Economic Reality Check—Climate Change Costs Big Bucks
The failure of world leaders to act on the critical issue of global warming is often blamed on economic considerations. Over and over, we hear politicians say they can’t spend our tax dollars on environmental protection when the economy is so fragile. Putting aside the absurdity of prioritizing a human-created and adaptable tool like the economy over caring for everything that allows us to survive and be healthy, let’s take a look at the economic reality.
A new scientific report concludes that climate change is already costing the world $1.2 trillion a year and is eating up 1.6 percent of global GDP, and rising. It’s also killing at least 400,000 people every year, mainly in developing countries. That’s not counting the 4.5 million people a year who die from air pollution caused by burning fossil fuels.
As Michael Zammit Cutajar, former executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, told the Guardian: “Climate change is not just a distant threat but a present danger—its economic impact is already with us.”
But we’re to believe that corporate profits, ever-increasing growth, consumer culture, disposable products and often-meaningless jobs to keep it all going are more important than the health and survival of humans and other species, and true long-term economic prosperity.
The report, Climate Vulnerability Monitor: A Guide to the Cold Calculus of a Hot Planet, was compiled by 50 scientists, economists and experts for the Europe-based non-governmental organization DARA and 20 countries that joined to form the Climate Vulnerable Forum.
As stated in the preface, it “challenges a conventional view: that global action on climate change is a cost to society. Instead, it enlightens our understanding of how tackling climate change through coordinated efforts between nations would actually produce much-needed benefits for all.”
The report’s authors also conclude that the challenges of global poverty and climate change “can be tackled simultaneously with the same policy framework that would shift our development path to a low-carbon footing,” creating “jobs, investment opportunities, new possibilities for international cooperation and technological deployment to the benefit of all.”
Although the researchers note that adaptation must be part of any climate change strategy, they caution that “treating only the symptoms but not the cause of the climate crisis would result in spectacular economic losses for the world economy.”
It shouldn’t be surprising to realize that using finite resources in a wasteful manner and at a pace much faster than the Earth’s ability to replenish them is economic folly. Nor should we be surprised to learn that polluting, damaging and destroying the natural systems that keep us alive and healthy will not be good for our long-term prosperity, economic or otherwise.
Rapid population growth and technological innovation, combined with our lack of understanding about how the natural systems of which we are a part work, have created a mess. We have altered the physical, chemical and biological properties of the planet on a geological scale. We have left no part of the globe untouched. French scientists who recently completed a two-and-half-year journey covering more than 112,000 kilometres through the Atlantic, Pacific, Antarctic and Indian oceans found plastic debris in a remote ocean area that was thought to be pristine.
Researchers on the boat Tara, who were studying the effects of climate change on marine ecosystems and biodiversity, found plastic fragments in the Southern Ocean and Antarctica at levels comparable to the global average. “The fact that we found these plastics is a sign that the reach of human beings is truly planetary in scale,” said Chris Bowler, scientific co-ordinator of Tara Oceans, quoted in the Guardian. It also reminds us that we live on a planet where everything is connected.
We must learn to shift our ways of thinking. We have to stop using so many disposable plastic items and fossil fuels. We need to conserve resources and energy and stop being so destructive. The DARA report offers many recommendations for governments, policy-makers, civil society, the private sector and the international development and humanitarian communities.
Its advice for communicators applies to all of us: question received wisdom, recognize awareness of risks as an opportunity and take a stand. Economies must function to serve people, not just short-sighted and often-destructive corporate interests.
Visit EcoWatch’s CLIMATE CHANGE page for more related news on this topic.
Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Communications Manager Ian Hanington.
Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org.
For more insights from David Suzuki, please read Everything Under the Sun (Greystone Books/David Suzuki Foundation), by David Suzuki and Ian Hanington, now available in bookstores and online.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Eoin Higgins
Over 300 groups on Monday urged Senate leadership to reject a bill currently under consideration that would incentivize communities to sell off their public water supplies to private companies for pennies on the dollar.
<div id="fea63" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9a6f211c2bc5aedd34837944cb8eeedf"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1281000111481294849" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Water in Illinois is overwhelmingly public. Why is Tammy Duckworth sponsoring a bill that aims to change that? https://t.co/1V36Kkd99s</div> — The American Prospect (@The American Prospect)<a href="https://twitter.com/TheProspect/statuses/1281000111481294849">1594249201.0</a></blockquote></div>
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By Alyssa Murdoch, Chrystal Mantyka-Pringle and Sapna Sharma
Summer has finally arrived in the northern reaches of Canada and Alaska, liberating hundreds of thousands of northern stream fish from their wintering habitats.
A Good News Story?<p>On the surface, the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/fwb.13569" target="_blank">results from our study</a> appear to provide a "good news" story. Warming temperatures were linked to higher numbers of fish, more species overall and, therefore, potentially more fishing opportunities for northerners.</p><p>Initially, we were surprised to learn that warming was increasing the distribution of cold-adapted fish. We reasoned that modest amounts of warming could lead to benefits such as increased food and winter habitat availability without reaching stressful levels for many species.</p>
Photo of Arctic grayling (left) and Dolly Varden trout (right). Alyssa Murdoch / Lilian Tran / Nunavik Research Centre and Tracey Loewen / Fisheries and Oceans Canada<p>Yet, not all fish species fared equally well. Ecologically unique northern species — those that have evolved in colder, more nutrient-poor environments, such as Arctic grayling and Dolly Varden trout — were showing declines with warming.</p>
Fish Strandings and Buried Eggs<p>Recent news headlines run the gamut for Pacific salmon — from their increased escapades <a href="https://nunatsiaq.com/stories/article/more-pacific-salmon-showing-up-in-western-arctic-waters/" target="_blank">into the Arctic</a> to <a href="https://www.juneauempire.com/news/warm-waters-across-alaska-cause-salmon-die-offs/" target="_blank">massive pre-spawning die-offs</a> in central Alaska. Similarly, results from our study revealed different outcomes for fish depending on local climatic conditions, including Pacific salmon.</p><p>We found that warmer spring and fall temperatures may be helping juvenile salmon by providing a longer and more plentiful growing season, and by supporting early egg development in northern regions that were previously too cold for survival.</p><p>In contrast, salmon declined in regions that were experiencing wetter fall conditions, pointing to an increased risk of flooding and sedimentation that could bury or dislodge incubating eggs.</p>
Headwaters of the Wind River within the largely intact Peel River watershed in northern Canada. Don Reid / Wildlife Conservation Society Canada / Author provided<p>Interestingly, we found that certain climatic combinations, such as warmer summer water temperatures with decreased summer rainfall, were important in determining where Pacific salmon could survive. Summer warming in drier watersheds led to declines, suggesting that lowered streamflows may have increased the risk of fish becoming stranded in subpar habitats that were too warm and crowded.</p>
The Fate of Northern Fisheries<p>The promise of a warmer and more accessible Arctic has attracted mounting interest in new economic opportunities, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2019.103637" target="_blank">including fisheries</a>. As warming rates at higher latitudes are already <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank">two to three times global levels</a>, it seems probable that northern biodiversity will experience dramatic shifts in the coming decades.</p><p>Despite the many unknowns surrounding the future of Pacific salmon, many fisheries are currently <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/03632415.2017.1374251" target="_blank">thriving following warmer and more productive northern oceans</a>, and some <a href="https://doi.org/10.14430/arctic68876" target="_blank">Arctic Indigenous communities are developing new salmon fisheries</a>.</p><p>As warming continues, the commercial salmon fishing industry is poised to expand northwards, but its success will largely depend on extenuating factors such as <a href="https://www.eenews.net/stories/1060023067" target="_blank">changes to marine habitat and food sources</a> and <a href="https://www.yukon-news.com/news/promising-chinook-salmon-run-failed-to-materialize-in-the-yukon-river-panel-hears/" target="_blank">how many fish are caught during the freshwater stages of their journey</a>.</p><p>Even with the potential for increased northern biodiversity, it is important to recognize that some northern communities may be unable to adapt or may <a href="https://thenarwhal.ca/searching-for-the-yukon-rivers-missing-chinook/" target="_blank">lose individual species that are associated with important cultural values</a>.</p>
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By Joni Sweet
If you get a call from a number you don't recognize, don't hit decline — it might be a contact tracer calling to let you know that someone you've been near has tested positive for the coronavirus.
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“You’ve Been Exposed”<p>After the case interview, contact tracers will get to work calling the folks who may have been exposed to the coronavirus by the person who tested positive.</p><p>"We give them recommendations about quarantining or isolating, getting tested, and what to do if they become sick. If they're not already sick, we still want them to self-quarantine so that they don't spread the disease to anyone else if they were to become sick," said Labus.</p><p>Generally, the contact tracer won't ask for additional contacts unless they happen to call someone who is sick or has a confirmed case of the virus. They will help ensure the contact has the resources they need to isolate themselves, if necessary. The contact tracer may continue to stay in touch with that person over the next 14 days.</p><p>"We follow the percentage of people that were contacts, then converted into being actual cases of the virus. It's an important marker to help us understand what kind of transmission happens in our community and how to control the virus," said Gullett.</p>
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