One of the motivating challenges of working on carbon removal is that, relatively speaking, there aren’t many people or groups working on this technology. That’s a sad fact, because relative to the potential economic and human costs, this is one of the most important issues facing humanity.
How much will it cost? Last fall, researchers at Stanford performed a new sort of study of on the predicted economic outcomes of climate change left unchecked. Their analysis compared the performance of national economies in average years with warmer than average years and then baselined against averages across the world. They then plugged in expected temperature rises by 2100 to get an expected change in GDP for each country and the world.
Somewhat intuitively, the northern nations (Canada, Scandinavia, Russia, etc.) are much better off. With longer growing seasons and a climate more suited to human comfort, their expected change in GDP is significantly positive.
But the warmer parts of the world will suffer greatly. Even the United States (-36%) and China (-42%) should expect to see significant shrinkage in GDP by 2100.
Overall, there is a greater than 50% probability that global economic output will shrink by 20% or more. That’s 20% less than it would normally have been had there been no climate change.
Imagine our global economy right now. And then imagine our collective overall economy shrinking by one-fifth. That’s a mind-bogglingly large number.
What really struck me about this chart was how there is a very clear divide between rich and poor nations. Rich nations (who are mostly responsible for climate change in the first place) will largely be able to ride out the effects of climate change, but poor nations will suffer greatly.
Fixing climate change is only going to get more difficult and more expensive as time goes on. The sooner we start pulling carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, the less expensive and destructive the effects will be. It’s the ethical and responsible thing to do.