We Can't Afford Not to Reduce Carbon Emissions

The Hard Right, and many Neoliberal Centrists, say we can't stop using fossil fuels because of the economic harm that would create. But now we have evidence they couldn't be more wrong.

The researchers who published this study in the well-known scientific journal, Nature, did extensive research on the economic effects that would result worldwide if all nations adhered to the goal of cutting carbon emissions to limit global average temperature rise to no more than 2 degrees Celsius, as set forth in the Paris Climate Accord. They looked at economic data from 165 countries over a fifty year period. Their conclusion? Ninety percent (90%) of the world's population would likely see economic savings in excess of $20 Trillion, including people in the United States.

The failure to act promptly, however, will result in enormous damage to the world's economy, because of the extreme costs associated with continued global warming.

"As temperature's warm, [economic] output level falls," Marshall Burke, lead author of the study, said in call with reporters.

It's particularly important that scientists get some sense of how economies will respond in a warming world, in part, because the Earth's climate is already changing. [...]

It's unknown exactly how climate change will affect each and every country in the coming decades, said Burke, but he emphasized that "the benefits of meeting the stringent targets vastly outweigh the costs."

And it appears humanity has underestimated how large the magnitude of these costs -- which include pummeling storms, declines in crop yields, and the spread of disease -- truly is.

"As we further grasp the consequences of disrupting the fundamental environment on which modern civilization depends, projections of these costs continue to climb," Sarah Green, an environmental chemist at Michigan Technical University who was not involved in the study, said over email. [...]

The world's three largest economies -- the U.S., Japan, and China -- are all expected to benefit from meeting the 1.5 Celsius carbon target, although the researchers found the poorest nations in the world, which are generally also the hottest, serve to benefit the most.

Overall, this means avoiding the nearly unfathomable losses of income associated with a warming climate. For example, if the world were to warm to between 2.5 and 3 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, the researchers project that global economic output would fall between 15 and 25 percent, which amounts to tens of trillions of dollars.

We can continue to put off kicking our addiction to fossil fuels. However, we can no longer ignore the fact that by doing so we will not only increase human death and suffering, and and accelerate mass extinction, but also, we will crash our economy and dramatically lower living standards around the globe. So, for those to whom economic activity is the only metric that matters, our failure to act will crush the world's economy. Act now to invest in green energy, a known job creator) ...

The World Bank estimates that U.S. wind and solar creates about 13.5 jobs per million dollars of spending, and that building retrofits — energy efficiency — creates 16.7 jobs per million dollars of spending. This is more than three times the 5.2 jobs per $1 million for oil and natural gas, and more than two times the 6.9 jobs per $1 million for coal.

A more detailed job analysis is provided by AltEnergyStocks, which finds 5.3 jobs per $1 million for fossil fuel investments, and a bit over three times this — 16.7 jobs per $1 million for clean energy (energy efficiency and renewable energy). Importantly, this analysis also documents the substantially higher quality and higher pay nature of clean energy jobs relative to fossil fuel employment.

... or see an ever increasing drop off in economic productivity and extreme economic costs as climate change, driven by increased carbon emissions, wrecks havoc with the lives of even the wealthiest among us. It's likely true that the cost of converting our economy to complete reliance on green energy would be equivalent to a the cost of a "few percentage points" of our gross domestic product, admittedly an expensive proposition. However, "it takes money to make money." We already spend (i.e., waste) that much (i.e., trillions of dollars), if not more, on our current wars in the Middle East. Those wars are being fought, as George Bush, and many other Republicans confessed, solely to securing access to oil and gas. And what has that got us but the risk of even more catastrophic wars in the future, possibly even one involving the use of a nuclear weapons.

So, with climate change, doing the right thing is a no-brainer, even for bean counters and the investing class. Just tell them, "It's the economy, stupid."

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22 users have voted.

Comments

detroitmechworks's picture

the highest profit. There is no thought beyond that. Hell, I bet many capitalists are expecting production to fall and as a result are buying up stock in the belief that owning the vital things will result in more power when the shit hits the fan.

They'll learn fast enough that you can't eat imaginary gold.

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18 users have voted.

You can't expect to wield Supreme Military power, just cause some corporate tosser lobbed a contract at you!

Steven D's picture

@detroitmechworks short term, raise the stock price every quarter or else thinking.

How do they raise it? Cut labor costs and R & D. Mega-mergers are designed precisely to accomplish this (while also creating monopsonies, monoplies and cartels that raise prices).

Who benefits? Senior execs with stock options. At least in the short term.

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12 users have voted.

"You can't just leave those who created the problem in charge of the solution."---Tyree Scott

thanatokephaloides's picture

@Steven D

It's the inevitable outcome of short term, raise the stock price every quarter or else thinking.

How do they raise it? Cut labor costs and R & D. Mega-mergers are designed precisely to accomplish this (while also creating monopsonies, monoplies and cartels that raise prices).

Who benefits? Senior execs with stock options. At least in the short term.

While all the rest of us pay out the ass.

The beneficiaries will soon find themselves in a set of stocks non-options:


source

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7 users have voted.

"I say enough! If Israel wants to be the only superpower in the Middle East then they can put their own asses on the line and do it themselves. I want to continue to eat."
-- snoopydawg

mhagle's picture

I personally feel helpless.

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11 users have voted.

Marilyn

Let's save the planet for our kids. Tree Hugger to the end.

thanatokephaloides's picture

So, with climate change, doing the right thing is a no-brainer, even for bean counters and the investing class. Just tell them, "It's the economy, stupid."

Around here, of course, this Essay is "preaching to the choir". (I.e., a disagreeing Essay or Comment would be a shock, to say the least.) On Daily Kos, OTOH, I ran into considerable impediment against this very idea. I was accused of being anti-Alaskan and anti-Canadian because, to the views of my adversaries, elimination of fossil fuel use would simply close most of the Arctic and para-Arctic to human habitation at all.

We both know this view to be false, especially when we consider that there's definitely such a thing as renewable fuel gases, and biomass alcohols; moreover, light oils from algae are rapidly coming into commercial viability. (Don't complain about atmospheric carbon -- use it and get it out of our air!)

All energy on Earth comes from one of two sources at the end of the day: the nuclear fusion furnace of the Sun, or the nuclear fission/decay furnace at the core of the Earth. All we're talking about is reducing the number of "middlemen" between producer and final human consumer.

We can, should, and will do this. Even capitalism itself is coming around: nuclear power plants and coal power plants alike are being decommissioned without being replaced with others of their kind, because renewables are cheaper and more profitable.

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13 users have voted.

"I say enough! If Israel wants to be the only superpower in the Middle East then they can put their own asses on the line and do it themselves. I want to continue to eat."
-- snoopydawg

cooling? The sheilding effect of all the particulate matter in the sky constantly being regenerated every day. Stop throwing that shit up there and in three days watch the temps start to rise 4-6 degrees F over the Following Three to Six WEEKS. with clearing skies. We've been fucked since '08.

Stop These Fucking Wars

peace

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3 users have voted.

Ya got to be a Spirit, cain't be no Ghost. . .

mhagle's picture

@Tall Bald and Ugly

We are sort of being tricked. I go outside at 6 AM every morning to work in my garden. I see weird ass cloud cover that does not produce rain. But I am thankful for it, because once we are in full sun temps go up 20 degrees.

I have no doubt the TPTB believe they are controlling climate change.

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2 users have voted.

Marilyn

Let's save the planet for our kids. Tree Hugger to the end.

Song of the lark's picture

@Tall Bald and Ugly the smog actually shields us from ultra violet and other solar radiation. Stop all Carbon use and we fry after the particulate matter falls from the air after a few short weeks. Quite the dilemma. Fry if we do fry if we don't. heh!
Silly techno Utopians herein can't even count. For tenth year in a row we used more oil. Up to hundred million barrels a day last year.

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2 users have voted.

Doesn't translate in capitalism. We're all better off with a healthy planet but capitalism can't benchmark this and show growth. The Common Good is obvious for all of us to see and experience but it doesn't fit on a spread sheet.

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2 users have voted.