Peter Dorman (with whom we’ve worked on severalprojects related to the economics of climate policy) and two of his colleagues have an op-ed in The Seattle Times on the costs of climate change in Washington State. They focus on recent research by a team at the University of Oregon:
Looking at…relatively easy to quantify impacts of climate change, the research team concluded that climate change might cost the state of Washington $3.8 billion annually by 2020, or more than 2 percent of current median household income. These costs rise to more than $6.5 billion in 2040 and to $12.9 billion by 2080.
Some fairly sobering stuff—although they bend over backwards to clarify that there are huge uncertainties in the numbers. But as they point out, the precise numbers don’t really matter:
[T]he key message from the report is not the exact cost—but rather the fact that the costs appear to be large and will increase significantly over time. We recognize there is uncertainty surrounding the estimates and that acting now to mitigate the impacts of climate change will be costly. But the numbers in the report suggest not acting could be very, very costly. Put another way, the longer we and others wait to adopt strong emission reduction policies, the more costly climate change will be.
It’s worth a quick read, if only to familiarize yourself with the way that more and more economists are thinking about climate change—namely, that in the long run it will cost more to do nothing than to take action. (More on that here.)