" moments in denier history, he analyzed the 97% consensus statement in an attempt to disprove it and - surprise! - proved it was correct. He has no scientific background that I am aware of.

I thought we could take a look for ourselves and see just how much global warming and climate change are costing us now and likely to cost us in the future.

One of the ways to look at the cost of climate change is to examine the economic cost. This is known as the social cost of carbon (SCC). Right now, the government puts the social cost at $37 for every ton of carbon dioxide that is emitted. We are currently emitting about 40 billion tons of CO2 per year, so that comes out to about $1.5 trillion per year. Yes, that was trillion, with a 't.' And, that expense is not only incurred every year, but is also increasing as emission amounts increase.

That is horrible news, but it gets even worse. Researchers at Stanford University examined this figure and have estimated it is more likely $220 per ton. That comes out to a staggering $8.8 trillion per year! Every year! And, climbing!

Why the big difference? The Stanford group included the effects current damage does to future growth.

“If climate change affects not only a country's economic output, but also its growth, then that has a permanent effect that accumulates over time,” Frances Moore, co-author and environmental scientist, said.
Let's say, for the sake of argument, they are on the high side with their calculation. It is possible, but it is widely believed the government figure is way too low. Just for the sake of argument we'll say the value is at the midpoint between their value and the government's value. The economic cost at that rate is then about $5.2 trillion per year. That amount is larger than the GDP of every country in the world except the U.S. and China.

By the way, the poorer you are, the more you'll be affected. Poor countries will fare worse than rich ones.

Keep that figure in mind when someone tells you climate change is good for you.

Then, there is sea level rise. A study found the sea level numbers for 1901 - 1990 were overstated and, as a result, the data shows the rate of sea level rise since 1990 is 25% higher than previously thought and accelerating.

If you live anywhere near a coast (as the majority of the human population does), you might want to think about how much damage you will incur as a result of rising sea levels and the cost of protecting yourself.  Factor that in when calculating how much climate change will cost you.

How about drought? The current drought in California is likely to a more common story in the future and will result in a series of ripple effects, such as increased wildfire, loss of timber, floods, erosion and degraded water quality, just to name a few. The drought is estimated to be causing California billions of dollars per year in economic damage, mostly to farmers and agriculture workers. Those are the people least able to afford the damage.

Then, I saw these little tidbits in Scientific American (August 2014, vol 311, no 2, pg 22-23):

Five National Landmarks Threatened by Climate Change:
  • Statue of Liberty - After Superstorm Sandy, the National Park Service began work on flood-proofing Liberty Island. Cost: Unspecified.
  • Faneuil Hall, Boston - The city is planning building renovations that may include flood-protection walls. Cost: Unknown.
  • Cape Hatteras Light, NC - In 1999 the National Park Service moved the lighthouse 2,900 feet to protect it against shoreline erosion and rising sea levels. Cost: $11.8 million.
  • NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston - Installed new roofs to protect withstand more severe hurricanes. Repairs from 2008's Hurricane Ike cost about $80 million.
  • Mesa Verde Nation Park, Colorado - The National Park Service is performing prescribed burns and treating the cliffs to protect against flooding and erosion. Cost: Unspecified.
The American taxpayers will be footing the bill for all of those expenses.

Still not convinced? How about the study that showed as temperature goes up, economic productivity goes down? A team at the Bureau of Economic Research found that every day life gets more expensive as the temperature goes up. They found a country's economic activity decreased by about 1% for every degree over 59 degrees F. The damage comes from increased costs associated with higher temperature. For example, if you have to pay more for electricity because you are running the air conditioner longer, you have less money to spend on other things. Notice that the people who benefit from that situation are the same ones responsible for creating it in the first place and are so eager to convince you it isn't a problem. As the temperature goes up, the total damage to economies around the world will amount to many billions of dollars.

Not enough? Take a look at this article in Eos that shows how climate change is causing cholera to spread. More epidemics around the world. Expenses for those epidemics will be in the billions of dollars.

I also saw this quote in Physics Today:

As the average global temperature rises, mountainous areas across western North America are experiencing significantly less ice and snow. A hundred years ago, Glacier National Park included some 150 ice sheets, but today it has only 25. The implications are vast for the surrounding areas. Rising air and water temperatures are affecting local ecosystems, fish, and wildlife. And because at least 80% of the water supply in the US West comes from its mountains, the loss of the natural reservoir that glaciers provide is also being felt by cities, farms, and industry all across the region. Although manmade global warming has a significant impact on the ice retreat, it is not the only cause. And the shrinking glaciers are only the first symptom of larger changes to come, says Daniel Fagre at the US Geological Survey.
To bring it home, take a look at this list I saw of seven ways climate change can kill you:

  • 1. Bug bites that kill
  • 2. Breathing problems, including asthma
  • 3. Less nutritious food
  • 4. An allergy season that goes on forever
  • 5. Heat waves
  • 6. Too much or too little water
  • 7. Sunny days that make you dreary
And, the fishery industry is expected to lose between $17 and $41 billion between now and 2050 due to climate change.  Also, don't forget that ocean acidification results in a declining shellfish population.

There is plenty more and I don't need to go through it all, but I thought I would mention one last piece of news. That blizzard that hit New York City this past week cost the city $200 million in lost economic activity. Severe weather events like this are already becoming the norm. Tell me, how many 'storms of the century' have there been in the last few years?

So, I think we can see from just a very small sampling that we can definitely say global warming and climate change are not good for us. Don't let anyone tell you differently.

But, you know who will make money off of climate change? The same people that are hell bent for everyone to believe its good for us.


  1. Hi Dr. Keating: If it's on Daily Caller, there is something like a 90% probability it will be false. I'm surprised you even found that headline.

    If you are looking for more entertaining reading than you'll find at Daily Caller, with all the falsehood and misrepresentation you've come to expect of the Caler, you can watch Christopher Monckton and his valet fight with scientists about Monckton and Soon's "paper."

    Amusingly, your exchange with Tahoe Steph (is she really from Tahoe?) was brought up in the midst of the fight by some Alex Jonesian lunatic.

  2. The Daily Caller bit was showing up on the news summaries. So, I didn't find it, it found me. Part of the job is to read what the other side is saying.

    Christopher Monckton is one of the most ridiculous deniers out there. He has outright lied about so many things I am truly surprised he can get any air time at all any more.

    It was too bad about Tahoe Steph. But, she was a real nut case and I just couldn't see the point in letting her go on with her conspiracy theories anymore. Such is life, some times.

  3. Lindzen must know he is lying. To me it seems to go beyond the financial incentives. Judith Curry appears to be going down the same path.

  4. I agree, I can't see any way someone like Lindzen doesn't know he's lying. I can only speculate, but my guess is it started out as a financial thing (I estimate he has received over a million dollars from "consulting" fees based on how long he's been doing it), but now its a case of having made his own bed and having to sleep in it. He has destroyed his reputation and the only thing he can do is to keep moving forward with the same people.

  5. I don't mean to imply that man-made global warming deniers are just dying to send us all to concentration camps or are eager to torture anyone, but like HItler's Nazi's and Totalitorian States throughout history, they know what makes effective propaganda and then proceed to implement it accordingly. The strategy seems to be in making bald faced lies or misleading statements, and then blaming the other guy for trying to do what they themselves, want to do--namely distort climate science for political purposes.

    I understand that most Americans know very little about climate science or science in general, but what has always baffled me is why so many of us are perfectly willing to accept the most ignoble and money making motivations being attributable to Nobel Prize winning scientists, yet don't see the forest for the trees when it comes to the obvious money making motives of big oil and coal companies, or those companies which benefit from the use of Carbon based fuels. If there has ever been any truth involved in guilt by association, it would be affirmed in spades by the actions of big energy companies and the Conservative think-tanks who have really made this a case of the most rampant and politically motivated funding of anti-scientific claims. But as the saying goes, the best defense is a good offense, and, in this case, that frequently has to do with promoting the most underhanded falsehoods, and then claiming that Climate scientists are the ones who really want to benefit from such blatant and utterly false propaganda.

    The sad truth about global warming is that, the political prize isn't just a way to implement some partisan political agenda, but it actually prevents all of humanity from taking the actions required to benefit and ensure our survival. In this sense the calculated lying of deniers like Lindzen, is really done for the equivalent of 30 pieces of silver, like those which Judas collected for betraying Christ. Again I am not saying that all deniers are somehow anti-religious or anti-Christian, just that their actions ultimately involve the highly probable facilitation of extremely catastrophic consequence for all of those on this planet, and just like betrayal of a divinely loving and wise man named Jesus, they are doing it for the cheapest of reasons!

    And why does the public allow such travesty--obviously because as Al Gore put it, to face the truth is far too "inconvenient," to seriously consider!

  6. I have no problem with someone comparing deniers to Nazis. No, I don't believe they want to put in concentration camps and liquidate people, but they are more than willing to sit back and watch the damage. They don't seem to care about the environment being destroyed, the global economy suffering, the standard of living being lowered for billions, disease and suffering becoming more widespread and even the deaths of thousands ever year. This is all acceptable to them. I think maybe the better analogy would be to compare them to the people of Germany who knew what Hitler was, voted him into office, then turned a blind eye to what he did. The difference is only in magnitude.

  7. I also think there are many similarities between the shameless lies and misinformation used by deniers to dispute the fact of man's influence on global warming, and the way Hitler's minions spread Nazi propaganda, but even if the deniers themselves are not truly "synonymous" to what Nazis are all about, it does not good to make the people who accept those lies and distortions think you are labeling THEM as Nazis for believing the many kinds of clever methods and ruses used by deniers that are not easily detectable for someone with very little knowledge of science.

  8. There is a lot to what you said. I have received a lot of flack from some of them for calling them deniers. They feel they are being grouped with Holocaust deniers. I have always told them I was not doing that, but I feel the mentality is the same, along with vaxxers, people that deny the lunar landings, 'truthers', etc.

    The goal is not to goad them, or even shame them. Some certainly view it that way, though, and I guess it isn't productive. However, at the same time, their positions are very offensive and, since it is not possible to get them to change their viewpoint, I think it is just a part of doing business.

    In short, the goal isn't to call people names or shame them, but neither am I afraid to put a label on their beliefs.

  9. Having that attitude about professional paid off deniers as well as those whose previous research has been correctly deemed as the idea of a crackpot, is acceptable. These people probably are fully aware of what they are doing, but don't really care. However the average man on the street or member of the middle class, doesn't always know how to distinguish global warming lies from actual truths, So I think it is important to let them know that they are not being considered villains just for believing what is often seems false, according to their common sense.

    At one time, most people did not know the Earth was round---partly because they were unaware of what scientists were discovering, and partly just because when they left home to take a walk, their senses told them that they were walking on an immense horizontal plain, with a few mountains and valleys occasionally included. If they had been called witches or evil people for believing what their eyes perceived as being true, a lot more negativity would have been used when discussing the beliefs of scientists which they felt were obviously not true.

    Those of us who have ever studied the issue of global warming at all, have no way of knowing that global warming is real despite the weather extremes that have been projected to happen and which actually are happening, when most of us in rural areas look up to the sky it is still clear blue in many areas. And, although I understand that Co2 is a colorless, gas, its hard for many people to wrap their minds around the fact that even when they cannot see greenhouse gasses, they are still doing very bad things to the environment. So yes, take the brazen and shameless people working for Exxon Mobile to task for spreading bunk, but let ordinary people know why they are finding it hard to accept the science that affirms man's unmistakable and primary role in global warming!

  10. I am fully in agreement with your sentiments. The problem is, not all devoted deniers are on someone's payroll. So, how do you tell the difference between people who have not made up their minds on the issue and those that have decided they are smarter than all climate scientists in the world combined? I do not believe it will ever be possible to convince someone climate change is real if they have rejected the science. I was talking a friend the other day and he still does not believe smoking is harmful. He rejected the science decades ago and nothing is going to change his mind. Some climate change deniers are the same. I am interested in reaching out to the ones that have not made up their minds and can be persuaded. So, again, how do you tell the difference?

  11. Good point, there are still a lot of intelligent people who still believe in facts, and can be convinced of what they affirm! So why not focus more on them?

  12. That's what I'm trying to do. I want to keep the intelligent people informed and to give them material they can use when they talk to deniers. I try to avoid getting in debates with them as much as possible, but I know other people are willing to. I can at least give them the facts they can use.