April 10, 2019

The COP24 ended with members coming to an agreement, but falling short of adopting the measures that would successfully prevent an increase of 2° C of the global temperature. Failing to take a stronger stance against carbon emissions will reduce costs in the immediate future, but a significant increase in temperature could have more serious consequences in the long-term according to several predictions.

How would climate change affect the world's GDP?

A nuclear power plant behind a field.

There have been several attempts made to model the impact of climate change on the global economy. Projections are getting worse as more severe weather events are observed and as more data becomes available.

Studies and projections typically find that focusing on stopping carbon emissions would be cheaper than dealing with the consequences of climate changes. If a 2° C increase in temperature happens, it's estimated that climate change would have a worldwide cost of $535 trillion and cause a reduction of the world's GDP by 30 percent.

Climate change could cost as much as $360 billion annually in the U.S. alone. This cost includes the damages caused by extreme weather events, as well as the cost of health problems linked to high pollution levels.

How accurate are these projections?

These projections are based on historical data. New reports are released regularly on this topic, but it's possible that current projections turn out to be incorrect due to scientific innovations that would make dealing with the effects of climate change easier and more cost-effective in the future.

Extreme weather events are a costly consequence of climate change since they can cause significant damage to the infrastructure. Projections account for an increase in extreme weather events, but it's difficult to determine how frequently these events would take place and for how long they would impact the GDP of a country.

Which sectors would be affected the most by climate change?

Extreme weather events will cost the world billions.

Extreme weather events combined with a global increase in temperatures would make energy more expensive to produce. We could also see topsoil erosion, which would negatively impact agriculture and fisheries and result in food becoming more expensive.

Climate change could also reduce access to water, and impact consumers by resulting in higher insurance premiums.

Addressing global warming

Developing a plan that would address global warming could have positive consequences on the economy. Doubling the current production of the renewable energy sector would result in 500,000 new jobs being created in the U.S. alone.

It's also estimated that successfully limiting the global temperature increase to 1.5° C would cause the world's GDP to increase by $20 trillion. The current administration has expressed the desire to withdraw from the Paris Agreement signed in 2015.

Climate change rally sign reads "climate change is bad for economy."

It's unclear if there would be a plan put in place to replace these agreements and reduce carbon emissions outside of the framework created by the Paris Agreement.

Climate change hasn't been a priority for the current administration, and failing to address this issue will impact the long-term economic outlook of the country besides having disastrous consequences on areas such as health or access to water.

It's Up To Us advocates for raising awareness of fiscal and social responsibility which includes the importance of addressing climate change having an impact on the economy and other important issues. You can make a difference by participating in one of our events or starting a chapter on your campus.