Photo: World Economic Forum via Flickr/CC BY-SA
The 2010 Clinton Global Initiative is in full swing, with business, heads of state, and nonprofit groups joining forces to forge philanthropic programs of every stripe. Last year's event, which I covered as well, focused largely on energy and female empowerment. This year's meeting has aptly skewed towards addressing disaster relief, especially natural disasters. Apt because this year has been chock full of tragic natural disasters -- from the floods in Pakistan to the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, to the heatwaves in Russia. Thankfully, Bill Clinton took the opportunity to note the link between (non-earthquake) natural disasters and climate change:Clinton noted how global warming is set to increase the frequency of natural disasters like floods, heatwaves, and hurricanes. He said that "the incidence of economically devastating natural disasters will accelerate around the world with the changing of the climate," which is right on the mark.
Noting the link between natural disasters and economic devastation is especially pertinent -- after all one of the (who am I kidding, the) primary hesitation that governments continually have in acting to mitigate climate change is the purported cost. Every piece of climate policy that has ever been drafted in the US has faced criticism from opponents that it's too expensive. We can't afford to pay slightly more in energy bills. Those slight additional costs would derail the economy.
This, along with mostly being nothing but talking points (climate legislation like that which passed the House of Reps last year would do little but raise energy costs very marginally -- as in a few more bucks a month -- for most households), ignores the fact that the impact of climate change will indeed be exceedingly expensive.
And disaster relief is just the tip of the iceberg -- considering the costs of relocating resources and communities as climes grow warmer, the impact on global agricultural operations (see how the heatwave in Russia decimated grain production for evidence), and the incoming need to cope with sea level rise on coastal cities (to name a few), it's not difficult to fathom how expensive bearing the full brunt of climate change will be.
The point is, the cost of enacting even strident climate policy, would almost certainly pale in comparison to the cost (which is wildly incalculable, but assumed to be vast) of failing to reduce carbon emissions on a significant scale. Fighting climate change is the bargain.
More on Climate Change Costs
Climate Change Will Cost U.S. States Billions of Dollars
Climate Change Could Cost Nations 19% of GDP by 2030: New Report
Designing a Climate Policy that's Easy on the Federal Budget (And Wallet)