Saturday, 24 October 2009

The least useful statistic ever?

From Freakonomics...
Economists estimate that the costs of reducing carbon emissions are likely to be upwards of $1 trillion per year....These cost estimates are obviously highly speculative, but the true cost of reducing carbon emissions is likely to be within two orders of magnitude of this number.
Only two orders of magnitude?

In other words, the costs will be somewhere between $10 billion and $100 trillion per year.

That is, the same as the difference between a hundred and a million dollars; or dividing the cost out between everyone on the planet, choose between a $1.50 newspaper or a $15,000 car; or if the developed world pays for it all, you can either spend $10 on a glass of wine or give up your entire $100,000 annual salary.

So: to prevent global warming by reducing carbon emissions, every human being will either have to work for an extra 15 minutes once a year, or give up their entire income FOREVER.

Well, I'm glad we've got the scale of the issue clear...time to get down to work fixing it.

1 comment:

David Karp said...

Even without the two orders of magnitude thing, the statistic is not very useful. Just measuring "the costs of reducing carbon emissions" is surely not useful on its own -- you need to say how much you're reducing emissions by I would think. I'm no climate scientist, but surely if we reduced global emissions by ten percent this year, it would cost far more than if we reduced emissions in, say, Brazil, by one tenth of one percent this year.