Thursday, June 16, 2022

Why don't we have more spending on climate action?

2018: A warning

The latest IPCC report had shown that "the Nationally Determined Contributions set voluntarily by signatories to the Paris accord are vastly insufficient. Even if they are met, the increase in average global temperature will surpass 3°C by 2100, and will continue to rise still further after that." So, José Antonio Ocampo wrote, "humanity cannot afford to act gradually on this issue. The Stern Review, the latest IPCC report, and the UNEP have all concluded that current efforts to reduce emissions must be stepped up substantially." That means that "the country that is historically responsible for the largest share of greenhouse-gas emissions – the United States – must return to the agreement and show leadership on this issue once again."

2019: What we almost had

Noah Smith (Bloomberg, 12 Feb. 2019) supports investing in infrastructure: "The original Green New Deal’s goal of building a smart electrical grid is a good one, as is the idea to retrofit American buildings to have net zero emissions." However:

The Green New Deal, proposed by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, has two big flaws. First, the plan overreaches in its desire to deliver a raft of expensive new entitlements — guaranteed jobs, benefits, health care, housing, education, income and more. If the large deficits required to pay for all of these things ended up harming the economy, it would actually hurt the cause of limiting climate change rather than help it. Second, the plan focuses far too much on the U.S.’s own carbon emissions. The U.S. accounts for only about 14 percent of global carbon output, and that percent is falling every day. The climate change battle will be won or lost in developing countries such as China...
Smith would prefer to see the US emphasize the development of green technology, and scale it, to help give "developing countries a way to reduce carbon output without threatening their economic growth."

2022: No such luck

In 2020, when governments began spending on COVID mitigation, "the opportunity flashed brightly for climate action," when "something like a Green New Deal seemed not just conceivable but potentially the basic model for public investment the world over." Indeed:

"a team led by Marina Andrijevic and Joeri Rogelj estimated that if the world could spend just 10 percent of the money it had spent up to that point on Covid relief over each of the following five years — half of total Covid relief spending, in other words — it would be enough to bring about a comprehensive green transition, meet the goals of the Paris accord and keep the planet well below two degrees Celsius of warming."

But that spending didn't happen.

"At least $14 trillion," the New York Times article says, was spent by the countries of the Group of 20 on pandemic relief of one kind or another, according to an analysis published in Nature in March. Just 6 percent of it was spent in ways that could reduce emissions." Proportionately, that's only half of what these countries spent on cutting emissions after the 2007–09 recession.

Earth seen from space

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