Here's just one example of the necessary push-back against what is a near-constant assault of cost projection distortions. In this episode, we see Cai Steger nail Jim Manzi for apparently representing a cost-effectiveness analysis as a cost-benefit analysis of Waxman-Markey, the important difference being that the former method compares how much you can get for your money among alternative possible policy options, while the latter weighs actual and projected costs and benefits of a policy or policies. Excluding benefits from policy evaluation makes any policy look too costly (but even then, in Manzi's confusing assessment the numbers are not that high), of course, if not totally absurd (as in, "let's make a new policy in which we spend a lot of money with absolutely no return, achievements, or positive effects").
A complex cost, or rather set of costs, often excluded from these kinds of discussions is the aggregate cost of adaptation and the wildly uneven distribution of these costs. A new World Bank study, assuming a 3.6°F (2°C) rise in global temperature over 40 years, the recommended baseline goal of mitigation efforts (now considered nearly impossible to achieve), finds that climate change adaptation starting in 2010 will cost $75-100 billion per year. The number is similar to that estimated in 2007 by the UNFCCC/IPCC, while the IIED (International Institute for Environment and Development) published a report earlier this month estimating 2 to 3 times that amount. Costs over time can decrease alongside early adaptation measures, but costs over time will increase the longer adaptation measures remain idle.
But remember also that the Bank's estimate is based on a projected 3.6°F temperature increase (the famous 2°C). A new UNEP report predicts that the world is now actually facing twice that: a 6.3°F increase in temperature, which is currently not only increasing but accelerating. This entails some pretty bad stuff,
These predictions indicate grave consequences for all countries and, for developing countries, costs that they cannot bear by themselves. Many developed nations acknowledge responsibility for developing world adaptation costs, for moral reasons since the developed countries are the main source of the problem as well as for reasons of political and economic self-interest. These are complex costs.
"With every day that passes, the underlying trends that science has provided is . . . of such a dramatic nature that shying away from a major agreement in Copenhagen will probably be unforgivable if you look back in history at this moment," [Achim Steiner, executive director of UNEP] said. He noted that since 2000 alone, the average rate of melting at 30 glaciers in nine mountain ranges has doubled compared with the rate during the previous two decades.
"These are not things that are in dispute in terms of data," he said. "They are actually physically measurable."
Other findings include the fact that sea level might rise by as much as six feet by 2100 instead of 1.5 feet, as the IPCC had projected, and the Arctic may experience a sea-ice summer by 2030, rather than by the end of the century.
Meanwhile, here in the US we seem to be over the debate whether climate change even exists, and possibly even over the debate whether global warming is largely due to anthropogenic emissions, at least among those with reasonable disagreements. We now debate whether a $100 per year increase in household costs - which on some estimates would save money for individual households over time - are really worth all the time and effort to do something about climate change. Our elected officials across parties and all the way up to President Obama seem to believe that any truly significant measures are not worth the political costs.
Sorry, developing countries.