Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Even Wall Street Asks: 'Why Would You Not?' Take Action on Climate Change


Given the economic, environmental and public health benefits of transitioning to a low-carbon future, a new report from Citigroup asks: When presented with the opportunity to take action on climate change, "Why would you not?"

"The incremental costs of following a low carbon path are in context limited and seem affordable, the 'return' on that investment is acceptable and moreover the likely avoided liabilities are enormous," reads the introduction to Energy Darwinism II: Why a Low Carbon Future Doesn't Have to Cost the Earth, issued this month by the Citi Global Perspectives & Solutions division.

"While fossil reserves aren’t running out, our ability to burn them without limit may be," reads the report from America's third-largest bank, "due to the fact that atmospheric concentrations of CO2 and equivalents are rapidly approaching the so-called "carbon budget"—the level that if we go beyond is likely to lead to global warming in excess of the important 2°C level."

Fortunately, the report finds that taking action to cut carbon pollution and slow global warming by investing in energy efficiency and renewable power generation would result in a positive return on investment, ultimately saving trillions of dollars.

In fact, in its analysis of two scenarios—"inaction," which involves continuing on a business-as-usual path and "action," which involves transitioning to a low-carbon energy mix—Citigroup found that because of savings due to reduced fuel costs and increased energy efficiency, the action scenario is actually slightly cheaper than the inaction scenario. The report predicts that following a low carbon path would incur a net cost per year until 2025, after which net savings would stem from via lower fuel usage.

And down the line, a low carbon energy mix could account for $30-50 trillion in savings from avoiding climate damage, the report states.

"The incremental costs of following a low carbon path are in context limited and seem affordable, the 'return' on that investment is acceptable and moreover the likely avoided liabilities are enormous," reads the introduction to Energy Darwinism II: Why a Low Carbon Future Doesn't Have to Cost the Earth, issued this month by the Citi Global Perspectives & Solutions division. "Given that all things being equal cleaner air has to be preferable to pollution, a very strong 'Why would you not?' argument begins to develop."

To be sure, the implications of such a paradigm shift are not rosy for everyone. As the report authors note, "[s]witching to a low carbon energy future means that significant fossil fuels that would otherwise have been burnt will be left underground."

In particular, Citigroup forecasts rough waters ahead for the coal industry, for which it predicts mine closures, liquidation and bankruptcy. The "clear loser" between the action and inaction scenarios is coal, according to the report, "which sees its total investment bill fall by some $11.5 trillion over the next quarter century."

The financial giant's analysis is hardly the first to address "stranded assets"—those fossil fuel reserves that must stay in the ground to avoid climate catastrophe—or the economic benefits of increased investment in alternative energies. As David Roberts wrote for Vox, Citigroup's conclusions echo those of "an increasingly huge body of research."

But Roberts expressed hope that someone will take the Citigroup analysis and push it further, pointing out that "having a model scenario doesn't help much if you don't understand the sociopolitical barriers to implementing it."

Especially in the lead-up to this fall's climate talks in Paris, "here's what I'd like to see," he wrote. "[A] report as extensive as Citi's, conducted by an equally distinguished group of researchers, about the political economy of the action scenario. Which companies, industries and governments face threats to which interests? Which industries give money to which public officials and through what channels? Which industries do public officials gravitate to when they leave office? Which spend the most on lobbying? What domestic and international levers do industries and governments have at their disposal to impede or delay the transition?"

He continued: "In short, I want a report that answers 'why would you not?'— a report that canvases potential winners and losers and charts their sociopolitical capacity to accelerate or delay the transition."


Bernie Sanders: The Environment Deserves a Debate

Arctic Drilling: A Giant Gamble for the Planet and Shell’s Bottom Line

Obama Heads to Alaska as Climate Groups Cry ‘Hypocrisy’ Over Decision to Drill in the Arctic

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Migrating barn swallows rest on electricity cables in Heraklion, Crete, Greece. Patricia Fenn Gallery / Moment / Getty images

Thousands of swallows and other migratory birds have died in Greece trying to cross from Africa to Europe this spring.

Read More Show Less
A ringed seal swims in a water tank at the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan on July 26, 2013. Kazuhiro Nogi / AFP / Getty Images

Ringed seals spend most of the year hidden in icy Arctic waters, breathing through holes they create in the thick sea ice.

But when seal pups are born each spring, they don't have a blubber layer, which is their protection from cold.

Read More Show Less
A volunteer sets up beds in what will be a field hospital in the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine on April 8, 2020 in New York City. The cathedral has partnered with Mount Sinai Morningside Hospital and is expected to have more than 400 beds when opened. Spencer Platt / Getty Images

New York state now has more confirmed coronavirus cases than any single country save the U.S. as a whole.

Read More Show Less
Moroccan patients who recovered from the novel coronavirus disease celebrate with medical staff as they leave the hospital in Sale, Morocco, on April 3, 2020. AFP / Getty Images

By Tom Duszynski

The coronavirus is certainly scary, but despite the constant reporting on total cases and a climbing death toll, the reality is that the vast majority of people who come down with COVID-19 survive it. Just as the number of cases grows, so does another number: those who have recovered.

In mid-March, the number of patients in the U.S. who had officially recovered from the virus was close to zero. That number is now in the tens of thousands and is climbing every day. But recovering from COVID-19 is more complicated than simply feeling better. Recovery involves biology, epidemiology and a little bit of bureaucracy too.

Read More Show Less


Reef scene with crinoid and fish in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Reinhard Dirscherl / ullstein bild / Getty Images

By Elizabeth Claire Alberts

The future for the world's oceans often looks grim. Fisheries are set to collapse by 2048, according to one study, and 8 million tons of plastic pollute the ocean every year, causing considerable damage to delicate marine ecosystems. Yet a new study in Nature offers an alternative, and more optimistic view on the ocean's future: it asserts that the entire marine environment could be substantially rebuilt by 2050, if humanity is able to step up to the challenge.

Read More Show Less