Climate change cost much larger than expected, prize-winning economist says
MADRID – British economist Nicholas Stern said the price of fighting climate change is now higher than he estimated in a 2006 study that earned him a 400,000-euro (530,000) Spanish award on Friday.
Stern won the BBVA Foundation award for measuring the economic cost of climate change, notably in his 2006 Stern Review which found it made more economic sense to combat climate change than to do nothing.
The economist’s “advanced economic analysis” quantified the impacts of climate change and provided “a unique and robust basis” for decision-making, said the jury in the Frontiers of Science Award.
It “fundamentally changed the international climate change debate and stimulated action,” the jury said in a statement.
The Stern Review found world economic growth would contract by at least 20 percent if no action is taken, while a switch to a low-emissions economy would cost about one percent of global outpout a year.
Informed of the award on the eve of the announcement, Stern said he would revise the figures in his study if he was writing it now, according to statement by the BBVA Foundation.
“The cost of cutting back emissions is more than we estimated, but that is because the consequences of climate change are already here,” the economist was quoted as saying.
“Emissions are rising rapidly, and the capacity of the ocean to absorb carbon is less than we thought. Also, other effects, particularly the melting of the polar ice, seem to be happening much faster. We need to take more drastic steps, so the costs will inevitably be higher.”
Countries should still rise to the challenge, he said.
“Climate change economics is the next industrial revolution. The countries who invest now in this new growth market will gain the advantage of a first mover. Those who don’t risk being left behind.”
China and some European countries including Spain had “woken up to the benefits” and taken steps to foster a low-emissions economy. Stern said. But the United States and other rich countries were advancing more slowly.
The BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Awards, established in 2008, recognize research and artistic creation.