Climate Change

Expensive Climate Change Policies Can Return Huge Economic Benefits

Researchers at MIT wanted to see how big of an economic benefit countries got if they followed through with their plans to reduce carbon emissions.

Expensive Climate Change Policies Can Return Huge Economic Benefits
Getty Images / Kevin Frayer

As part of the Paris Agreement, hundreds of countries pledged to develop plans to fight climate change. The short-term costs of those policies can be expensive, but a new study shows the long-term benefits of a healthier Earth may offset those costs.

Researchers created a model which showed how certain climate change policies would change the economy of China, the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter. If China sticks with current plans to slash 4 percent of its total carbon emissions a year through 2030, researchers said the country would reap $340 billion in economic benefits. That's nearly four times the cost of the climate change policy itself. 

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The policy has long been opposed by the fossil fuel industry.


The bulk of this return on investment comes in the form of a larger, healthier population. Researchers noted that if China had no carbon-reduction policy in place, the country would suffer 2.3 million premature pollution-related deaths by 2030. But with the 4 percent plan, they estimate China can avoid 94,000 premature deaths a year.

The team behind the study noted that China could see even bigger health and environmental benefits if it moved away from using coal as a primary energy source. And China has done that. In 2017, for example, Beijing finished a project to get rid of its coal plants by either shutting them down or converting them to natural gas plants.