The costs of climate change

The costs of doing something about climate change are contentious. How much should be spent? Will it make any significant difference?

What will be the costs of not doing enough?

What will be the costs of rpid and major changes to society that some are calling for?

The warnings about the possible effects of climate change continue, and the calls to do something significant about it grow stronger.

RNZ: Dire climate change report warns of ‘threat to civilisation’ within decades

Australian organisation Breakthrough said in its report the current research on climate change is too conservative.

It said there is an urgent need to build a zero emissions industrial system, as well as a global response on the scale of World War II emergency mobilisation.

The report said that feedback cycles could push warming to 3C by 2050, making climate change a “near- to mid-term existential threat to human civilisation”.

Breakthrough research director David Spratt told Morning Report if the commitments from the Paris climate talks were not improved the world was heading for 3C or more of warming.

He said top scientist Hans Schellnhuber, science advisor to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Pope Francis, recently said if we continued down this present path there was a real risk that human civilisation would end.

“He says ‘the human species will survive somehow, but we will destroy almost everything we have built over the past 2000 years’.”

Mr Spratt said all the worst climate change scenarios were now on the table.

He said studies showed communities around the world believed climate change was the most important issue society faced, and the private sector needed to step up.

Some still claim that climate change isn’t a problem, with some claiming it’s some sort of hoax to fund scientists or take over the world (it’s unclear who will take over). But there are more and more concerns being expressed and demands that drastic action is taken.

Remarkably, when Minister  of Climate Change James Shaw spoke in Parliament on the first reading of the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill, he didn’t mention costs. But he did refer to the consensus he had been working on.

I want to thank the Prime Minister for her personal leadership in this, the nuclear-free moment of our generation, and the Deputy Prime Minister for his efforts in getting us to this point.

I would also like to extend my gratitude to National Party leader, Simon Bridges, and National’s Climate Change spokesperson, Todd Muller, who put politics to one side and worked with us in good faith to try and shape a Bill that could be supported across the House.

Madam Speaker, this Bill has a thirty year time horizon – it must survive multiple changes of Government in that time.

The pressures will be even greater in the future than they are today.

However National has expressed concern about costs, and also possible impacts on farming in New Zealand. Muller tweeted yesterday:

But there is no guarantee that spending 1-2% of GDP on climate change will be enough – the actual costs to make a significant differenced may end up being much higher, and the unintended consequences of significant changes to farming, to society, may be difficult to predict let alone quantify.

Muller’s tweet attracted a number of responses.

@swevers89:

Hammond was only considering costs of action. No 10 quickly rebuffed him (significant in itself) and said costs of inaction far higher (citing recent Climate Commission report). It’s false economic analysis and misleading politics to only mention one side of the ledger, surely?

Note ‘estimating’:

@lancewiggs:

Yes and if we don’t start spending serious cash now it is, basically, our economy and society at stake.

It is also our economy and society that’s at stake if we spend ‘serious cash’ and change the way we live.

@jamesbremner:

NZ climate change policies will cost a fortune and have absolutely no effect. The idea that China and India will be inspired by NZs self immolation is delusional. The most destructive policy in NZs history. Madness.

@MckenzieAl:

How did you get the idea that humanity can negotiate out of this situation? Or somehow we have a degree of choice in the matter? At what stage will deniers say “Shit. This seems really serious. Existentially serious. And finally get urgent in the response?” When it’s too late?

Debate over our warming planet is hotting up for sure. But in New Zealand we seem to be a long way from committing significant resources to try to deal with it.

More importantly, the countries emitting the most greenhouse gases are making the most difference to the climate, but don’t seem to be doing a lot about  it. Especially United States under Donald Trump’s leadership – he is virtually the denier-in-chief.

China and India, and Europe, will need to lead the charge if there is going to be any real stemming or reversing of emissions. otherwise New Zealand would be pissing into howling winds of indifference and inaction.

I think that unless there are major technological breakthroughs on alternative energy there won’t be a lot of progress made.

There are calls to make major changes to our capitalist/industrial society, but I have seen nothing coming close to serious of what we should change to and how that change should happen. I have also not seen any serious analysis of what the effects and costs that could be.

While there are growing calls for urgent action that doesn’t look like happening here or anywhere. We don’t even know what actions should be taken.

Are we fiddling while our planet burns?

Or is the sky not falling quite as badly or as quickly as some claim?

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41 Comments

  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  9th June 2019

    Do conservation stuff that makes economic sense and stop moronic Lefty regulators from blocking sea walls etc that property owners need.

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  9th June 2019

      PDT hates common sense.

      Reply
    • Gezza

       /  9th June 2019

      What conservation stuff makes economic sense & how are you defining economic sense?
      Some destructive industries pay out fortunes so they make economic sense. Is that your only criterion?

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  9th June 2019

        Doing things more efficiently and cutting waste makes economic sense. Externalised costs contribute to calculating what makes economic sense as do investments in future benefits but these have to be real.

        Reply
  2. Blazer

     /  9th June 2019

    the sky is not necessarily falling so badly…its just that a lot of the pillage and plunder the planet set…still have their heads in the…clouds.

    Reply
  3. Actually there seems to be little that can be done. Jacinda has closed Taranaki’s oil and gas industry but can’t explain how this helps solve climate change as we still need oil and gas, so we’ll just have to import it. With intellectual leadership of this quality you can’t seriously expect the rest of the country to get on board.

    Reply
    • Fight4NZ

       /  9th June 2019

      Or move to non fossil fuel, non carbon emitting alternative energy sources.
      Not a huge intellectual leap. But who doesn’t like to throw stones standing in the middle of a glasshouse?

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  9th June 2019

        Imagination is free but alternative energy is not. Hence electric cars cost $70k+.

        Reply
        • Fight4NZ

           /  9th June 2019

          50″ flat screen TVs cost $20k when they came out. Imagine that.

          Reply
          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  9th June 2019

            Yes, and economic sense was waiting until they didn’t.

            Reply
        • Blazer

           /  9th June 2019

          and houses cost…$1million!

          Reply
          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  9th June 2019

            Things that private enterprise control get cheaper and things that bureaucrats control get dearer.

            Reply
            • Fight4NZ

               /  9th June 2019

              Govt provides free or very low cost housing to those who can’t afford it. The rest of us pay extortionate prices in the private sector. Unless I’m imagining it?

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  9th June 2019

              Try to build a house and you will discover why taxpayers get fleeced to provide them.

            • Fight4NZ

               /  9th June 2019

              Built a couple. Made a tidy profit. Hard not to when house hyper inflation was the national govt’s central economic policy.

            • Blazer

               /  9th June 2019

              how much is the latest Apple iPhone?

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  9th June 2019

              You can pay anything you want for a phone. Visit TradeMe and see. The free market caters for all.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  9th June 2019

              @F4NZ, you know the Clark govt kicked off the House price inflation and the Left and Winston prevented National fixing it. Now homelessness is increasing as prices stall but supply at affordable prices is buggered.

            • Blazer

               /  9th June 2019

              ‘Things that private enterprise control get cheaper ‘

              ‘how much is the latest Apple iPhone?’….Answer=dearer than the previous one!

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  9th June 2019

              You can still buy the previous one. Cheaper.

            • Fight4NZ

               /  9th June 2019

              @AW, rewriting history again.
              House inflation started in earnest under Bolger govt. But incidental to suite of policy under Bolger and Clarke. Key govt throttled everything else and made it the central pillar of economic policy supported by immigration and willingness to bully any attempt to get in the way. Bringing with it homelessness born of unaffordabilty.

            • Blazer

               /  9th June 2019

              ‘You can still buy the previous one. Cheaper’…

              ‘Things that private enterprise control get cheaper ‘

              so the new one didn’t get ‘cheaper’…it got dearer…

              sledgehammer.

            • Pink David

               /  9th June 2019

              Blazer, I hate to break this to you, but an older model iphone and the latest model iphone are different things.

            • Blazer

               /  9th June 2019

              @Pink David…follow the dialogue…proposition.’Things that private enterprise control get cheaper’

              preceded by ..’
              50″ flat screen TVs cost $20k when they came out’


              Hence electric cars cost $70k+.’

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  9th June 2019

              Phones have got cheaper, B. I bought a couple of brand new perfectly good android phones for $150-$200 last year. Just because the Rolls Royce versions are still expensive doesn’t mean the industry hasn’t made price progress. Nothing similar has happened in the housing bureaucracy or any other to my knowledge.

            • Pink David

               /  9th June 2019

              “@Pink David…follow the dialogue…proposition.’Things that private enterprise control get cheaper’

              preceded by ..’
              50″ flat screen TVs cost $20k when they came out’

              Hence electric cars cost $70k+.’”

              Electric cars have existed for 130 years. The reason almost no one uses them is because ICE’s ones are better for less money. Private enterprise does not change the underlying physic’s.

              The only places where electric cars are used in significant numbers are those where the Government subsidies them.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  9th June 2019

              Pink David (or may I call you Pink ?) ; how nice to see that someone else knows that electric cars were around so long ago. As I remember from what I have read of them, they were all right for runabouts on short trips but had the maddening habit of running out with no warning, especially in the early days.

            • Pink David

               /  9th June 2019

              “they were all right for runabouts on short trips but had the maddening habit of running out with no warning, especially in the early days.”

              the challenge has always been the batteries. Tesla somewhat solved this by realizing that you need the car to be a high value unit to justify the costs of a longer range battery. Which is why the model 3 is a bait and switch.

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  9th June 2019

            Fact check. Median house price increase $110k Feb 1992 – $170k Oct 97 (55%) – $178k Nov 2001 (5%) – $345 Nov 2007 (93%) – $540 Dec 17 (56%) – $585 Mar 2019 (8%).

            Bolger 9 years avg 5.5% per annum.
            Clarke 6 years avg 12% per annum
            Key 9 years avg 6% per annum
            Ardern 1 year avg 6% per annum

            https://www.interest.co.nz/charts/real-estate/median-price-reinz

            Reply
            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  9th June 2019

              PDT also hates facts as well as common sense.

            • Fight4NZ

               /  9th June 2019

              Interesting, and in no way contradictory to the sequence of events I reminded you of.
              Got the history for Auckland?

      • My point is that closing Taranaki was counter productive. Yet this was the best a govt committed confronting “the nuclear free issue of our generation” could come up with. We’d have been better off is they did nothing.

        Reply
    • Fight4NZ

       /  9th June 2019

      Having said that, the gains to be had from closing Taranaki make it a total waste of time in the wider scheme of things.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  9th June 2019

        Televisions can still cost $20,000, but why anyone would want one that size and at that price is beyond me. Mine is a 19″ and I would have bought a smaller one had they had them. The programmes are no better on a large one and the tripe that’s on the freeviews would be even worse on a massive screen (Choice has some good UK programmes, good luck finding them anywhere else, even, alas, Prime. Thank goodness I have thousands (literally) of books; my house is like a library.

        Reply
  4. Pink David

     /  9th June 2019

    “I think that unless there are major technological breakthroughs on alternative energy there won’t be a lot of progress made.”

    We had it for decades. If climate change was a real problem, we could have replaced almost all coal burning with nuclear.

    The fact those who make the most extreme claims about climate change are also the most against nuclear and hydro power tells you all you need to know.

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  9th June 2019

      ‘Chernoby dreams and Fukushima…wishes’….lifestyles of the ignorant and craven.

      Reply
      • Pink David

         /  9th June 2019

        Pike River killed as many as both those disasters.

        All forms of energy production have costs. Make your choice.

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  9th June 2019

          31 died initially at Chernobyl, but we don’t know how many died as a result of the radiation.

          I was in Europe at the time and remember that we were advised not to buy fresh vegetables because of the risk of contamination (or it may have been that these were dumped; I can’t remember exactly) Either way, the economic effect was disastrous.

          Pike River caused nothing like this.

          Reply
          • Pink David

             /  9th June 2019

            “Pike River caused nothing like this.”

            Pike River is a single incident. Coal mining kills millions.

            The death rate for coal in China is 170,000/Pkwh
            The death rate for nuclear in the US is 0.1/Pkwh
            For comparison, solar in the US kills 440/Pkwh

            There is no free lunch. If the claim is that climate change is a serious issue, nuclear has been the best solution we had for the last three decades.

            “Either way, the economic effect was disastrous.”

            Best not to have a Soviet system that builds non-fail safe reactors, then starts experimenting with them.

            Reply
            • Griff.

               /  10th June 2019

              Nuclear can not be built and run economically by a free market economy.
              Because it is uninsurable.
              The maximum liability for a nuclear plant in the USA is limited to 12 billion.
              The Fukushima accident will cost 850 billion and counting.
              Bloody right wing commies always privatize profits socialize risk.

              I See we still have right wing claims that the oil industry in taranaki has been destroyed by the PM .

              Jacinda has closed Taranaki’s oil and gas industry

              Another made up fact that right wing whackos believe based on nothing but rather fevered imaginations.
              Taranakis oil industry is winding down because the fields are depleted .
              Stopping new exploration permits has no effect there as almost the entire basin is already under existent exploration permits.

              As this load of dribble gets up ticked by right wing fantasists we can see the evidence is overwhelming.
              Right wing = Lala land.
              An ideology not based on living in the real world instead just relies on make up bullshite and ignorance confusing easily lead suckers.

  5. Just responding to a few of the points in the original post:
    – China, India, Europe, and the US are already leading the charge, investing massively in renewable energy and research and bringing down prices. Emissions are falling in the US and Europe, and coal use is falling in China (though not yet total emissions)
    – NZ is investing a bit, e.g $100m green investment fund, $300m venture capital low-emission fund, $150m low-emission grants, two large new wind farms just announced. Other areas like reining in the growth of petrol and diesel cars, seem to be stalled for the moment.
    – however the biggest thing NZ is doing is the Zero Carbon Bill and associated changes to the ETS like a falling cap on emissions. This really will cause emissions to fall.
    Having said that, other actions like from the Sustainable Business Council members and many city councils are important too, although city councils are a bit limited in their powers. The Wellington “First to Zero” plan looks pretty good, envisages more people living in the inner city requiring less transport.

    Reply

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