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Delaying Climate Action Would Triple Future Energy and Mitigation Costs
Putting off global efforts to fight climate change until 2030 could increase the costs of short-term mitigation by more than three times, according to new research.
Published in the journal, Environmental Research Letters, the study looked at the economic impacts of possible international climate agreements.
If an agreement was reached to start taking action in 2015 to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius, then international economic growth would be cut back by two percent. Delaying those steps until 2030 would mean growth curtailed by around seven percent.
The report’s lead author Gunnar Luderer said:
For the first time, our study quantifies the short-term costs of tiptoeing when confronted with the climate challenge. Economists tend to look at how things balance out in the long-term, but decision-makers understandably worry about additional burdens for people and businesses they are responsible for right now.
So increased short-term costs due to delaying climate policy might deter decision-makers from starting the transformation. The initial costs of climate policies thus can be more relevant than the total costs.
Governments are currently working towards a new global agreement on climate change to be in place by 2015. The new research highlights the importance of not postponing mitigation.
The later climate policy is implemented the faster emissions will have to be reduced if countries are to achieve their internationally agreed target of limiting warming to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
This will make such policies more expensive. The researchers also examined the impact of climate policy on energy prices.
If emissions are delayed beyond 2030, global energy price levels are likely to increase by 80 percent in the short term, they found. If an agreement was reached in 2015, short-term energy price rises could be limited to 25 percent.
Such price increases are particularly concerning because of the burden they put on the world’s poor.
Visit EcoWatch’s CLIMATE CHANGE page for more related news on this topic.
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"The rapid pace of labour-saving technology brings into focus the possibility of a shorter working week for all, if deployed properly," Autonomy Director Will Stronge said, The Guardian reported. "However, while automation shows that less work is technically possible, the urgent pressures on the environment and on our available carbon budget show that reducing the working week is in fact necessary."
The report found that if the economies of Germany, Sweden and the UK maintain their current levels of carbon intensity and productivity, they would need to switch to a six, 12 and nine hour work week respectively if they wanted keep the rise in global temperatures to the below two degrees Celsius promised by the Paris agreement, The Independent reported.
The study based its conclusions on data from the UN and the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) on greenhouse gas emissions per industry in all three countries.
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"We welcome this attempt by Autonomy to grapple with the very real changes society will need to make in order to live within the limits of the planet," Emma Williams of the Four Day Week campaign said in a statement reported by The Independent. "In addition to improved well-being, enhanced gender equality and increased productivity, addressing climate change is another compelling reason we should all be working less."
Supporters of the idea linked it to calls in the U.S. and Europe for a Green New Deal that would decarbonize the economy while promoting equality and well-being.
"This new paper from Autonomy is a thought experiment that should give policymakers, activists and campaigners more ballast to make the case that a Green New Deal is absolutely necessary," Common Wealth think tank Director Mat Lawrence told The Independent. "The link between working time and GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions has been proved by a number of studies. Using OECD data and relating it to our carbon budget, Autonomy have taken the step to show what that link means in terms of our working weeks."
Stronge also linked his report to calls for a Green New Deal.
"Becoming a green, sustainable society will require a number of strategies – a shorter working week being just one of them," he said, according to The Guardian. "This paper and the other nascent research in the field should give us plenty of food for thought when we consider how urgent a Green New Deal is and what it should look like."
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