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Face up to the "gray rhino" of climate change (Economic Perspective)

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In recent years, the frequency and intensity of global extreme weather and climate events have increased significantly, and compound extreme climate events are more likely to occur. Climate change is undoubtedly a huge "gray rhino" event for the global economy. It has various associations and effects with other traditional risks to form new and more complex risks and become a "risk multiplier" in economic and social life.

At present, more than 3.6 billion people around the world face water shortage crisis, and about 2.3 billion people face moderate or severe food insecurity. These existential crises are closely related to climate change. At the same time, many countries are in a critical period of energy transition. Extremely hot weather has led to a sharp increase in electricity demand, which has also seriously affected the power generation capacity of renewable energy and the operation of power infrastructure. Increasingly severe heat waves, floods and droughts, rising sea levels, climate-sensitive infectious diseases and other events have also damaged human health from multiple dimensions and reduced labor productivity.

Regarding the various risks caused by climate change and the huge challenges it brings to the global economy, some economists have used the "climate casino" as a metaphor. The medical journal "The Lancet" published the "2022 Lancet Population Health and Climate Change Countdown Report", which pointed out that compared with the 1950s, the land area affected by extreme drought events has increased by about 30%. In 2021, due to extreme heat, humans will lose almost 500 billion hours of work, reducing food supply and income, and related economic losses will be about 700 billion US dollars. This year, in addition to geopolitical conflicts, various types of extreme weather have also triggered energy crises and blackouts in many places around the world. Major rivers in some countries have dried up, further hindering the flow of bulk goods such as raw materials, energy and food, and making the global economy worse under the epidemic.

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Aiming at the complex relationship between climate and economy, the economics of climate change has become an emerging discipline and has received increasing attention. The main task of this discipline is to use economic tools to weigh the climate losses under different temperature control targets and compare them with the cost of emissions reduction inputs, so as to determine appropriate emission reduction targets and paths. A few days ago, a paper in the "Nature" magazine stated that the social cost of each ton of carbon dioxide emissions is about 185 US dollars. Although the accuracy of such estimates needs to be verified, they reflect the idea of comprehensively using economic means to deal with climate issues. As emphasized by the Nobel laureate in economics and American climate economist Nordhaus, it is precisely because the price of carbon emissions has not been clarified and quantified that the emissions continue to increase and the climate continues to warm. Therefore, it is very important to determine the price of carbon. Significance.

Compared with general environmental issues, climate change has a wider impact and involves a wider range of actors. If a country takes the initiative to reduce emissions, the cost of emission reduction will be borne by the country, and the results of emission reduction will be shared globally; if it increases emissions, the cost of emissions will be borne by the world, and the benefits of emission will be exclusively enjoyed by the country. To resolve this contradiction, we must rely on an effective international coordination mechanism. Under the guidance of the "Paris Agreement", countries around the world have determined nationally determined contribution targets and designed incentive mechanisms to varying degrees. Dozens of them have adopted market tools such as carbon tax or carbon trading to reduce emissions. However, there is still a significant gap between the current actions in the world and the overall temperature control goals, especially for developing countries that urgently need more financial, technical and capacity-building support. The international community should further promote climate investment and financing and international coordination, and jointly hedge the imminent climate risks.

(Author unit: Global Energy Internet Development Cooperation Organization Economic and Technological Research Institute)

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"People's Daily" (version 15, November 22, 2022)

(Editors in charge: Hu Yongqiu, Yuan Bo)

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