U.S. Economists Support Immediate Climate Action, Survey Shows
A large-scale survey of 365 U.S. economists by the Institute for Policy Integrity in New York counters the long-standing myth that economists are less supportive of immediate action on climate change than climate scientists.
“Analysts and journalists often say (or imply) that there’s less of an economic consensus, that economists are leery of the actions recommended by scientists because of their cost,” writes Vox.com climate specialist David Roberts, in an update to a column he originally published last year. But that’s not borne out by the data: The IPI study revealed “broad consensus on some questions, a wider spread on others, but in every case the median opinion of climate economists supports more vigorous action against climate change, sooner. Like scientists, economists agree that climate change is a serious threat, and that immediate action is needed to address it.”
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IPI reported that 89% of respondents believed unmitigated climate change will be a very or somewhat serious problem for the U.S., 50% supported “immediate and drastic action” in response, and another 43% said “some action should be taken now.” Roberts notes that “in both cases, these numbers are considerably higher than in most surveys of public opinion.”
Asked about the time frame in which climate change will have a negative impact on the global economy, by far the largest group of respondents—41%–said those impacts are happening today. Another 22% said negative impacts will emerge by 2025, 26% by 2050. Only 9% anticipated negative impacts by 2100 or later, and only 2% foresaw no problems at all.
“The median answer here is 2025, which is considerably earlier than many prominent economic models estimate,” Roberts writes. “For instance, Tol’s FUND model—one of the three big models used in the field—estimates that impacts will not be net negative until 2080.”
In response to a separate question, 78% said it was likely or extremely likely that climate change will have a negative impact on global growth rates; 17% were unsure, and only 5% considered it unlikely.
Economists are also concerned that their profession understates climate impacts in its advice to decision-makers. “Most economists who work on climate believe that the climate-economic modeling community (a relatively small subset of economists) is systematically underestimating climate change—and thus giving policy-makers bad advice,” Roberts reports.