Can we afford to fix climate change?

For a second, let’s ignore biodiversity, the future past 2100, and human suffering. Looking forward to 2100, is it better to fix climate change now, later, or never?

NOW. It is cheaper to reduce emissions now than to just hope for the best and pay to fix it later [12]. While we can definitely do more, we can’t suddenly stop all emissions today, because our societies depend on fossil fuels [13].

Once we’ve already warmed the planet, how much would it cost to bring the temperature down again?

Imagine a scenario: we reach 2°C of warming. To bring temperatures down to 0°C warming, we will need to take CO2 out of the air – about 4.5 trillion tons [7]. Capturing 1 ton of CO2 currently costs $94-$232 [11]. Let’s be optimistic and call it $100. Capturing 4.5 trillion tons would therefore cost $450 trillion. This is roughly 6x as much as the expected cost from damages in a 2°C world [8], making it not economical.

Now, imagine we get to 4°C warming. Capturing only the 3 trillion additional tons of CO2 emitted to get from 2°C to 4°C would cost $300 trillion, again assuming $100 to capture 1 ton. This is around 1.5x as much as the expected cost of damages in a 4°C world [8]. With a little innovation, we might even be able to make it cheaper.

If we keep emissions down now and innovate to find low-carbon alternatives to currently high-carbon products, we can avoid getting to 4°C in the first place. Economists aren’t sure where our money should be invested [17, 18] because of uncertainty in future economy [15,16], future greenhouse gas emissions [19], and how they will affect us [20,21]. This makes the problem complex because money is, of course, limited.

If you are into working on the most important technologies on the planet, definitely consider a Climate Career working on energy, carbon capture, or making various industries sustainable.

Conclusion: reducing emissions now is the cheapest option. Period. Reversing climate change by taking CO2 out of the air may become affordable with more research, but is not with today’s technology. .









[8] We calculated the $ values based on GDP statements in and dollar<->GDP equivalents from













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