(p. A19) . . . Mr. Biden’s current promise—100% carbon emission reduction by 2050—will be . . . phenomenally expensive.
A new study in Nature finds that a 95% reduction in American carbon emissions by 2050 will annually cost 11.9% of U.S. gross domestic product. To put that in perspective: Total expenditure on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid came to 11.6% of GDP in 2019. The annual cost of trying to hit Mr. Biden’s target will rise to $4.4 trillion by 2050. That’s more than everything the federal government is projected to take in this year in tax revenue. It breaks down to $11,300 per person per year, or almost 500 times more than what a majority of Americans is willing to pay.
Although the U.S. is the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gasses right now, America’s reaching net zero would matter little for the global temperature. If the whole country went carbon-neutral tomorrow, the standard United Nations climate model shows the difference by the end of the century would be a barely noticeable reduction in temperature of 0.3 degree Fahrenheit. This is because the U.S. will make up an ever-smaller share of emissions as the populations of China, India and Africa grow and get richer.
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(Note: the online version of the commentary was updated Oct. 14, 2021, and has the same title as the print version.)