Can Clean Energy Campaigns Stop Climate Change?

Originally posted on Triple Crisis

Can we protect the earth’s climate without talking about it – by pursuing more popular policy goals such as cheap, clean energy, which also happen to reduce carbon emissions? It doesn’t make sense for the long run, and won’t carry us through the necessary decades of technological change and redirected investment. But in the current context of climate policy fatigue, it may be the least-bad short-run strategy available.

You may have lost interest in climate change, but the climate hasn’t lost interest in you. Once-extraordinary heat waves are becoming the new normal. Recent research demonstrates that by now someone “old enough to remember the climate of 1951–1980 should recognize the existence of climate change, especially in summer.” Continue reading…

Costs of Inaction: The True Cost of Coal

Another in the series the Costs of Inaction – what we will pay if climate change continues unabated.

There is so much emphasis on greenhouse gas pollution from coal plants that we can sometimes lose sight of the other social and environmental impacts of burning coal. A recent report calls attention to the real cost of coal and what we should be paying to derive electricity from coal-fired power plants.

Researchers at the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School estimated the external costs of coal across its life cycle – extraction, transport, processing, and combustion. Their results, published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, finds that the annual costs of coal borne by the general public range from $345-$523 billion. If those external costs were accounted for, the price of coal generated electricity would increase by as much as 17.8-26.9 cents per kilowatt.

The study estimated the health impacts from coal-fired power plants at $187 billion annually; mercury emissions at $29 billion; and climate change damages at $206 billion. To arrive at their estimate of climate damages, the researchers assumed a very conservative social cost of carbon of $30 per ton. The social cost of carbon measures the dollar impact from every ton of carbon dioxide that goes into the atmosphere; many economists have argued that research supports much higher social costs of carbon estimates.  

You can read the full report here.