Is a climate change cure worse than the disease? from li's blog

TWO years after the Paris climate agreement was signed, Editorials the French capital this month again attracted the world’s good and great, who gathered for President Emmanuel Macron’s One Planet Summit.

In turns blasting US President Donald Trump for withdrawing from the Paris accord and telling each other that it remains on track, politicians formed a self-congratulatory huddle with celebrity campaigners and business leaders.

We should treat such smug bonhomie with caution. Goodwill isn’t enough to stop climate change, and history is littered with well-meaning policies that turned out to be unhelpful, or even worse than the problems they were meant to address.

Often, policy flaws become apparent only in retrospect. To identify them in real time, we need to be able to undertake a calm analysis of costs and impacts. No topic requires this more than climate change. Consider this month’s summit in Paris, where attention focused either on the Trump administration’s absence, or on other world leaders’ defiance of him. Nowhere have we heard about the Paris agreement’s actual costs and effects.

Economic science helps us establish the scale of the problem. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the UN’s climate panel, estimates that in about 60 years, global warming will cost the planet between 0.2 percent and 2 percent of GDP. That’s a problem, but it’s not the end of the world.

Right now, the net cost of global warming is actually close to zero. This seems untrue, because we hear an onslaught of terrible climate-related news. But we don’t get the full picture.

A drought in Syria understandably makes news. But global warming overall means more precipitation.

Similarly, we hear concern that tropical forests are being stripped. But while this deserves attention, the bigger story is that, because more carbon dioxide fertilizes vegetation, climate change has actually increased the world’s green matter (plants of all sorts) since 1982 by the equivalent of an entire continent.

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