034 | Climate Shock Revisited: the Economics of Carbon Pricing

77 minutes

When countries around the world ratified the Paris Climate Agreement in 2016, they pledged to prevent average global temperatures from rising to a level more than 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.7 degrees Fahrenheit, above pre-industrial levels.

They picked that number because 2 degrees Celsius is the point at which climate models start going haywire, but they also asked the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, to review all of the available research and tell us what we'd have to do to keep that rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the point at which feedback loops like melting tundras and increased water vapor make the 2-degree increase all but inevitable.

Scientists from around the world spent the last two years reviewing over 6,000 scientific papers and mapping out different pathways to the 1.5-degree target -- from paths that focus primarily on reducing energy demand to those that focus primarily on expanding carbon sinks that pull greenhouse gasses out of the atmosphere.

One of those carbon sinks is the one that I cover on Bionic Planet -- namely, natural climate solutions that work by improving the way we manage our forests, farms and fields.

The other is next-generation carbon capture and storage, involving new technologies that either don't yet exist or exist but cost a fortune to deploy.

On Monday, the IPCC released its report, and the upshot is that we can meet the 1.5-degree target by deploying a blend of these strategies, but it basically requires us to overhaul the industrial and agricultural economies.

Simple, right?

Actually, a lot of it is simple, but it's not easy to implement, because our economy puts more value on fast cars and cheap beef than on clean air or a stable climate. But the report does identify a mechanism for getting beyond that, and it's a mechanism we've covered before: namely, making companies pay for the damages their greenhouse gasses cause -- or, as we say colloquially, "putting a price on carbon".

But how much damage does a ton of carbon dioxide cause, and can we put a number on it?

These are the questions an economist named William Nordhaus spent his life addressing, through economic modeling, first on a desktop computer, and then with more and more sophistication.

n Monday, within hours of the IPCC issuing its report, the Royal Bank of Sweden announced that it was awarding the Nobel Prize for Economics to Nordhaus and another economist, Paul Romer, who focused on the economics of investing in education and in our collective future.

To honor Nordhaus, I'm re-posting parts of two early episodes featuring environmental economist Gernot Wagner, who documented Nordhaus's quest to quantify the social cost of carbon in his 2015 book "Climate Shock".

More episodes from Bionic Planet: Reversing Climate Change by Restoring Nature

065 | Carbon Negative Carpets and Interface's Climate Neutral Journey

Carpetmaker Interface has won accolades for its carbon-negative carpet, the manufacture of which pulls more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than …

064 | Race to Zero: Meet the Taskforce on Scaling Voluntary Carbon

What do Bill Gates, Mark Carney, Annette Nazareth, and Agustin Silvani have in common? They all believe that well-designed voluntary carbon markets …

063 | COVID-19 and the 2020 Emissions Chasm Report

The UN's Emissions Gap Report showed that the current Paris Agreement Climate Plans (NDCs )will leave us nowhere near where we need to be to avert a climate catastrophe.

Will Burns of the …

062 | At What Temperature Do Forests Stop Absorbing Carbon?

Today I speak with environmental scientist Jason Funk, who runs the Land Use and Climate Knowledge Initiative (LUCKI) about the important findings of a paper called "Long-term thermal …

061 | Seaweed, Cities, and Mangroves: The Blue Carbon Story

In this episode, we speak with oceanographer and sedimentologist Steve Crooks, one of the world's leading authorities on coastal ecosystems and …

060 | What The Civil Rights Movement Can Teach Us About Meeting the Climate Challenge (Encore Presentation)

In this episode, which originally aired in October, 2018, we speak with the Reverend Dr. Gerald Durley, who says climate change and civil rights are inexorably intertwined, and not just …

How you can listen to this podcast

You can listen to episodes right here on the website, or if you prefer, in a podcast app. Listening in an app makes it easier to keep track of what you’ve already heard, listen without using your data plan and many other conveniences.

Recommended apps
Start listening to 065 | Carbon Negative Carpets and Interface's Climate Neutral Journey
41:15
Start listening to 065 | Carbon Negative Carpets and Interface's Climate Neutral Journey
41:15