Ignoring climate change far more expensive than fighting it, says British report

Some folks worry that restricting greenhouse-gas emissions could hurt the economy. Turns out that’s a bit like worrying that a tracheotomy will hurt a patient in anaphylactic shock — yeah, it’ll sting, but without it the patient will croak. (Yes, we watch way too much ER.) Ignoring climate change could dampen the global economy by 5 to 20 percent each year within a decade, costing the world up to $7 trillion, according to a new report from chief British government economist Nicholas Stern. Think Great Depression, but with much worse weather. In contrast, tackling climate change now would cost about 1 percent of global GDP each year — roughly what the world spends annually on advertising. We better get cracking, though: the report warns that the chance to avoid the worst effects of climate change “is already almost out of reach.” Eek. British Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, who commissioned the report, said the U.K. would take leadership in the international response to tackle climate change, and proposed a new E.U. target to reduce emissions 30 percent by 2020 and at least 60 percent by 2050.