This is what I did just before Christmas at the last I-SEE seminar of 2018 in Bath when Anil Markandya (Director of the Basque Centre for Climate Change in the Basque Country) talked about the relationship between the costs of climate mitigation v. the financial gains from a healthier population. His title was:
Do health co-benefits compensate the economic costs of the Paris climate agreement?
This is the Abstract:
While the co-benefits from addressing both climate change and air pollution related problems have been clearly recognized, there is not much evidence comparing the mitigation costs and economic benefits of air pollution reduction for alternative approaches for meeting greenhouse gas targets. This study analyses the extent to which health co-benefits would compensate the mitigation cost of achieving the targets of the Paris Agreement (2ºC and 1·5ºC) under different scenarios where the emissions abatement effort is shared between countries according to three established equity criteria.
A key point was that there are significant gains for climate action which are independent of any future reductions of damages from climate change. Some countries like China and India could justify stringent mitigation efforts just by including health co-benefits in the analysis. The results also indicate that the statement in the Paris Agreement to “pursue efforts” to limit temperature increase to 1·5ºC would make economic sense in some scenarios and countries if health co-benefits are considered.
The equation is a simple one (for economics):
Net policy cost = Mitigation cost – health and co-benefit gains
Ah, if only life were that simple. Markandya noted that whilst the health co-benefits significantly outweigh the policy cost of achieving the target for almost all the scenarios analysed (with some of the mitigation strategies, the co-benefits are double the costs at a global level), getting countries to see and act on this was difficult. Although the study shows that the extra effort of trying to pursue the 1·5ºC objective instead of the 2ºC one would generate a substantial net benefit in India (3·3 - 8·4 trillion US$) and China (0 ·2 - 2 ·3 trillion US$) this does not mean that it will happen.
There are short-term v. long-term issues here and the awkward fact that the rich would have to pay for benefits mostly accruing to the poor. If only we really were our brother's keeper.