The costs – and savings – of climate change measures

Londoners who change their lifestyle to reduce their impact on climate change could save up to £80,000 over a lifetime, says a new report, while reducing US greenhouse gas emissions could be done at no net cost to the US economy.


In his paper, Costing Climate Change, Dr David Reay of the University of Edinburgh calculates that technologies to abate climate change can cost very little, and bring significant financial benefits. The study, to be published in a Christmas issue of The Royal Society’s Philosophical Transactions, compares the lives of two theoretical Londoners – Mr Carbone, who is greenhouse gas ignorant and Mr Bellamy, who is greenhouse gas aware. Simple lifestyle choices from how they travel to work, whether they recycle paper and use energy-efficient appliances, where they go on holiday and the food they eat, show startling results.

Mr Carbone produces 1,250 tonnes of greenhouse gases over a lifetime at a cost of £130,000, while Mr Bellamy produces a significantly lower 370 tonnes of greenhouse gases at a cost of £49,000. “With one million Mr Bellamys we could achieve an annual reduction in UK GHG emissions of more than five million tonnes and a cash saving of £1 billion,” says Dr Reay.

Reay also challenges the US’s rejection of Kyoto greenhouse gas reduction targets as too expensive to achieve, arguing that contrary to the US government’s assertion, cuts are both viable and vital. Reay suggests a number of strategies that are possible at low or no cost, including renewable energy, solid-waste treatment, afforestation and land management. “My analyses indicate that the costs incurred in rectifying damage to human health, material goods, agriculture and the environment, far outweigh the costs of implementing many GHG-reducing initiatives,” says Reay.

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