With Climate Change, Doing the Math Matters

Physicist Mark Buchanan warns that typical economic projections may not accurately measure the value of actions to combat climate change.

Skeptics sometimes say that there’s no need to rush in addressing climate change — that our constantly increasing wealth will eventually make the problem relatively inexpensive to solve. Thanks to some careful mathematical research, that argument is looking increasingly wrong.

Placing a value on something that may happen 50 or 100 years from now isn’t easy. Economists typically rely on market interest rates, taking a historical average and projecting it into the future. If, for example, $10 would compound to $100 over the next century, then they’ll estimate that avoiding $100 of climate-related damage in 2116 is worth just $10 today.

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