When President Barack Obama addresses the United Nations Climate Summit on Sept. 23, you can bet that he will be calling for immediate, substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. But is the time for action now?
The White House has claimed that the cost of delaying action on climate change would be greater than if actions were undertaken now. Therefore, the U.S. should move quickly to enact regulatory measures to reduce greenhouse gases. But there is a fatal flaw in the reasoning: the climate issue does not fit the framework in which an early start implies lower costs.
That framework requires three basic conditions to be met. First, we need to know with a high degree of certainty what the optimal policy target is and when it needs to be reached. Second, we need to be sure that no influential new information will be arriving in the near future that might affect our view on an optimal policy target. Third, we need to have an accurate picture of the range of risks associated with acting or not acting. (more…)