Climate Change Will Harm U.S. Economy, Economists Say

by | Nov 9, 2009

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priceoncarbonAlmost all 144 top economists surveyed for a New York University School of Law report agree that climate change threatens the United States economy and that carbon regulation — whether it’s a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system — will drive energy efficiency and innovation, reports the New York Times’ Green Inc. blog.

The report, Economists and Climate Change (PDF), finds that 84 percent of the economists agreed that environmental effects of greenhouse gas emissions “presents a clear danger” to the United States and the global economy, despite uncertainties regarding the exact speed and severity of global warming. The study also finds that the majority of economists (86 percent) believe the agriculture sector will be hit the hardest, followed by fishing (71.3 percent) and forestry (66.9 percent).

Yet, Senators continue to debate whether climate change threatens the U.S. economy and U.S. agriculture, even while over 80 percent of expert economists believe that global warming will have negative impacts on each, according to researchers.

The economists also agreed with a market-based approach to limiting carbon emissions, with 80.6 percent supporting the auctioning of emissions allowances, while 9 percent believed the government should give them away, reports Green Inc.

Despite the over 80 percent of experts who believe auctioning is the economically better choice, Congress has moved towards giving away most emissions allowances for free, according to the report.

The article cites two key findings: nearly all the economists — 94.3 percent — said the United States should agree to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through an international climate treaty, while fifty-seven percent said the country should make a commitment even without an agreement.

And 73 percent of the respondents agreed that the uncertainty on the severity of climate change raises the economic value of implementing measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which would increase energy efficiency and promote innovation, according to 97 percent of the respondents.

There was less consensus on how to calculate the economic damage from each ton of carbon emitted, with economists’ estimates ranging from $20 to $100 a ton, according to the article.

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