Climate change refers to the changes we see in typical weather conditions over a long period of time. Earth’s climate can be affected by a variety of factors, both natural and human, but greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans have been leading to rapid climate change often simply called global warming. Rapid deforestation is also a major factor thanks to all the carbon emissions. Frightening effects can be seen in the forms of rising global temperatures, increasingly polluted air, more powerful storms, and record flooding.
Beyond the environmental effects, climate change also has a tremendous impact on the U.S. economy that will continue to worsen if a viable climate solution isn’t found. In fact, it’s estimated that the United States lost $125 billion in 2017 from Hurricane Harvey, and North America as a whole lost $415 billion in damages across a three year period. These losses were primarily from increased wildfires and hurricanes. Of course, economic impacts are shared across the entire world. Here are some of the biggest ways global warming affects the economy.
This is the industry most vulnerable to changes in climate. While it’s true that increased amounts of CO2 can actually increase crop yields, an economic benefit, in some circumstances, a variety of conditions such as nutrient levels, water availability, and more must also work out. The greater severity of droughts and floods are dangerous to crops more often than not, and Midwestern states that rely on agriculture have suffered. In 2019, Nebraska suffered an estimated loss of $1 billion due to drowned crops and livestock in extreme flooding. Losses like these can significantly affect market prices in the U.S. and elsewhere.
Like crops, the critical infrastructure in the U.S. is at high risk of flooding. While this is more of a potential future economic impact, rising sea levels could be devastating, particularly in coastal cities. Costs of damages could easily range in trillions of dollars. Even without flooding, much of the critical infrastructure the American people rely on is already aging, and extreme temperatures, storms, and other weather events will cause it to degrade more rapidly.
The Climate Leadership Council, a collaboration of business and environmental leaders, has proposed a carbon dividends framework that seeks to halve CO2 emissions by 2035 as well as promote economic activity. Leaders will need to actively seek ways to make a positive impact to find climate solutions to avoid extreme damages.
Not every impact of climate change is necessarily a bad one. Increased awareness over the years has made recycling the norm for citizens and businesses alike. The best part is that good effects go beyond environmental benefits. For example, there are significant economic impacts of scrap on the US. Metal products reach the end of their use the same as plastics and others, but keeping them out of the landfills helps boost the economy thanks to good scrap metal prices. Recycling these metals reduces greenhouse emissions and lets project leaders save money, not to mention the fact that scrap recycling creates thousands of jobs.
Speaking of creating jobs, the business opportunities from adapting to climate change are worth an estimated $2.1 trillion. This is thanks to opportunities that could be made by investing more in renewable energy, green buildings, and general energy efficiency. Additionally, jobs can be created by constructing a more environmentally sound infrastructure, especially along the coasts. Businesses can also profit by finding new ways to be environmentally friendly. The rising popularity of plant-based alternatives to meat sold in restaurants is a great example.
Ultimately, mitigating the negative effects of climate change will require a concentrated effort across all sectors, but adapting sooner will be more profitable than not.