Climate change is increasingly affecting the way we live and do business. Moving forward, the scale of decarbonization initiatives implemented in the next decade will be crucial in determining the shape climate change will take. Here is an illustration of the potential differences between sufficient and insufficient carbon-drawdown policy.
Imagine for a moment two potential future Earths. First, there is the one we and succeeding generations will inherit if we fail to take major steps to combat climate change. This Earth will be one of global GDP losses in the tens of trillions of dollars,1 as rising sea levels inundate densely populated coastal areas, disrupting industrial output and inhibiting global supply chains.2 This Earth will experience major food shortages as climatic shifts cause crop failure, along with likely armed conflicts over the shrinking supply of arable land in the third world.3 Imbalances in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems will cause extinctions and disrupt food chains.4 Human health will be under threat from more frequent heat waves, severe air pollution, extreme weather events, spread of disease, and decline in water quality.5 The World Health Organization estimates that, between 2030 and 2050, climate change will cause 250,000 deaths resulting from malnutrition, disease, and heat stress.6
Now imagine a more livable Earth, one that we can bring about by stabilizing the climate at the same time as we harness the power of renewable energy to drive economic growth. The roadmap to achieving this future will require targeted investment: in solar, wind, hydroelectric, and nuclear power; electric cars, recycled products, sustainable agriculture, and reforestation efforts. In addition to alleviating the worst-case outcomes mentioned above, this renewable-energy and resiliency economy will drive prosperity for the planet as a whole. A recent study by the International Renewable Energy Association found that $19 trillion could be added to global GDP by 2050 if the Paris Climate Accord is carried out in full force.7 The economic benefits of green jobs are being realized close to home, where in the Midwest alone there are more than 500,000 clean energy jobs, with 25,000 projected to be added in 2017.8
A crucial aspect of this second scenario is that we would be working from a position of strength, while the economy is still robust enough to securely make the transition from traditional to renewable sources of energy. Waiting to act until the time when climate disruption reaches a fever pitch would put us at a major disadvantage, since vital resources would then need to be diverted to repairing the damage already done, before funding belated mitigation and resiliency efforts.
Our current position of strength could be made even more impactful if the resources of corporations were better leveraged to fund mitigation and resiliency efforts. The prosperity of private business has been built in part at the expense of a warming climate, therefore we have a responsibility to help lead hyrdrocarbon-reduction efforts. The Corporate Climate Alliance bridges corporations and policymakers to implement game-changing climate measures. This advocacy fosters the economic stability that will allow private business to continue to thrive. We invite you to join us in this important, urgent effort.