Thinking Citizen Blog — Does “Net Zero” fail the “Cost-Benefit” Test? Who has done the work? Who cares?

John Muresianu
5 min readDec 6, 2023

Thinking Citizen Blog: Wednesday is Climate Change, the Environment, and Sustainability Day

Today’s Topic: Does “Net Zero” fail the “Cost-Benefit” Test? Who has done the work? Who cares?

Climate change is real. It could be a disaster. But who is qualified to do the cost-benefit analysis? economists? physicists? What is the best cost-benefit analysis you have ever read?

Today, excerpts from an article by Bjorn Lomborg, author of “The Skeptical

Environmentalist” (2001) and the maker of the film “Cool It!” (2007). The article reports on two studies one by Richard Tol a professor at both the University of Sussex and the University of Amsterdam. The other by MIT economists Jennifer Morris, Henry Chen, Angelo Gurgel, John Reilly, and Andrei Sokolov.

Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.

“WHILE MEDIA COVERAGE TENDS TO HYPE THE BENEFITS OF CLIMATE POLICY, IT PLAYS DOWN ITS COSTS”

1. “Based on the latest cost estimates of emission reductions from the United Nations climate panel, he (Richard Tol) finds that fully delivering on the 1.5 degree Paris promise will cost 4.5% of global GDP each year by midcentury and 5.5% by 2100.”

2. “This means that likely climate policy costs will be much higher than the likely benefits for every year throughout this century and into the next.

3. “Under any realistic assumptions, the Paris agreement fails a cost-benefit test.”

NB: “The reality would likely be worse than Mr. Tol’s estimate. He unrealistically assumes governments will implement policies that meet these temperature targets at the lowest possible cost, such as a globally uniform, increasing carbon tax. In real life, climate policy has been needlessly expensive with a plethora of inefficient, disconnected measures such as electric-vehicle subsidies. Studies show that the policies actually enacted to curb carbon emissions will cost more than twice the theoretical expense Mr. Tol outlines.”

BENEFITS OF $4.5 TRILLION ANNUALLY (IN 2023 DOLLARS) VERSUS COSTS OF $27 TRILLION (below, Lomborg)

1. “In other words, each dollar spent will avoid less than 17 cents of climate damage.”

2. “The total undercounted loss over the century is beyond $1,800 trillion. For comparison, global GDP last year was a little over $100 trilloon.”

3. “Although well-intentioned, current climat policy would end up destroying a sizeable fraction of future prosperity.”

THE REDUCTION IN COLD DEATHS IS IGNORED

1. “Despite a drumbeat of stories this summer about rising heat deaths, higher temperatures also preven cold deaths, and so far in much greater numbers.”

2. “Globally, the result has been fewer overall temperature-related fatalities.”

3. Writ large, the damage the world experiences each year from climate-related disasters is shrinking both as expressed in fraction of GDP and lives lost.”

ALTERNATIVE, MORE EFFECTIVE POLICIES EXIST

1. “A sensible alternative is ramping up research and development in low-carbon technology to innovate green energy that will be cheap enough to outcompete fossil fuels.”

2. “That would protect the economy and ensure clean energy’s adoption not only in rich, climate-concerned countriese but in places like China, India, and Africa.”

3. “The MIT study highlights that breakthrough technologies could dramatically lower climate policy costs.”

NB: “A study by a researcher for the Copenhagen Consensus shows that competitive government investment in green R&D would be 66 times as effective as Paris policies, while costs between 1% and 10% as much.” Is this remotely realistic? How would an open-minded citizen assess the validity of this claim?

Opinion | ‘Net Zero’ Fails the Cost-Benefit Test

Bjørn Lomborg — Wikipedia

https://www.worldscientific.com/doi/10.1142/S201000782303001X

Richard Tol — Wikipedia

https://copenhagenconsensus.com/publication/post-2015-consensus-climate-change-assessment-galiana

https://www.worldscientific.com/doi/10.1142/S201000782340002X

QUOTE OF THE MONTH

“Make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words and sentences that in all your readings have been to you like the blast of a trumpet.”

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

My spin — then periodically review, re-rank, and exchange your list with those you love. I call this the “Orion Exchange” because seven is about as many as any human can digest at a time. Game?

A LINK TO THE LAST FOUR YEARS OF POSTS ORGANIZED BY THEME:

PDF with headlines — Google Drive

PDF with headlines — Google Drive

ATTACHMENT BELOW -

#1 A graphic guide to justice (9 metaphors on one page).

#2 “39 Songs, Prayers, and Poems: the Keys to the Hearts of Seven Billion People” — Adams House Senior Common Room Presentation, (11/17/20)

#3 Israel-Palestine HandoutNB: Palestine Orion (Decision) — let’s exchange Orions, let’s find Rumi’s field

(“Beyond all ideas of right and wrong, there is a field. Meet me there” Rumi, 13 century Persian Sufi mystic)

YOUR TURN

Please share the coolest thing you learned in the last week related to climate change or the environment.

Or the coolest, most important thing you learned in your life related to climate change that the rest of us may have missed. Your favorite chart or table perhaps…

This is your chance to make some one’s day. Or to cement in your own mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dear to your heart.

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John Muresianu

Passionate about education, thinking citizenship, art, and passing bits on of wisdom of a long lifetime.