Climate crisis: climate, costs, human lives (

What do the corona pandemic and climate change have in common? In both of the current major problems (and not only there), political decisions are based on economic considerations – the costs involved in countermeasures. The loss of human life is one factor among others. In contrast to Corona, researchers have been calculating the costs of climate protection and climate damage against each other for decades and came to groundbreaking results such as the fact that the UN climate goals are not completely senseless, but even make economic sense.

Noah Kaufman of the Center on Global Energy Policy at New York’s Columbia University recently called “the world’s most difficult question” to realistically determine the social costs of CO2 emissions. Since the basis of the calculation is uncertain, the results vary accordingly. According to the US administration under Donald Trump, the future emissions of every additional tonne of CO2 can be had at a bargain price starting at one dollar, which, however, has been doubted by scientists, to put it mildly.

Under Barack Obama, around 50 dollars were assumed. According to US researchers at the Climate Impact Lab, however, the costs are likely to be much, much higher. It is also to be credited to that team that they did not lump the immediately fatal consequences of global warming for humans with the consequences for arable land and coastal regions, but rather determined them for themselves. Which does not change the fact that they also state the loss of human life in the unit price per tonne of CO2 that takes getting used to.

38 dollars will then be lost in “human capital” for every additional ton of CO2 due to rising temperatures alone. On average, of course. Because rich countries and high earners will be able to mitigate these deadly consequences by adapting to the climatic conditions. In countries that are already poor and hot, the losses add up to around 73 dollars, even if they did not blow up the carbon dioxide themselves.

All these estimates are based on scenarios that would not even occur in a better world. Because then future generations would be worth enough to the international community to immediately take consistent measures. UN Secretary General António Guterres (and probably not only there) sees the reason for pessimism in the international handling of the corona crisis. “The pandemic is a clear test of international cooperation – a test that we have essentially failed,” he said, and that he fears “the worst” with regard to the climate crisis.


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