Michael Mann: Cost of Climate Change Already Greater than Cost of Mitigation

April 24, 2014

Tico Times:

Amid one of the worst droughts in recent memory, Costa Ricans already are feeling the damage of extreme weather changes that come with climate change, experts said on Wednesday, at the Climate Vulnerability Forum’s regional workshop, held this week in San José.

“Central latitudes are getting drier but experiencing heavy downpours when it does rain,” said Matthew McKinnon, a specialist at the U.N. Development Program, who has been involved with the forum since its start five years ago. “Coastal erosion is causing some islands to disappear entirely.”

These disappearing islands already have been documented in Costa Rican waters, officials at the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) warned, and a larger threat looms for habitats in the region that lie beneath the ocean. Earlier this month, The Tico Timesreported that experts expect the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef – which runs from Mexico to Honduras – to collapse by the year 2060.

Conference attendees also warned of the more abstract effects of climate change.

“Climate change means 50, 60 or 70 hot days will happen each year,” McKinnon said. “We know from the science of ergonomics that when it is hot people work less effectively. By the end of the century these losses could represent significant proportions of GDP.”

Some research shows that once temperatures climb above 26°C (78°F), productivity falls by 2.4 percent with every celsius degree of increase.


28 Responses to “Michael Mann: Cost of Climate Change Already Greater than Cost of Mitigation”

  1. omnologos Says:

    He hasn’t contradicted the ipcc, has he?

    • jpcowdrey Says:


      One might conclude you are a strong advocate for that kind of consistency about which Emerson commented with such insight.

  2. Hay Gee Says:

    Everybody knows that weather isn’t climate unless it’s hot outside. That’s why unusually warm summers are evidence of global warming, and so are unusually cold winters. The theory is completely unverifiable, and if you even try, you’re a “climate denier.” That’s how you know it’s science!

    • dumboldguy Says:


    • Greg Laden Says:

      Well, you have it half right. Weather is not climate. But climate is weather over the long term. A given unseasonable season isn’t much to go on, but a longer term and larger pattern is. Climate scientists understand this. The whole point of climate science is to use a combination of carefully collected empirical data on current weather, well developed and tested models, and careful examination of the paleorecord to understand how the climate system works and what parts of it, when changed, cause other changes.

      In so doing it has become apparent that the release of fossil carbon into the atmosphere as Carbon Dioxide warms the planet, which works through other feedback mechanisms to enhance that warming even further. This warming has had a number of effects already and we anticipate more. This is a serious issue.

  3. jpcowdrey Says:

    Hay Gee,

    Unusually cold winters in some regions of the world are not direct evidence of global warming, but evidence of changing circulation patterns indirectly caused by global warming. Global warming and climate change are not identical.

    When one adds atmospheric temperature change, ocean heat content increases and the increases in melting snow and ice and compensate for natural forcings and variation, it is apparent that global warming due to human generated greenhouse gases continues unabated.

    Though the detailed consequences of climate change are not entirely well understood, what we do know, and what we are beginning to learn, indicates changes that are likely to greatly harm the natural world and human civilization which depends on natural ecological services.

    When someone tries to refute science by simplistically conflating apples and oranges, and display a stubborn unwillingness to change their understanding when corrected; that’s how we know that someone is in denial of the science.

  4. Gingerbaker Says:

    “Cost of Climate Change Already Greater than Cost of Mitigation”

    That’s a curious assertion considering nobody knows how much it will cost to switch to a 100% renewable energy infrastructure.

    Anybody dare to give me a dollar amount? Anybody have a clue what the dollar amount could be, or might be, or will be? How about a general max/min guesstimate?
    Twenty years of arguing about the topic and yet nobody knows the answer to this most basic of all questions.

    (Which is why I don’t put much stock in a single study that asserts some tiny percentage of GDP)

    • IPCC said that if we act now we can limit global warming to 2°C with annual global economic growth at about 2.24% rather than 2.3%.

      • Gingerbaker Says:

        “IPCC said that if we act now we can limit global warming to 2°C with annual global economic growth at about 2.24% rather than 2.3%.”

        How do we know that when nobody knows how much it will cost to build:

        “∼3,800,000 5 MW wind turbines, ∼49,000 300 MW concentrated solar plants, ∼40,000 300 MW solar PV power plants, ∼1.7 billion 3 kW rooftop PV systems, ∼5350 100 MW geothermal power plants, ∼270 new 1300 MW hydroelectric power plants, ∼720,000 0.75 MW wave devices, and ∼490,000 1 MW tidal turbines”

        (Energy Policy Volume 39, Issue 3, March 2011, Pages 1154–1169)

        We could build this infrastructure for the lowest possible cost, most likely as a public project. Or, we could build it at the highest possible cost, most likely by letting the (so-called) free market determine the price.

        Can you give me cost estimates for either likely figure? No? Then what have we been spending our time arguing about for the last twenty years?

        • MorinMoss Says:

          20 years?
          The arguments began in earnest after the 1973 oil embargo. It was yet about climate but about reducing fossil fuel usage.

          We’ve done much worse than argue – we’ve wasted precious time.
          You want to dicker on cost?
          What’s your life worth?
          How much would you pay to be able to take your next breath?

          Things are not yet that dire for most of us but the vanguard of changes has already taken many lives.

          You may not have the cost but you’ve been handed the plan, which can be adjusted over time. What we have to do is get going.

    • You mean you don’t know. Costs are about the same as what we do today. In other words, replace most existing FF as they age with renewables. The economics and feasibility are doable. That’s started in US and EU.
      ” At 2030 technology costs and with excess electricity displacing natural gas, we find that the electric system can be powered 90%e99.9% of hours entirely on renewable electricity, at costs compa- rable to today’sdbut only if we optimize the mix of generation and storage technologies.”

      Click to access BudischakEtAl-2013-CostMinimizedWindSolarPJM.pdf

      There are lots of other papers. Take your pick.

  5. Greg Laden Says:

    “Cost” … a hundred years of arguing won’t give you the answer either. Nor will whinging about it and demanding an answer. The fact is, we have to keep the carbon in the ground. If we work full steam towards alternatives it will be a while before we have to assess the question of which alternatives to develop sooner vs. later or more vs. less aggressively. Meanwhile, actually deploying this technology will give us a lot more information than we will ever get complaining about it. And, it will create jobs.

    We need to take a wartime approach, for the sake of future generations as well as our own.

    • omnologos Says:

      Who’ll tell Mann to stop whinging?

      • Greg Laden Says:

        omnologos, I was referring to people who claim that global warming is not real, or if it is it is not caused by humans, or if it is it is not important, or if it is there is nothing we can do about it. That winging.

        At this point it has been established that it is real, caused by humans, serious, and fixable. You’ve got nothing left. You could consider trying to grasp reality for a while. It can be difficult, but ultimately it is worth it.

      • MorinMoss Says:

        Why not nominate yourself? Who’s better suited to the task?
        Anyone we choose, you’ll undoubtedly find fault with.
        You asked the question; now go supply the answer.

        • omnologos Says:

          You haven’t followed the exchange. Mann wants to talk costs, Gingerbaker wants to talk costs, Greg doesn’t want Gingerbaker or anybody else to talk costs.

          No news as yet if Greg is OK with Mann talking costs.

          • MorinMoss Says:

            I’ve already replied to one of Gingerbaker’s comments.
            The talk about costs has been going on for a long time; it’s past time we started doing.

            But if we are going to talk about the cost, it’s only right that we add in the cost in lives, both if we do & if we don’t.

            In any case, wouldn’t trying to meet those numbers for alt energy generators grow the economy and create jobs, which seems to be the holy grail for a great many?

    • Gingerbaker Says:

      “We need to take a wartime approach, for the sake of future generations as well as our own.”

      I agree. Now… how much will that cost?

    • You are right. We already have solutions. What we don’t have is an economic or political system that keeps FF in the ground. They are not preventing harm to our source of life, the earth we live on.

  6. jfreed27 Says:

    We are already paying a “hidden tax” in our use of coal: about $100-$300 billion/year (Harvard Medical School study) in over 70 negative impacts. That goes away when we shift to clean energy

  7. “It doesn’t cost the world to save the planet,” says Professor Ottmar Edenhofer, an economist who led the IPCC team.
    When one asks what it costs to save the planet from GW, the answer is not $1.25. Nor would an amount in trillions give any sense to the average reader what it means. Only a few financial policy wonks like Paul Krugman would have any sense of what it means. For us, we want to know what it means in our daily lives.
    For that, we might get some sense by looking at percentages of what the economy is today. Although GDP is somewhat vague to some, most get that its a measure of our total economic activity and health over a period of time. From that perspective, this:
    “Diverting hundred of billions of dollars from fossil fuels into renewable energy and cutting energy waste would shave just 0.06% off expected annual economic growth rates of 1.3%-3%, the IPCC report concluded.”
    “The authoritative report, produced by 1,250 international experts and approved by 194 governments, dismisses fears that slashing carbon emissions would wreck the world economy.”
    Note that IPCC is referring to diverting funds from FF to renewables. That means capital switches from one to the other, as it should, since FF are becoming more expensive, and renewables are getting cheaper. And the message is clear. The sky is not falling. It might be rising, though. With the sun. 🙂

  8. http://www.go100percent.org/cms/

    Across the globe — in regions, cities, communities, businesses, and individual lives — people are proving that 100% renewable energy is not a fantasy for someday, but a reality today. Each of us is part of the problem of dependence on conventional fuels and their harmful impacts on current and future generations. Each of us can also be part of the solution. Let’s do it.

  9. […] 2014/04/24: PSinclair: Michael Mann: Cost of Climate Change Already Greater than Cost of Mitigation […]

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