The option of geo-engineering makes it much safer to continue using fossil fuels and thereby pass on extra trillions of dollars of wealth to the next generation at possibly little or even no cost.

So writes Robert Murphy in the Featured Article on Econlib this month, “The Benefits of Procrastination: The Economics of Geo-Engineering.”

Murphy compares the cost of doing nothing about global warming with the cost of Waxman-Markey and writes:

Of the estimates in the eleven studies published since the year 1995, the worst case is a global GDP loss of 1.9 percent.


For example, the Congressional Budget Office surveyed a range of studies and concluded that the cap-and-trade emissions targets in the Waxman-Markey climate bill would reduce U.S. GDP by 1.1 percent to 3.4 percent by 2050. Thus, the midpoint of this range, 2.3 percent, is higher than the worst estimate of unrestricted climate change (in any surveyed study published within the last fourteen years). In other words, the costs of Waxman-Markey exceed even the most optimistic estimates of benefits. Moreover, the damage to the economy occurs decades earlier than the full benefits of avoided climate change and the Waxman-Markey plan, even if adopted by all major governments, would not eliminate all climate damages.

But what if the cost of doing nothing turns out to be much higher than the high estimate above? That’s where geo-engineering comes in. But rather than reading my repetition of his argument, read the article.