Global warming has a huge price tag

October 30, 2008 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

You know, one upside to the downside of the global financial hissy fit is that we might not have enough money to spend on The Brands, gas-guzzling cars, holidays or those things we call the little luxuries in life. So our planet might not get so bombarded with carbon emissions, strangled by plastic bags or have the oceans and rivers muddied and sullied. The trashing of our planet might be less.

I was just thinking too this morning – when I was about 10 years old (that would have been in 1850!), my great aunt was always busy squirrelling away money into a Christmas Club account at her bank. We might just see a return to lay-bys, Christmas Club accounts and other frugal strategies. But that’s another post.

Today, we need to think about the cost of climate change and the rise of green capitalism. An RSS feed alerted me to a report that has just been released by the Natural Resources Defense Council, entitled The Cost of Climate Change: What We’ll Pay If Global Warming Continues Unchecked. The report looks at four global warming impact categories – hurricane damage, real estate losses, energy and water costs. Here’s some scary stuff for us to digest. By 2100, if we continue on our reckless path, the costs to the planet and to us will be:

  • Hurricane damages: $422 billion in economic losses caused by the increasing intensity of Atlantic and Gulf Coast storms.
  • Real estate losses: $360 billion in damaged or destroyed residential real estate as a result of rising sea levels.
  • Energy costs: $141 billion in increasing energy costs as a result of the rising demand for energy.
  • Water costs: $950 billion to provide water to the driest and most water-stressed parts of the United
    States as climate change exacerbates drought conditions and disrupts existing patterns of water supply.

Where’s the calculator? Okay, that adds up to a staggering US$1,873,000,000,000, which according to my cunning maths ability is almost $1.9 trillion in today’s dollars! And according to the report, that will be 1.8% of US GDP per year by 2100. This humungous amount of money is only the cost of the four categories the report examines in detail.

Alternet pointed out recently that the Green Wave is about to engulf us. Entrepreneurs, authors and scam-artists ready to pounce and take advantage of a planet in crisis. With economies in turmoil, do you think that serious money will be devoted to protecting the environment or finding new sources of energy? Nope. We will see the rise of green capitalism – companies will talk green but still earn profits using fossil fuels and pillage the environment. And we’ll see pale-green consumerism – products and companies yapping on about how they are “all natural” whilst, at the same time, they are exploiting poor workers in developing countries or spewing petrochemicals into the environment (sorry: cynical day for me!).

What I worry about is how “greenism” will be complicit with capitalism as we know it and to what extent capitalism will influence green capitalism. Is green capitalism just capitalism’s response to environmental issues?

I’ll need to reflect more. It’s just that I’m starting to worry about all the whacko schemes I’ve been reading about to save the planet (and which cost millions) and everywhere I go there are products pronouncing themselves as all natural. I used to be a huge fan of The Body Shop until I read Jon Entine’s great article “Shattered Image: Is The Body Shop Too Good to Be True?” – I promptly gave up buying any of their products. You might want to check out Entine’s site as there are some good articles.

So how will we know in the future whether “green” products are not just the brainchild of exploitative capitalism, hip branding and sexy marketing?


Entry filed under: Climate Change, Useful resources. Tags: , , .

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