The Truth About Climate Action And The Economy

Ever heard that climate action will hurt the economy? What if we don’t do anything about the climate?

Ever heard this claim? “Switching to renewable energy will hurt the economy. We can’t afford it.”

Some media outlets and public officials love to repeat this one and just like with other claims, the absence of supporting facts doesn’t seem to stop them.

Over and over, we hear the claim that we can’t afford to shift to clean energy and address climate change. Here’s the truth: we can’t afford not to.

According to a 2012 study by the European non-governmental organization the DARA Group and the Climate Vulnerable Forum, the economic losses due to climate change amounted to nearly $700 billion in 2010 alone. And on average each year, climate change is responsible for 400,000 lives lost.

How? Just look at the devastation of the New Jersey shore in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. Witness the homes turned to splinters in the Philippines by Typhoon Haiyan. In each case, the horrifying list of injuries and fatalities was just the beginning, as businesses and the communities that relied on them struggled to get back on their feet long after the rescue crews and television cameras left. Consider the California farmers forced to watch their fields wither as one year of record drought stretches into another. And on and on.

Here’s the flipside to give you a good bit of #ClimateHope: decarbonizing the electricity system would save $1.8 trillion over the coming two decades.

Lose $700 billion or save $1.8 trillion? It’s not a trick question.

If we look at just the US, clean energy innovation could expand GDP by more than $155 billion a year by 2030 (PDF). As demand for dirty fossil fuels declines, demand for clean energy technologies skyrockets, creating good middle-class jobs and new opportunities for businesses and entrepreneurs in a rapidly growing sector.

In fact, we’re already seeing this trend as solar-related industries employ more Americans than the coal or the oil extraction industries. And that’s just one example.

Plus, as the use of solar and wind technologies continue to grow while the cost of doing so continues to drop, we’ll be paying less for our energy and less for the impacts of climate change thanks to fossil fuels. Which leaves more money in the pockets of people everywhere. What’s not to like?


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