Climate protection measures could already have benefits for the economy in the coming years – by reducing air pollution.
This is what the researchers showed using the example of the United States of America. Measures leading to compliance with the two-degree target could save the US alone $163 trillion by 2050, including through healthier people and higher crop yields, reports Drew Schindel’s group of Duke University in Durham (North Carolina, USA). ) in the magazine. “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” (“PNAS”).
“Studies show that the long-term harm from uncontrolled climate change exceeds the costs of global climate protection, but the costs far outweigh the short-term climate benefits, undermining immediate action,” the researchers wrote.
Include interest in the cost-benefit balance
If combustion engines are replaced by electric motors to protect the climate and use fewer fossil fuels to generate power, there will also be fewer exhaust gases and the air will be cleaner. Schindel and his colleagues argue that these advantages should be factored into the balance of costs and benefits.
For their calculations, the scientists used the latest scenarios from the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the first part of which was published on August 9, 2021: Shared Social and Economic Pathways (SSP). It shows different socioeconomic development paths up to the year 2100 and is used in the Comparative Model Intercomparison Project, Phase 6 (CMIP6), for which the most important global climate models were evaluated. On this basis, the researchers calculated changes to 2070 for the nation and individual US states.
At the national level, the Shindell team compares the scenario with the second most ambitious goal (limit global warming to 2°C) with the second-worst scenario (a 3.6°C warming by 2100). Although the further development paths were not related to one another, the differences are enormous: Measures for the two-degree target would prevent 4.5 million premature deaths in the United States, 1.4 million hospital stays, and 300 million days of lost time. Labor, 1.7 million cases of dementia and the loss of 440 million tons of crops.
The researchers note that “the total benefits monetized this century will be dominated by health and will be much greater than in previous analyzes due to a better understanding of the effects of heat and air pollution on human health.”
The averted damage exceeds the costs of climate protection
By 2030, the economic benefits from clean air could be five to 25 times the cost of climate protection. According to the calculations, the avoidable damage from heat will exceed the costs of climate protection between 2040 and 2055. Damage from sea level rise, from extreme weather events, drought and wildfires, is not included.
For Sebastian Helgenberger of the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam, it is very important to make such economic calculations: “They show that climate protection measures are also worth it in the short term.” By supporting the urgent need to act with opportunity, more people can be motivated to effectively protect the climate. Helgenberger points to similar studies conducted by the Federal Environmental Agency (UBA). As early as 2014, a UBA study found that just with ambitious climate protection, Germany’s GDP could be nearly €30 billion higher in 2030.
Karsten Hausten of the Helmholtz Hannaun Center in Geesthacht also found the study to be very good and very important. In his view, one of its most important aspects is that the high initial costs of climate protection measures are offset if the health costs that have been avoided due to reduced air pollution are included. “As a result, the argument made over and over again about the burden of unreasonable cost collapses,” explains Hausten. To his knowledge, this should look no different for Europe and Germany than shown in the study for the USA.
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