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Tackling Global Warming Would Increase GDP (And Save 94,000 Lives a Year): World Bank Report

Aggressively tackling global warming through better public transportation and increased energy efficiencies could increase global GDP by between $1.8 trillion and $2.6 trillion annually, a new report has found.

Released on Monday, the report by the World Bank and the ClimateWorks Foundation said tackling global warming now would also save as many as 94,000 lives a year from pollution-related diseases and reduce crop losses.

The report — Climate-Smart Development: Adding Up the Benefits of Actions that Help Build Prosperity, End Poverty and Combat Climate Change — shows the potential gains from scaling up pro-climate policies.

The report’s findings show clearly that the right policy choices can deliver significant benefits to lives, jobs, crops, energy, and GDP — as well as emissions reductions to combat climate change,” World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said.

Written in advance of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Climate Summit in New York in September, the report looks at benefits that ambitious climate mitigation policies can generate across the transportation, industry and building sectors, as well as in waste and cooking fuels. It focuses on Brazil, China, India, Mexico, the United States and the European Union.

By 2030, the report said, pro-climate government policies on clean transport and improved energy efficiency in factories, buildings and appliances could increase global GDP growth by an estimated $1.8 trillion to $2.6 trillion a year.                                                                  

Those policies could prevent the production of greenhouse gas emissions roughly equivalent to taking two billion cars off the road, the report said, while accounting for 30 per cent of the total emissions reduction needed in 2030 to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius.

This report shows that well-designed climate mitigation efforts can result in important economic and social benefits, and provides a frameworks for assessing those benefits,ClimateWorks Foundation president Charlotte Pera said.

Meanwhile, another major study published Tuesday showed that the U.S. economy already faces multiple and significant risks from climate change.

The study — Risky Business: The Economic Risks of Climate Change to the United States — said it's clear that staying on the current business-as-usual path will only increase the nation’s exposure to climate-change-related risks.

“The U.S. climate is paying the price today for business decisions made many years ago, especially through increased coastal storm damage and more extreme heat in parts of the country,” the study said.

“Every year that goes by without a comprehensive public and private sector response to climate change is a year that locks in future climate events that will have a far more devastating effect on our local, regional and national economies.”

Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson and Tom Steyer, retired founder of Farallon Capital Management, co-chaired the Risky Business project.

“Damages from storms, flooding and heat waves are already costing local economies billions of dollars — we saw that firsthand in New York City with Hurricane Sandy,” Bloomberg said in a statement. “With the oceans rising and the climate changing, the Risky Business report details the costs of inaction in ways that are easy to understand in dollars and cents — and impossible to ignore.”

Concurring, Paulson said the U.S. economy is vulnerable to an overwhelming number of risks from climate change.

“If we act immediately, we can still avoid most of the worst impacts of climate change and significantly reduce the odds of catastrophic outcomes — but the investments we’re making today will determine our economic future,” Paulson said.

Steyer said climate change is nature’s way of charging the nation compound interest for doing the wrong thing.

“The longer we wait to address the growing risks of climate change, the more it will cost us all. From a business perspective, given the many benefits of early action, it would be silly to allow these risks to accumulate to the point where we can no longer manage them,” he said.

Looking at climate impacts from now to 2100, the study notes that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases can stay in the atmosphere for hundreds or even thousands of years, leading to higher temperatures, higher sea levels and shifts in global weather patterns.

“By not acting to lower greenhouse gas emissions today, decision-makers put in place processes that increase overall risks tomorrow, and each year those decision-makers fail to act serves to broaden and deepen those risks,” the study warned.

Photo by kaffeeeinstein

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