How Will Climate Change Impact The Economy?

Credit: Justin Sullivan (Getty)

From the alarming economic concerns outlined in 2018’s National Climate Assessment to the recent bankruptcy of PG&E related to the California wildfires, it’s clear that the economic impact of climate change is already taking effect.

While we typically view climate change as an environmental and humanitarian fight, economists and corporations are grappling with what could become an economic meltdown caused by climate change. We highlighted some of the most recent and underreported effects of climate change on the U.S. and global economies.

This is your #ClimateUpdate on the economics of climate change:

1) Climate Change’s Giant Impact on the Economy: 4 Key Issues | The Upshot (NY Times)

“…policy debates aside, many of the central economic questions of the decades ahead are, at their core, going to be climate questions.”

Just as we fight for the widely agreed-upon scientific findings behind climate change, we have to recognize the economic impacts, as well. For example, increased droughts affect farmland productivity and rising sea levels can cause water damage on coastal infrastructure, both of which have costly implications.

One way economists want to combat these costs is through a carbon tax. For them, taxing carbon emissions today can act as an investment for future generations.

Finally, getting the message across is hard, even for the experts! When it comes to explaining the connection between climate change and the economy, even Harvard professor Joseph Aldy has difficulty:

“I’ve spent the last 20 years trying to communicate it and it’s not easy to process … It’s really hard to convey something that is long term and gradual until it’s not.”

2) Who Should Pay to Fix Climate Change? | Hot Mess PBS

Who should pay for the costs of climate change — the wealthier countries that caused the overuse of fossil fuels, or the developing countries that are currently emitting the most carbon? That’s the 30 TRILLION DOLLAR question!

Climate change may be a global issue, but evaluating the economic inequities of climate change in poorer versus wealthier countries is an important step in taking action.

3) How the geography of climate damage could make the politics less polarizing | Brookings Institution

While climate change is a global issue, the economic impact it’ll have on different states — even different counties — across the country is important in addressing how local economies should prepare for the effects of climate change. Based on county-specific data from the Climate Impact Lab, economic loss due to climate change is concentrated around southern states where they should expect loss in agricultural yield and in high-risk labor as well as an increase in mortality rates.

4) The Next Financial Crisis Could Be Caused by Climate Change | VICE

The California power company PG&E is “the first major corporate casualty of climate change,”  but certainly not the last. Investigators found PG&E responsible for starting at least 17 of the 21 major state fires in 2017, the effects of which were exacerbated by warmer and dryer temperatures.

The cost of climate change is no longer something to look out for in the next 100 years or few decades — it’s already dismantled a major power company and is just one example of how climate change can become corporate America’s biggest business adversary.

5) Climate change’s highest cost: Overheated employees too miserable to work | MIT Technology Review
Melting icebergs and lost habitats aren’t the only climate change casualties:

The costs of lower labor productivity under soaring temperatures could reach as much as $221 billion a year in the United States by 2090, making it the largest category of potential economic damage from climate change.

While looking at the economic costs of labor, we can’t forget that it comes with a human toll. Nexus Media‘s Freedom to Breathe tour heard the stories of farm workers who are dying from extreme heat in Florida: