We can no longer afford the luxury of waiting to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A global coalition of more than 11,000 scientists from 153 countries warns that the “planet earth is facing a climate emergency.”
The warning comes in a paper, published recently in BioScience. The scientists list six areas in which the world needs to take immediate steps to slow down the effects of climate change. Those six steps include: transitioning to low-carbon renewable energy, quickly reducing short-lived pollutants such as methane, restoring and protecting ecosystems, eating fewer animal products, converting to a carbon-free economy, and stabilizing the global human population.
The high cost of inaction
Taking those steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions requires the cooperation of governments and businesses. While there are a number of businesses in the U.S. that are actively working to reduce their environmental footprint, the current administration does not even list climate change or the environment as an important issue on the White House website. Just this week, the Trump administration announced that it began the process to formally withdraw from the Paris climate treaty.
The Trump administration’s stated reason for withdrawing from the climate treaty is "because of the unfair economic burden imposed on American workers, businesses, and taxpayers by U.S. pledges made under the Agreement.” There is a problem with the administration’s statement. Climate change will cost the U.S. economy dearly as study after study indicates.
What studies show is that climate change inaction does the exact opposite of what the Trump administration claims. Here is an overview of several studies:
- A report published in April 2019 in the journal Nature Climate Change looks at climate change impacts across sectors of the U.S. economy. It is a condensed version of a 2017 EPA report. It presents two climate change scenarios: one that would lead to warming of about five degrees Fahrenheit, and another that would lead to a warming of about eight degrees Fahrenheit. Following the pathway that leads to an eight-degree warming would cost the U.S. about $224 billion more a year than following the pathway that leads to a five-degree warming.
- A study by the University of Cambridge published in August, suggests that seven percent of global GDP will disappear by 2100 with business-as-usual carbon emissions. The U.S. would lose 10.5 percent of its GDP by 2100 under this scenario. Keeping to the Paris Agreement limits the losses to the U.S. economy to under two percent of GDP.
- A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research published in August 2019 looked at the long-term impacts of climate change on the economy. Using data from the 48 contiguous U.S. states from 1963 to 2016, they found that climate change “as a long-lasting adverse impact on real output in various states and economic sectors, and on labor productivity and employment.”
- Using a multi-region model of the world economy, Brookings Institution found that countries that withdraw from the Paris Agreement are worse off because participation “generates net benefits for the individual country participants.”
Federal climate change action is on hold
The time for action is now, but the U.S. can not take action on a federal level because the current administration puts certain industries above the environment. The proverbial can is kicked down the road to the next administration.
Before you hang your head in despair, there is some cause for celebration. Many U.S. companies are not sitting around waiting for another administration to take action. As Bob Perciasepe, President of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, says, “A growing number of companies are setting strong emission reduction goals, ramping up their investments in climate solutions, and supporting effective climate policies.”
In other words, American businesses are leading where the Trump administration is failing.