This post is largely drawn from an article titled, “The Incredible Economics of Geoengineering,” written by Scott Barrett and published in Environmental Resource Economics in 2007.
As it turns out, economic analysis of geoengineering have found that methods such as stratospheric aerosol injections are extremely cost effective. Barrett explains, “pennies per ton of CO2 mitigated” and it has been reported that “offsetting all greenhouse gas emissions today would cost about $8 billion per year.” Incredible indeed. Of course, the side-effects of geoengineering, which cannot completely be predicted, are neglected in this price. The decline in solar irradiance available to produce solar energy, or grow crops, and the cost if something catastrophic should result from a geoengineered climate–these have not been included in the cost presented. However, as Barrett points out, the current policy of limiting emissions just isn’t cutting it. Most national governments as of now, are unwilling (due to fear of adverse effects on the economy) or unable (due to financial standing) to make the adjustments that would be necessary to cut emissions to the extent needed to reduce climate change (60%-80% as quoted in the Barrett article). Geoengineering provides a much easier solution in terms of economics and convenience.
Another point to consider is that geoengineering is a temporary fix; most options are not permanent, which makes them attractive options in case negative consequences present themselves (for example, depleting the ozone layer). A more comfortable idea for many, is that nations will adjust carbon emissions to the target while using geoengineering to cool the climate in the meantime. This option sounds safe, although Barrett points out, “If geoengineering should prove benign, the incentive to reduce atmospheric concentrations would be muted. A promise to use geoengineering only temporarily may thus lack credibility.” So economically, geoengineering sounds like a great idea before taking into account time and possible adverse effects, which are both unknown quantities. Politically, geoengineering could be sold as a very appealing solution to climate change IF the effect of climate change become threatening.