As reported by the BBC, a new study on the economic impact of climate change….

…suggests that global warming could shrink the global economy by 20%.

But taking action now would cost just 1% of global gross domestic product, the 700-page study says.

As usual, I have no idea if the numbers are right, or even if they’re in the ballpark. But the basic concept—providing a side-by-side comparison of the costs of climate change with the costs of business as usual—is spot on.

I mean, it’s pretty commonplace to see global warming skeptics bemoan the “exhorbitant” cost of fighting climate change, just it’s all too common to read about the terrible toll that global warming could exact from the global economy.

But presenting the costs of action and inaction in the same breath does far more than let people compare those costs. It also reminds us that those two choices—pay now or pay later—pretty much exhaust our options. There’s no magical, cost free third way: one way or the other, we’re going to pay. It’s just a question of how much, and for what.

Once we collectively get over our magical thinking about climate change—the thinking that lets us pretend that there’s some way to duck the problem altogether—we may be able to start making some concrete choices. And it seems to me that presenting costs as a given, rather than an option, is the first step to rousing us from our denial.