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Investing in climate action is morally and economically sensible

The cost of necessary action is estimated at just one per cent of global GDP annually.

In Summary
  • Impacts on human lives, ecosystem services and cultural heritage are difficult to monetise.
  • It is ridiculous in the extreme, that we are still debating the fact that climate change is largely caused by greenhouse gases, caused mainly using fossil fuels.
Image: OZONE

A new study shows that Greenland ice sheet has been losing ice more rapidly than is being replenished.

The findings, published in the journal Nature Communications Earth and Environment, suggests that Greenland’s glaciers have surpassed a tipping point. This has implications for the entire planet. Ice sheets from Greenland contribute to global sea level rise with dire consequences for coastal cities; infrastructure, economy, the health and safety of populations.

It is ridiculous in the extreme, that we are still debating the fact that climate change is largely caused by greenhouse gases, caused mainly using fossil fuels. The patterns of greenhouse emissions track economic and industrial output very closely. There is positive correlation between per capita GDP and carbon dioxide emissions. Economic growth has traditionally moved in tandem with pollution.

 

The world is on a dangerous, potentially irreversible path of perilous warming. The impacts of global warming are clear, backed by solid science. These include increased frequency of extreme weather events – heavy rains and flooding, droughts and heatwaves. Other impacts include prevalence of diseases, fires, food shortages, migration and conflict over resources and decline in biodiversity.

There is no part of the world that is unscathed by the impacts of climate change. From Australia to Brazil. China to the United States. From Russia to Zimbabwe. Rich and poor countries are dealing with the impacts of climate change, albeit at different scales and varying impacts to populations, biodiversity and the economy.

It is estimated that every year we refuse to act to stop climate change we add another $500 billion to the cost of climate inaction. This cost is about 70 percent of the GDP of Africa’s largest economies: Nigeria and South Africa.

The risk of triggering unprecedented climate damage increases exponentially once temperature rise surpasses the Paris targets of 1.5-2 degrees Celsius. Hence the threshold and severity of future climate impact remain highly uncertain and difficult to estimate, even with the best economic models. Moreover, impacts  on human lives, ecosystem services and cultural heritage are difficult to monetise.

The lazy and selfish argument peddled by governments is that decisive climate action will undermine long-term economic output and ultimately, human wellbeing. Nothing could be more myopic. Delaying action on reducing greenhouse gas emission exacerbates the climate challenge and makes it more difficult to respond to compounded impacts from inaction.

The longer we wait, paralysed by petty nationalism and short-term economic considerations, the more expensive it becomes to transform the global economy to a more climate friendly regime. It is estimated that the cost of getting global warming under control could climb up to $20 trillion. We must accelerate investments in green technologies and low-carbon pathway, powered by renewable energy sources.

While climate inaction could reduce global GDP by at least five percent annually, the cost of necessary action is estimated at just one percent of global GDP annually. If we do nothing, go on with business as usual, global warming will be the greatest market failure ever.