There’s lots of money the ultra-rich could spend. Can they spend it to save the world?

We could save the planet from climate catastrophe, if we could simply get rich enough. About $170 billion would be enough to hit some of the goals.

That’s the current estimate of the World Bank, via Reuters, for how much money the world needs to stop global warming. The Bank estimates that the price tag will grow to $750 billion by 2050. Getting to that point will require reducing global emissions to save the planet from sea level rise, the polluting of the air, and increasingly extreme droughts and heat waves.

China is expected to overtake the United States as the world’s largest emitter. Last year, the U.S. was responsible for 24 percent of the world’s emissions. In absolute terms, China emits roughly half as much as the U.S. We account for 22 percent of global emissions.

Most of the money is going to renewables, but it could also go towards clean energy vehicles, electric grids, and carbon capture and storage facilities. To help deliver that funding, we asked Economist Edward Luce what kind of money the ultra-rich need to spend, including the option of geoengineering, the offsetting of climate change. The answer is: a few hundred billion dollars. A couple billion here, a few hundred million there, and soon, this could all add up to huge sums. But the world has never spent that kind of money on an environmental problem, ever.

We could start by asking the ultra-rich for advice:

$100 billion this year

$10 billion next year

$15 billion by 2020

$50 billion a year by 2030

The World Bank is $290 billion in debt and $127 billion in reserve, according to Reuters.

“Inadequate borrowing can hurt poor countries,” the Bank’s Managing Director for Sustainable Development, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, has said. It is one of those global organizations, widely hated in developing countries, that needs a favor: $300 billion a year

If we worked back the calendar by one year, let’s say after 2030, we can get the world’s super-rich to pay the next big chunk of their carbon budgets. Here’s a rough math exercise on how to get them to spend what the world needs, and some of what they might be willing to spend.

Let’s use 2018 as our starting point. In 2018, China will be responsible for 51 percent of the world’s emissions. That’s what the World Bank is estimating. And China is responsible for about half the money the world is going to need to meet 2030 goals. The other half will come from developed countries.

So let’s get 2019: $100 billion in this year.

At the same time that China is burning coal, power plants, and cars for electricity in the name of trying to catch up with U.S. emissions, developed countries, whose emissions will drop gradually, are building fewer coal plants and factories.

Here’s our 21st century version of the infrastructure projects we use to build roads and build cities:

Sub-projects — a few hundred million dollars in each year on average

$10 billion for cleaner fuels

$20 billion for smaller and more efficient vehicles

$5 billion for grid improvements

$20 billion on other measures of energy efficiency

A few hundred million dollars a year to reduce emissions from farming, primarily methane released from land use. It’s a small move, but it might improve global soil conditions and allow for growth of perennial grasses.

Oil will still be around in 2027 — more than a decade after 2030 — and the United States will still be a large contributor to emissions. But diesel will have replaced it, contributing to pollution, and oil is inefficient, so we need to use less to clean up. We’ll be ditching it at such an expense that we’ll have enough to make up for it in 2025:

$5 billion in 2025

$100 billion in 2030

$5 billion in 2030

Another 20 years and, hey, the whole economy of a typical American car will cost twice as much to make compared to 1980 (the cost will rise by half by 2040 and again in 2050, the only real oil shortage that will ever be needed). It’s clear that the American economy is going to shift in a different direction. There is money to make that shift cleaner.

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