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Making an Economic Case for Climate Action

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Having faced a year of record temperatures and devastating hurricanes, the United States stands more to lose if it doesn’t take steps to reduce the risk and impact of climate change, according to a new report.

Launched by the Universal Ecological Fund, it details the costs of the U.S.’ climate inaction to the national economy and public health and urges for policies to move the country towards a sustainable future.

“It’s not about ideology, it’s about good business sense,” the former president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the report’s co-author James McCarthy told IPS.

“Many people say that they will not have the discussion because they are not convinced of the science—well then, let’s just look at the economics, let’s look at what it is costing to not have that discussion,” he continued.

A Wake of Destruction

The U.S. is still reeling from an unprecedented month of three hurricanes and 76 wildfires, devastating landscapes from Puerto Rico to Washington.

Hurricane Maria alone left Puerto Rican residents without food, water, or electricity. Approximately 44 percent of the population lacks clean drinking water and just 11 out of 69 hospitals have fuel or power, pushing the island to the brink of a humanitarian crisis.

“This year was nothing like we’ve seen,” said McCarthy.

Though aid delivery is underway, the economic losses from not only Hurricane Maria, but also Hurricanes Harvey and Irma along with the wildfires that swept through the Western coast, are estimated to be the costliest weather events in U.S. history.

The report estimates a price-tag of nearly 300 billion dollars in damage, representing 70 percent of the costs of all 92 weather events in the last decade.

Since hurricane season is yet to end, more expensive and damaging storms may still be in the forecast.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Centers for Environmental Information, the number of extreme weather events that incurred at least one billion dollars in economic losses and damages have increased in the last decade by almost two and a half times.

Such losses will only rise as human-induced climate change continues, contributing to dry conditions favorable for more wildfires and warm oceans which lead to more intense storms and higher sea levels.

McCarthy, who is also an Oceanography Professor at Harvard University, told IPS that investments beyond creating hurricane-proof infrastructure are needed to counter such damage.

“Infrastructure is important, but everything we can do to reduce the intensity of these events, by slowing the rate of global warming, will make future infrastructure more likely to be effective,” he said.

An Unhealthy Dependence

Among the major drivers of climate change is the burning of fossil fuels which the U.S. continues to rely on to produce energy.

Coal, oil and natural gas—all of which are fossil fuels— currently account for over 80 percent of the primary energy generated and used in the North American nation. When such fossil fuels are burned, large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) are released to the atmosphere, contributing to rapid changes in the climate.

Though emissions regulations have reduced air pollution health damages by 35 percent, or nearly 67 billion dollars per year, burning fossil fuels still produces health costs that average 240 billion dollars every year.

If fossil fuels continue to be used, both economic losses and health costs are estimated to reach at least 360 billion dollars annually, or 55 percent of U.S.’ growth, over the next decade.

And the government won’t be footing the expensive bill, the report notes.

“Time after time, we are going to see the public bearing the costs…it becomes a personal burden for them,” McCarthy told IPS.

He highlighted the importance of the U.S. taking steps to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

“To move people, literally and figuratively, into the future to be more healthy and more sustainable and a less expensive way of doing business just makes sense,” McCarthy said.

Not only will it provide sustainable clean electricity and reduce the rate of global warming, renewable energy also can add to the economy by producing jobs.

Clean energy already employs almost 2 million workers, and doubling solar and wind generation can create another 500,000 jobs.

In order to successfully transition to a low-carbon economy, investments are essential, some of which can potentially come from taxing carbon emissions, the report states. A carbon tax aims to reduce emissions and promote a more efficient use of energy, including the transition to electric cars.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a tax on carbon emissions can potentially produce revenues of up to 200 billion dollars in the U.S. within the next decade.

The carbon tax has been a controversial policy, with some expressing concern that companies will simply shift the cost to the consumer by way of increasing the prices of gasoline and electricity.

However, McCarthy noted that the public already currently bears the burden in terms of damages from extreme weather events and unhealthy air expenses.

A Government Denial

Despite the evidence for climate change and the role of fossil fuels in driving such change, U.S. President Donald Trump has begun to unravel many essential environmental protections.

Not only did his administration announce the U.S. withdrawal from the landmark Paris Agreement, but it is currently working to dismantle the Clean Power Plan (CPP) which aims to reduce carbon pollution from power plants across the country.

The move is tied to President Trump’s repeated calls to renew investments in the coal industry, claiming that it will bring back jobs.

McCarthy said that these actions are not “borne out by the facts.”

“The notion that you will be able to return the U.S. to a coal economy—there is no evidence for that. And secondly, if you are going to create jobs, the sensible way to create them is in a forward-looking area such as renewable energy rather than the highly risky and repeated exposure of coal,” he told IPS.

In spite of a national strategy that may exacerbate climate change, McCarthy said that cities and states are taking the lead and will continue to move in the right direction regardless of bipartisan politics.

Iowa is the leading U.S. state in wind power with over 35 percent of its electricity generated from wind energy.

In Oklahoma, where U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt hails from, 25 percent of electricity comes from wind energy.

“When you look at a state like Iowa and see [their] electricity is coming from wind energy, it doesn’t say anything about the politics of Iowa—it says something about people being sensible about how they spend their money and what they invest in to get a particular product,” McCarthy said.

The U.S.’ reluctance to reduce greenhouse gas emissions not only impacts Americans, but also people around the world. Since the process of withdrawing from the Paris Agreement will take time, McCarthy expressed hope that the U.S. will change its course.

“We hope over that period of time that [President Trump] will see that this partnership has enormous value and not only what the U.S. is doing that affects the rest of the world but vice versa,” he said.

“We should find reason to join efforts with the community of nations that have recognized, much like what we try to say in this report, that if we don’t do something, these are going to be very expensive and, in some cases, life-threatening consequences of this sort of neglect,” McCarthy concluded.

The EPA is expected to release a revised version of the CPP in the coming weeks, and it is expected to be significantly weaker than the original.

Governments will be convening in Bonn, Germany for the UN’s Annual Climate Change Conference (COP23) in November to advance the implementation of the Paris Agreement. The focus will be on how to implement issues including emissions reductions, provision of finance, and technology.


20 Comments on "Making an Economic Case for Climate Action"

  1. Dredd on Wed, 4th Oct 2017 3:18 pm 

    It is difficult to make money on something we know next to nothing about (Hold On To Something Alright).

    Knowledge karate?

  2. Plantagenet on Wed, 4th Oct 2017 5:00 pm 

    This piece has its facts wrong. The US and EU have significantly reduced their CO2 emissions since 2000. The problem is China and India, where CO2 emissions are rising rapidly. China alone now emits more CO2 then the US and EU combined.


  3. Davy on Wed, 4th Oct 2017 5:13 pm 

    Making an Economic Case for Climate Action???? I am laughing. There is no action that is a good action. There are actions with tradeoffs. These actions with tradeoffs will see everyone a looser with some bigger losers and even a few winners but still losers. The reason everyone will be a looser is because this is a no win catch 22 situation where no action has benefits that outweighs the negatives. Real action is drastic and draconian. Real action involves demand management and population control. Not around the edge fluff stuff we are talking real pain and suffering. Real action will decimate the global economy and lower economic standards across the board. It even likely means hunger and starvation. The climate is likely in abrupt change anyway so it may be beyond action that is worthwhile. We need to honestly reflect on that. Yes, we need to ask are we doomed.

    We have to do less and have less. So make your fake green case for climate action but if it is optimistic it is not real. Play your hypocritical games of accusation and return accusations. Claim climate denial and then claim solutions that are science denial fantasy. Go ahead and play your games and maybe you will feel better. That is worth something. Some denial is inspirational. Fake green efforts at climate mitigation are ok in this regards I guess. If you care about the truth and want to know things as they are then lies are never the right choice. If you want to employ wisdom properly then this macro lying is a reflection on human nature. That reflection says if we can’t admit to this what can we admit to. We are a lost cause. We humans are an evolutionary dead end.

  4. jawagord on Wed, 4th Oct 2017 6:56 pm 

    Would be nice if there was some economic analysis here but that’s impossible as there is no direct link between weather events and man made CO2 emissions, so cue up the usual scary weather events and make believe we could limit these weather events by limiting our emissions of CO2. The ways to limit damages from weather events is to build better, build smarter, build dams to provide water during droughts, build sea walls, flood gates and dykes to prevent sea water inundation, build flood ways and levees to divert rivers around cities, build tornado and hurricane resistant buildings and homes, spend money on the things that prevent damage. Solar panels and wind turbines won’t protect anyone from the next storm or drought.

    “…..the United Nations’ global panel of climate change experts, and find, “Not all extreme weather events will change, nor will some of the changes — if they even occur — be detectable.”The researchers conclude, “The sound bite of ‘climate change means more extreme weather’ is a massive oversimplification — if not misstatement — of the true state of the science.”

  5. Apneaman on Wed, 4th Oct 2017 9:20 pm 

    jawagord, August was a $300 billion dollar AGW Jacked month for the US you stupid denier cocksucker. You deniers are the scum of the earth. When an AGW Jacked event wipes out your loved ones, and it will, don’t forget your denial made it happen all the sooner. Many decades sooner at the very least. Fucking retard.

  6. Apneaman on Wed, 4th Oct 2017 9:25 pm 

    jawagord, looks like you and clog and rockman, the killer deniers club, will have plenty of your kind around in the near future.

    ‘Ratpocalypse’ Caused by Climate Change Could Increase Spread of Disease

    Milder winters allow rats to have more litters, and their population explosion could help spread diseases such as E. coli and bubonic plague.

    “Experts and officials are documenting growing numbers of rats across the United States, a trend that shows no signs of slowing down.”

    “The only thing certain is the numbers are growing.”

    Milder winters mean more rats

    Bobby Corrigan, who holds a doctorate in rodentology, and is one of the nation’s leading experts on rats, told Healthline that if you spoke to health departments in 25 different cities, they’d all tell you “we have more rats now than ever before.”

    Morgan Spurlock’s Disturbing Documentary “RATS” 2016 ▪️◾️ Discovery Channel HD

    Mosquito-borne Diseases on the Uptick—Thanks to Global Warming

    Infection rates of diseases like malaria, dengue fever and West Nile virus are likely to rise as a warming climate creates more mosquito-friendly habitats

    Long-term threats to public health follow in Hurricane Harvey’s wake

    Thousands likely to be killed by Hurricane Irma’s deadly legacy

    New Orleans rats are carrying pathogens that could be fatal to dogs

    Rat Resurrection: Diseases once thought long gone are crawling around the city

  7. Apneaman on Wed, 4th Oct 2017 9:29 pm 

    Stark Evidence: A Warmer World Is Sparking More and Bigger Wildfires

    The increase in forest fires, seen this summer from North America to the Mediterranean to Siberia, is directly linked to climate change, scientists say. And as the world continues to warm, there will be greater risk for fires on nearly every continent.

  8. Apneaman on Wed, 4th Oct 2017 9:37 pm 

    Positive self reinforcing feedback loops. The humans have triggered dozens of them to their own Doom. Don’t matter what they do except to bring the pain all the faster through more forcing & denial.

    Sunlight and microbes in permafrost add carbon to atmosphere

    “Microbes in permafrost that eat sun-weakened carbon and convert it into carbon dioxide may be providing a major pathway for the greenhouse gas to enter the atmosphere, new research suggests.

    Researchers had known that sunlight beaming down on permanently frozen soil, or permafrost, in the Arctic breaks down carbon in that permafrost and releases the greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, but they didn’t know how the process was occurring.”

    Melting permafrost in the Arctic is unlocking diseases and warping the landscape

    The consequences of climate change can be weird and apocalyptic.

  9. Apneaman on Wed, 4th Oct 2017 9:53 pm 

    Since I’m 50 and have no kids, nor really care about anyone else’s and the humans are going extinct no matter what, I say let’s continue the party at full throttle so I can live another 5-10 years in my privileged industrial lifestyle that I deserve simply because I’m white. That means we are going to have to continue to subsidize the fuck out of rockman and the rest of the cancer industry. It could cost anywhere from 10 – 50 years for the species, but I’m worth it. rockman, just to show how serious I am, give me your address and I will send you a personal cheque for $5 (Canadian). In the meantime, keep electing the princes of Cancer and give them every bureaucratic appointment possible. The Cancer industry needs all the help it can get and I need to be kept in industrial meat & ice cream.

    Subsidizing Earth’s Demise: US Taxpayers Forced to Prop Up Dirty Energy Industry

    New reports reveal that without billions of dollars in subsidies, American gas, oil, and coal companies would crash and burn



  10. DerHundistlos on Thu, 5th Oct 2017 4:19 am 

    “I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you are throwing our budget out of whack.”

    ~~~The Donald~~~

  11. DerHundistlos on Thu, 5th Oct 2017 4:27 am 

    The rats are not blame. Instead, it’s the filthy, fetid environmental conditions we force upon these innocents. The other day I, fortunately, found a rat inside my home before my cats did. She looked at me and said, ‘what have I ever done to you that would cause you to want to harm me.’ She allowed me to scoop her up in my hands and I moved her down to the barn. She was a clean and beautiful animal- a cinnamon colored pelt and quite healthy, free from parasites.

  12. Cloggie on Thu, 5th Oct 2017 4:33 am 

    Nissan Leaf replacement battery for merely $5500. Old battery is recycled.

    E-motors go on for ever. Battery replacement should be compared to gasoline motor replacement. Gasoline motors do not go on for ever.

    Financing battery $100/month.

  13. Davy on Thu, 5th Oct 2017 4:52 am 

    “Gasoline motors do not go on for ever.”

    Clogged, all motors have a useful life including electric ones. They wear out whether electric or gas. Either one can be rebuilt. You are a long way from being economic with switching out batteries. Talk about an environmental nightmare. Your EV renewable world is a farce. I am for building out EV’s to fit into a niche that revolves around a greatly enhanced renewable energy society that is complete with demand management and population control. Of course that is just my idealism because the world will continue to grow population and shun demand management. Discretionary consumerism rules and it is built into what drives the global economy. Demand management and population control are the only chance for humans to stave off destruction. Both represent the anti-matter of globalism that is growth based so we are in a catch 22 of needed to degrowth but being unable to. Renewables are extenders of the status quo of techno growth in modern development. Somewhere there is a brick wall of macro limitations that will bring globalism to a standstill. No amount of alternative energy will change that. No amount of battery changing is going to prevent that. Get a grip!

  14. Revi on Thu, 5th Oct 2017 7:58 am 

    What do you think the chances are of us doing anything with the present administration? I’d say slim to none…

  15. Revi on Thu, 5th Oct 2017 8:15 am 

    It’s a shame, because we could really help ourselves out if we did something about our dependence on massive amounts of fossil fuels. We would lower our deficit, get healthier and grow our economy, but dum dum and his pals can’t see that…

  16. Sissyfuss on Thu, 5th Oct 2017 8:29 am 

    Why can’t we make any real progress in population reduction, GHG emissions, or any of a myriad of environmental problems. It’s the economy, stupid.

  17. Apneaman on Thu, 5th Oct 2017 3:27 pm 

    Science Says: Era of monster hurricanes roiling the Atlantic

    “An analysis of 167 years of federal storm data by The Associated Press found that no 30-year period in history has seen this many major hurricanes, this many days of those whoppers spinning in the Atlantic, or this much overall energy generated by those powerful storms.

  18. Apneaman on Thu, 5th Oct 2017 3:29 pm 

    Massive rain, worst flooding on record hits southern Norway

    AGW Jacked Rain Bomb

  19. Apneaman on Thu, 5th Oct 2017 3:33 pm 

    Warming Arabian Sea Triggers Rise in Extreme Rainfall Events in India

    “Are such events being increasingly triggered by climate change?

    A new study gives an answer. It says extreme rainfall events that lead to widespread flooding, and have risen threefold across a vast swath of Central India since 1950, are the result of rapid warming of the Arabian Sea.

    The bad news is that they could increase in frequency as climate change continues to warm the oceans. The good news is that these events could become more predictable as they are linked to rising sea temperatures according to the study.

    “A moisture surge from the Arabian Sea over the Indian landmass is one of the major culprits for huge increase in widespread extreme rainfall,” said Professor Subimal Ghosh at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Mumbai, who was involved in the study.”

    AGW Jacked (evaporation) hydrological cycle.

    Increased record-breaking precipitation events under global warming

    The Water Cycle: Evaporation

    “Evaporation is the process by which water changes from a liquid to a gas or vapor. Evaporation is the primary pathway that water moves from the liquid state back into the water cycle as atmospheric water vapor. Studies have shown that the oceans, seas, lakes, and rivers provide nearly 90 percent of the moisture in the atmosphere via evaporation, with the remaining 10 percent being contributed by plant transpiration.”

  20. Dooma on Thu, 5th Oct 2017 5:38 pm 

    Build smarter by building more dams? (shakes head). Dams are environmental blights. I know that mankind does thousands of activities daily that are a travesty to the earth but killing rivers has to be up towards the top of the list.

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