Geoengineering featuring airplane trails across a blue sky.

Economics of Climate Change: Mitigation and Solar Geoengineering

Principal Investigator

Jay Coggins

Department and College

Department of Applied Economics in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences

Project Number

14-173

Funding Type

Hatch

Project Start and End Date

April 5, 2018-September 30, 2022

Project Summary

The challenge of a warming global climate it perhaps the greatest challenge facing the world. Failure to achieve a dramatic reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases, fairly quickly, poses a threat to the planet that is hard to exaggerate. Mitigation is the word used to describe a reduction, more or less aggressive, of emissions of greenhouse gases, with the goal of lessening the risk of dangerous warming. Estimates of the monetary benefits that will accompany successful mitigation are quite large. What about the costs? Here the estimates range widely, from something like 2-3% of global GDP annually (Pindyck 2013a) to zero (Jacobson et al. 2015). One part of the proposed research will be aimed at exploring this divergence, in particular whether the higher estimate reflects the most recent evidence regarding the cost of moving away from fossil fuels in favor of renewable sources of energy.

In the event that mitigation efforts are unsuccessful, and warming continues on the trend we see today, the temptation will be great to engage in geoengineering, which the UK Royal Society (2009) has defined as "the deliberate large-scale manipulation of the planetary environment to counteract anthropogenic climate change." Geoengineering can take many forms, including the injection of reflective particles into the atmosphere, painting rooftops white, and placing large reflective shields in earth orbit. Any such approach to the climate challenge is controversial and carries a certain amount of risk. It is also relatively inexpensive, which means that an individual country, perhaps one that experiences real harm before others, could undertake one of the listed strategies on its own, thereby imposing geoengineering upon the rest of the world. The other part of the proposed project is to explore this question from scientific and economic perspectives.