New York magazine has published an op-ed by the world’s foremost climate scientist warning that the world is headed for a “new era” of energy transition that will have serious economic consequences for many countries.
Writing in the magazine’s latest issue, Thomas Karl, a Princeton University professor and the co-author of “The Age of Fossil Fuels,” also noted that fossil fuels have been “the backbone of the global economy for more than half a century.”
“The US and Europe are the only major countries left to use these fuels and are already suffering from record high energy bills, especially in China, where we are the world leader in the use of coal,” he wrote.
“The US, China and India, the world leaders in renewable energy, are set to lose billions of dollars in annual carbon tax revenue as they transition away from fossil fuels.”
Karl added that “a new paradigm of energy use” is underway and the world will be forced to “start thinking about energy conservation and climate change as if we are a global society” and “we must embrace a clean energy future.”
The global economic consequences of climate change include “a global loss of jobs, income, housing, food, and water,” he said.
The economic impact of climate disruption is not as straightforward as it sounds, however, as the effects of climate disruptions are “not uniform across societies,” as the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in its 2016 assessment.
In its assessment, the IPCC found that “climate change is projected to have a cumulative negative economic impact on the world population of 0.2 to 2.5 percent of global GDP.”
The assessment noted that these effects could be larger for some regions, such as those in Asia and Africa, and that the impacts could vary by region.
According to the IPCC, the impacts from climate disruption can be expected to include a number of different “disasters.”
In general, the effects are projected to be worse for the poorer, less developed countries, as well as poorer countries, particularly in developing countries, which are already struggling to adapt to the climate disruption.
The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) said in 2016 that “the cumulative economic impact” from climate change could be up to $4 trillion in 2030.
“In 2030, global emissions are projected at around 1.2 billion tons of CO2 equivalent,” the report noted.
The UNEP report also noted the fact that “in many cases, economic losses may be greater than economic gains,” and that “disaster risk for the poorest countries is estimated to be between 50 percent and 70 percent.”
According to Karl, these findings should give pause to any climate change advocates who argue that there is not a clear economic and environmental benefit from a carbon tax, especially given the negative impacts on the poor countries.
Karl pointed out that the “new paradigm of the energy transition will require energy policies that focus on clean energy and a sustainable energy future, not just on fossil fuels and their associated carbon footprint.”
“It is critical to understand that we are entering an era of energy transitions and the transition to a more sustainable energy economy,” he concluded.
“It is also important to acknowledge that these transitions will also have long-term economic consequences, and it is important to keep this in mind.”