Every time that a discussion is started on climate change, the economy gets dragged into it and the comment, by climate change deniers, especially, is that climate change activists “hate the economy.”
Every time I hear that excuse for environmental inaction, it makes me laugh when we hear how much the last severe storm cost us to repair. Of course, it makes me sad that people lost lives and property to a climate-change-fueled storm, such as Hurricane Sandy, but then someone says that switching to renewable energy sources is bad for the economy. Speaking of climate change and sea levels alone, some reports estimate repairing the damage after just Hurricane Sandy will finally tally up to $70 billion. Rising sea levels are expected to increase the global costs associated with coastal city storms to $50 billion annually, that is, if world industry and markets maintain the status quo.
The latest United Nations [UN] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC] report addresses these costs, and the bottom line is all bad. It could be too late to stop the ball from rolling, even if we cut emissions drastically, just from all the greenhouse gases that have already been pumped into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution, but doing nothing is sure to be much worse for world economies. The costs associated with repairing damages from severe storms is one thing, but what about economic instability that stems from conflicts that rise from factions asserting control over increasingly limited food and water sources?
On the other hand, what can be done to address climate change as well as ensure steady economic growth? IPCC’s report suggests that investing in renewable energy and putting a price on carbon can at least push the economy in the right direction. In the short term, carbon pricing adjustments, such as increased fossil-fuel taxation and development of emissions-reduction technology, may seem to be worse for the economy, but once the initial investment period is over, IPCC suggests that the next hundred years’ growth will be significantly better than maintaining the status quo.
Image © IPCC