The economic impacts of unchecked climate change

Around the world, the ravages of climate change are evident in record-high temperatures, floods, fires and other natural disasters. In the U.S., President Biden is taking executive action to address the climate crisis, citing climate change as both a national security and economic risk. Mary Anne Hitt of Climate Imperative, and Boston Globe reporter Dharna Noor, join Ali Rogin to discuss.

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  • Geoff Bennett:

    Around the world, the ravages of climate change are evident and record high temperatures, floods, fires and other natural disasters. Here in the U.S. President Joe Biden is taking executive action to address the climate crisis, citing climate change is both a national security risk and an economic risk. My colleague Ali Rogin takes a closer look now at the other economic costs of inaction.

  • Ali Rogin:

    A major plan from Democrats in Congress to address climate change is now all but dead. Last week, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin said he would not support the legislation, citing what he said was the proposal's inflationary impact, but the White House Office of Management and Budget says failing to act on climate change could cost the federal government $2 trillion annually. And a recent study from Dartmouth University found the United States alone was responsible for over $1.8 trillion in losses to developing countries between 1990 and 2014.

    Joining me now to discuss the economic impacts of climate change inaction are Mary Anne Hitt, she's the West Virginia Bay, Senior Director of the advocacy group Climate Imperative, and Dharna Noor, Climate Reporter for The Boston Globe.

    Thank you both so much for joining us. Marianne, I'd like to start with you. Senator Manchin, as we said, has cited the inflationary impacts of this these proposals which included tax credits to encourage clean energy incentives to purchase electric vehicles, how would you respond to his concerns about inflation?

  • Mary Anne Hitt, Senior Director, Climate Imperative:

    The sad reality is that this bill actually would have helped address inflation, because it would have helped bring energy prices down for regular Americans. And that's by making clean energy, which is already cheaper than fossil fuels, more available to more people. And he let that slip through his fingers. And it's a real missed opportunity for folks here in West Virginia and around the country to lower our energy bills and tackle the climate crisis at the same time.

  • Ali Rogin:

    And Dharna, Mary Anne just mentioned some of the impacts that actually affect both West Virginia and nationally. But I want to drill down into what you're seeing on a national scale. What are some of the arguments on an economic basis that climate action advocates are making right now?

  • Dharna Noor, Climate Reporter, The Boston Globe:

    I think that what we're seeing is a refusal to sort of take on the bold action that we need to take on the climate crisis. One of the effects that we're seeing this is continuing to sink costs into fossil fuel infrastructure, and other infrastructure that's really not going to be able to be around in the future if we want to, essentially have a livable future on Earth. And so continuing to spend money on these technologies that we need to be phasing out is not a very good idea.

  • Ali Rogin:

    And Dharna, as we said, the Office of Management and Budget is estimating that the federal government could lose up to $2 trillion a year, due to climate change inaction, what are some of the factors that lead to a conclusion like that?

  • Dharna Noor:

    Well, again, by continuing to sink costs into technology and into infrastructure that we know we should not have around anymore? So that's things like fossil fuel plants, you know, but also things like expanded highways, which create a sort of market for more cars and things like this. There's the cost, the climate disaster itself, can kind of levy on our economies and on people. You know, every time for instance, that infrastructure is destroyed, a highway is destroyed, a building is destroyed by the climate crisis by, you know, a hurricane or a flood or a heatwave or whatever it is, if we continue to ignore the impact of the climate crisis and rebuild as though, you know, another hurricane flood or heatwave is not going to come, I think we're going to see that we're wasting a lot of money.

  • Ali Rogin:

    Lastly, to both of you, the Dartmouth report that we talked about in the introduction, which quantified that U.S. carbon emissions have done one point trillion dollars-worth of damage to other countries, from 1990 to 2014. That includes the damage to other major carbon emitters, like Brazil and India, but also to developing nations like Venezuela and Nigeria. First you, Mary Anne, why is a study like this important?

  • Mary Anne Hitt:

    A few years ago, one of the big global climate conferences, the developed nations of the world pledged $100 billion to help the developing world with climate solutions. And we have not delivered on those funds. And in the period that since then, those developing countries have been hit the hardest by climate impacts. And that eventually spills back over onto our borders when there are food shortages, water shortages, triggering refugee crises and global instability around the world. So the developed world needs to step up and do our part to help these countries face the climate crisis because again, ultimately, it will spill back over onto our border.

  • Ali Rogin:

    And Dharna, lastly to you, the study also found that the U.S.' own carbon emissions actually boosted its economy by $183 billion over the same period. Does that make it harder to argue that the economic costs for climate change action went over the years polluting industries have actually been so much a part of the — what drove economic development in this country?

  • Dharna Noor:

    I think it demonstrably has made it harder to sort of overcome this challenge. But I would say that part of the reason that these polluting industries have been such a huge part of the economy is because the U.S. pours billions and billions of subsidies into them. If the U.S. instead decided to subsidize or even, you know, create a public sector for clean industries, I think that we'd see that those would end up being a huge part of our economy, and we could really help other nations to sort of make that transition as well. So I think that yes, while there's so much that — so much that we do have to spend, there's also quite a lot to be gained for, you know, the U.S. as a whole for the world and also for us on the individual level.

  • Ali Rogin:

    Mary Anne Hitt with Climate Imperative Dharna Noor with the Boston Globe, thank you both so much for your time.

  • Dharna Noor:

    Thanks for having me.

  • Mary Anne Hitt:

    Thank you so much.

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