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Destroying the Planet Will Cost More than Saving it: The Paradox of Suicidal Shortsighted Financial Gain



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Whenever a solution to climate change is proposed, one of the first questions is “how much does it cost?” Perhaps the premiere reason that the world perpetually fails to prioritize the climate crisis is because of money; countries, corporations, and individuals around the planet do not want to spend more in order to combat an issue that feels so removed.

This, however, is a paradox. When the effects of climate change come to fruition (as if they have not already), they will affect everyone. The environment will not discriminate. Obviously, developing nations with low GDPs will be the most vulnerable to the nature’s wrath, but the impact will make a dent in the global economy, hurting everybody’s wallets.

A new study from the Economist Intelligence Unit says that over the next generation, climate change could reduce the world’s economic growth by 3%. It will hit parts of Africa, South America, and the Middle East most severely, but it will also affect wealthy parts of the world in significant ways.

The United States, for example, could see its growth reduced by 1% in the next thirty years. If global temperatures continue to rise, that figure could increase to over 10% within the next century.

This should be an economic wake up call for governments and people around the world to start taking the battle against climate change seriously, and to start investing in the fight now because the cost is only going to go up over time. 

The fact that 2019 is likely to go down as one of the hottest years on record should also signal that global warming is not as removed as some might think and thus demands more immediate action. Events in 2019 such as the floods in Venice, the wildfires in California, Hurricane Dorian, and the ongoing melting of the polar ice caps have already cost the world billions of dollars. Natural disasters like these will start happening at greater frequencies as carbon emissions increase—and the money will keep pouring out of our pockets as a result. 

Sadly, another study (this one from the UN Environment Programme) reports that despite ambitions of sustaining global temperatures at 2 degrees Celsius, we are still burning 50% more fossil fuels than necessary to achieve that goal by 2030. Then, if we change the temperature goal to 1.5 degrees Celsius—as many climate scientists have suggested is required—then we are burning 120% more fossil fuels than needed.

These are harrowing figures not just for our global health, ecosystems, and well-being, but also for our currency. Right now, burning fossil fuels is a big money maker, and switching to alternative energy sources could be costly. If we keep relying on non-renewable energy, though, then we might as well be throwing dollar bills into the furnace. Evidently, our financial and ecological priorities are correlated.  Industry, Governments and politicians need to realize this connection and act upon it before it’s too late. And we all need to remind them, as loud and often as necessary.

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