Skip to content

Climate Skeptic Part 7: Is Solving Climate Change Affordable?

Part 7 of 7 – Continued From Part 6

Authors: Amber Bieg, Deb LaSalle, Zach Bell, Heather Colwell, Kevin Winslow, Jay Schuyler, Alaina Sisco, Mitch Samson

Is Solving Climate Change Affordable? 

There are two aspects to surviving climate change: adaptation and mitigation. Adaptation is how we plan ahead and make appropriate changes to reduce the negative impacts of climate change on our communities, resources, and economies. Mitigation is how we take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prevent the projected changes in temperature. To adapt to climate change is to focus on localized resilience. Resilience is defined as the adaptive capacity of living beings to face a disturbing agent, or an adverse state or situation. The more prepared and healthy an individual or community is, the better they’re able to handle change.

However, if climate change isn’t mitigated and we continue with business as usual, these impacts won’t arrive at a certain point and stop. They’ll simply continue to bring harm at a more rapid pace. Resilience is needed in the short term where climate impacts are inevitable. But much like sugary soft drinks lead to tooth decay, even the most resilient teeth at some point require the consumer to back off. 

As to mitigation, controlling GHG emissions is essential for the long-term health of humanity. The good news is that GHG mitigation is attainable and often comes with economic benefits in terms of reduced energy usage or more natural, circular, renewable processes. Many companies are finding that the “clean” solution ends up being the cheaper solution – simply due to more efficiency. Perhaps the most recent and high-profile mitigation action was the Paris Agreement. This legally binding treaty was signed by 196 parties from around the world in December 2015 and formally adopted in November 2016. Its goal is to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius, as compared to pre-industrial levels.

Alignment around the Paris Agreement has divided the U.S along political lines. In 2017, then-President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the agreement, despite the fact that our nation contributes approximately 15 percent of GHG emissions.[24] However, many countries around the world have implemented policies ranging from carbon taxation to cap and trade programs. Many fear that this price on carbon will cause inflation. However, in a number of examples from countries like Sweden, where the carbon tax is as high as $126/tonne, carbon pricing has minimal or no impact on inflation compared. A recent study on Carbon taxation in Canada and Europe shows that carbon pricing has actually had the opposite effect – causing deflation.[25]

Okay, so what about the solutions to climate change? Are they affordable?

The simple answer is “yes” – and solving climate change can even be profitable.

At Warm Springs Consulting, our largest three clients are set to reduce emissions by over 12.9 million MT CO2e (equivalent to the emissions from 2.5 million cars driving for a year) over the next two decades and collectively reach over $3.9 billion in savings. But this is just data from three companies. Imagine the scale of potential available if every company just simply asked the right questions. 

Project Drawdown conducts ongoing research on climate solutions that are currently available, financially viable, have a net positive impact, and are quantifiable. Drawdown has now ranked more than 100 solutions and analyzed the financial implications of each solution. According to the 2020 Drawdown Review, “Overall, net operational savings exceed net implementation costs four to five times over: an initial cost of $22.5–28.4 trillion versus $95.1–145.5 trillion saved. If we consider the monetary value of co-benefits (e.g., healthcare savings from reduced air pollution) and avoided climate damages (e.g., agricultural losses), the financial case becomes even stronger . . . it’s clear that there is no economic rationale for stalling on climate solutions—and every reason to forge boldly ahead.” [26]

Previously, Murdoch and News Corp have pushed the message that a low-carbon economy would be bad for business. The narrative has long been that decarbonization is simply too expensive (tagging the cost at $600 billion in 2015) and bad for jobs. We now know that this is simply not true. In Australia for example, under the missionzero2050 campaign, News Corp is now saying that stopping climate change is a $2.1 trillion “windfall,” and will create 672,000 new Australian jobs. 

Though some legislators still cling to coal and the economic impacts it has on their local jurisdictions it can’t be denied that, in America, coal is nearly dead. There will almost certainly be no new coal-burning generation constructed in the U.S. in the near future, or perhaps ever. Given its clean(er) attributes, natural gas remains an interim option, but it also faces an uncertain future. 

Though now a decade old, the numbers behind a study by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) are still sound. The EPRI estimates that modernizing the U.S. electrical grid, and especially transitioning to a “smart” grid, could cost as much as $476 billion over 20 years. However, that investment could yield perhaps $2 trillion in benefits, including greater grid reliability and overall reductions in electricity demand. [27] And what would be the economic impact if the U.S. could export new, renewable, clean-energy solutions to the rest of the world? What if communities still reliant on coal could transition their economies to low-carbon solutions?   

The research is in place. The scientific community agrees. The effects of climate change are visible and, at times, catastrophic. So-called 100-year storms now come perhaps every 20 years and by the end of the century, forecasted to happen every year. Climate change is causing extinction, massive damage to life and property, drought, severe weather events, and economic hardship. We have the knowledge and (most of) the tools we need to combat the issue – and implementing them not only is affordable – but economically beneficial. At this point, perhaps all we need is the willingness and investment to solve it. Maybe it’s time to ask questions, be creative, and design a better model. 

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

                                              – R. Buckminster Fuller


[24]  BBC. Climate Change. US formally withdraws from Paris agreement. Nov. 4, 2020

[25] Konradt, Maximilian, and Beatrice Weder di Mauro. Carbon Taxation and Inflation: Evidence form the European and Canadian Experience.  Center for Economic Policy Research., London, UK., July 25, 2021.

[26] Project Drawdown. The Drawdown Review 2020: Climate Solutions for a New Decade. March 2020

[27] Scientific American. Debate Continues on Smart Grid Benefits versus Massive Costs. May 25, 2011


Additional Resources:

Climate Change Issues in Idaho: 

  1. Indicators of Idaho’s Changing Climate
  2. University of Idaho – Idaho At-A-Glance: Climate Overview 
  3. Abatozoglou’s Tools and Datasets
  4. Boise is the 13th fastest-warming city in the US. Here’s why that is unlucky for residents.
  5. EPA: What Climate Change Means for Idaho
  6. Idaho Climate Data
  7. Indicators of Climate Change in Idaho: An Assessment of Framework for Coupling Biophysical Change and Social Perception
  8. U of I Climate Change in Idaho landing page
  9. U of I Researchers Discuss the Effects of Climate Change on Idaho Agriculture

National/Global Climate Topics and Data: 

  1. Climate Indicators by EPA
  2. National Climate Assessment Report: Northwest
  3. Northwest Climate Toolbox 
  4. NY Times: Climate Change Is Complex. We’ve Got Answers to Your Questions.
  5. The World’s Soaring CO2 Levels Visualized as Skyscrapers
  6. The climate disaster is here
  7. The five biggest threats to our natural world … and how we can stop them
  8. UN: Greenhouse gas levels hit a new record, cuts fall short
  9. What sea level rise will do to famous American sites, visualized

Climate Change Solutions/Thought Leaders: 

  2. Amory Lovins 
  3. Bill McKibben
  5. Project Drawdown
  6. Rocky Mountain Institute