Weather Notebook
Bryan Yeaton

The Cost of Kyoto

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How much would it cost the U.S. to help halt global warming? Far too much, say those opposed to actions to reduce the U.S's greenhouse gas emissions. But some economists dispute that assertion.

Hi, I'm Bryan Yeaton, and this is the Weather Notebook's weekly segment on Global Climate Change.

Greenhouse gases are believed to be the culprit behind global warming. But some politicians, businesses, and economists argue the high cost of reducing our emissions is simply unacceptable.

For example, relying on numbers from the Clinton Administration, the chairman of the White House Council of Environmental Quality recently told Congress that if the U.S. ratified the Kyoto Protocol it would cost our economy up to 400 billion dollars and cause the loss of almost five million jobs. Many climate change scientists, however, argue that the Kyoto Protocol is a small but necessary first step to avoid a predicted two to ten degree warming that may occur in the next few decades.

Recently, two environmental economists painted a different picture. Accepting the most pessimistic cost numbers, US climate scientist Stephen Schneider of Stanford University and Swedish energy economist Christian Azar of Goteborg University calculated that meeting the Kyoto Protocol would only shave one-tenth of one percentage point off our GDP growth. While it would eventually cost trillions of dollars, stabilizing greenhouse gases at a level that would prevent global warming, they say, would be barely noticeable in a hundred years time: the world would be ten times richer in the year 2102.

The study is published in the August, 2002 edition of Ecological Economics.

The Weather Notebook is a production of the Mount Washington Observatory. Our series on global climate change is supported by the New England Science Center Collaborative and the Roy A. Hunt Foundation. Thanks today to writer David Appell of Gilford, New Hampshire.

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