A healthy planet = strong economies

Portrait of David Suzuki

SCIENCE MATTERS by David Suzuki

• Those who don’t outright deny the existence of human-caused global warming often argue we can’t or shouldn’t do anything about it because it would be too costly. Take Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who recently said, “No matter what they say, no country is going to take actions that are going to deliberately destroy jobs and growth in their country.”

But in failing to act on global warming, many leaders are putting jobs and economic prosperity at risk, according to recent studies. It’s suicidal, both economically and literally, to focus on the fossil fuel industry’s limited, short-term economic benefits at the expense of long-term prosperity, human health and the natural systems, plants and animals that make our well-being and survival possible. Those who refuse to take climate change seriously are subjecting us to enormous economic risks and foregoing the numerous benefits that solutions would bring.

The World Bank – hardly a radical organization – is behind one study. While still viewing the problem and solutions through the lens of outmoded economic thinking, its report demolishes arguments made by the likes of Stephen Harper.

“Climate change poses a severe risk to global economic stability,” said World Bank Group president Jim Yong Kim in a news release, adding, “We believe it’s possible to reduce emissions and deliver jobs and economic opportunity, while also cutting health care and energy costs.”

“Risky Business,” a report by prominent US Republicans and Democrats, concludes, “The US economy faces significant risks from unmitigated climate change,” especially in coastal regions and agricultural areas.

We’re making the same mistake with climate change we made leading to the economic meltdown of 2008, according to Henry Paulson, who served as treasury secretary under George W. Bush and sponsored the US bipartisan report with former hedge fund executive Thomas Steyer and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. “But climate change is a more intractable problem,” he argued in the New York Times. “That means the decisions we’re making today – to continue along a path that’s almost entirely carbon-dependent – are locking us in for long-term consequences that we will not be able to change but only adapt to, at enormous cost.”

Both studies recommend carbon pricing as one method to address the climate crisis, with the World Bank arguing for “regulations, taxes and incentives to stimulate a shift to clean transportation, improved industrial energy efficiency and more energy efficient buildings and appliances.”

Contrast that with Harper and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s recent mutual back-patting in Ottawa. Appearing oblivious to the reality of global warming and economic principles, both rejected the idea of a “job-killing carbon tax.”

In a commentary in Nature, a multidisciplinary group of economists, scientists and other experts called for a moratorium on all oil sands expansion and transportation projects such as pipelines because of what they described in a news release as the “failure to adequately address carbon emissions or the cumulative effect of multiple projects.”

Those who fear or reject change are running out of excuses as humanity runs out of time… “Climate inaction inflicts costs that escalate every day,” World Bank Group vice-president Rachel Kyte said, adding, its study “makes the case for actions that save lives, create jobs, grow economies and, at the same time, slow the rate of climate change. We place ourselves and our children at peril if we ignore these opportunities.”

If our leaders can’t comprehend that, let’s find some who can.

Written with Contributions from David Suzuki Foundation senior editor Ian Hanington. Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org

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