Evolution Shift
A Future Look at Today
November 7th, 2006

Make Global Warming an Economic Issue

Last week the British Government released the Stern Report on Global Warming. As those of you who read about it know, the report suggested that, without immediate and aggressive spending, global warming will reduce worldwide productivity on the scale of the Great Depression. The report, commissioned by the British government is the most comprehensive study to date of the economic impact of global warming. The quick summary is that failure to act could cost up to 20% of lost income worldwide on an annual basis. Aggressive and immediate action to solve the problem would cost 1% of gross global domestic product.

Global warming has now been framed economically. Do nothing and have economic consequences on the order of the Great Depression, one that would almost by definition be an open ended depression, or take immediate actions across the board at an estimated 1% additional cost. Not exactly a difficult decision to make, at least if you are looking at the situation with clarity. Of course there are still people, and prominent US politicians, who say that it is ‘too expensive’ to cut greenhouse gases. We should not let these ostrich like approaches to this huge issue hold us back any longer. The scientists have weighed in on the fact that there is global warming, and now the economic consequences of the danger have been presented in a powerful way.

Economics is obviously a primary driver in the countries of the world. Economics seems to often trump other areas of life. Since this is the case, making global warming an economic issue for us all might be one way to develop a global will to solve this problem. The real possibility of suffering dire economic consequences has always been a good motivator. It is something that many people have felt, and of course those of us who had parents that grew up during the Great Depression have heard stories about how awful it was. This might be a more concrete way to get people to take action than the ‘hard to believe’ image of Manhattan and Florida under water.

The Stern report stated that the current level of greenhouse gases is 54% higher than at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, which was about 300 years ago, a tiny blip in humanity’s time on the planet, and that it could well be double that figure by 2035. Such an increase could raise average temperatures by close to 4 degrees and a calamitous 9 degrees by the end of the century. The report stated that global warming would be most harshly felt by poor countries but that developed countries must be responsible for 60-80% of emissions reductions. The report was optimistic in that it stated if we started to act immediately we could turn global warming around. It cautioned however, that if humanity waited even a decade to begin, perhaps two decades at the outside the consequences would be the dire ones suggested

The only way to deal with the issue of global warming is through a comprehensive and coordinated international effort that so far has yet to take hold. Perhaps making the price of not taking this step a prolonged global depression might help to be the catalyst for more immediate action. We must all start to think about and speak about global warming as a coming economic catastrophe that can be prevented if we take action soon. We must all take action in our own lives to cut down on energy use and we must bring this effort into the national and international discussion. Do nothing and suffer the greatest depression in history. Politicians don’t want to be responsible for that. To quote James Carville from the 1992 presidential campaign: “It’s the economy, stupid!”

Act Now

In times of global uncertainty and disruption it takes a futurist to provide context and understanding.

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