A new report from the United Nations Development Program is sounding the alarm on the economic cost of climate inaction. Limiting global warming to 1.5° Celsius (2.7° Fahrenheit) could save the global economy as much as $12 trillion by 2050, compared with a business-as-usual scenario where the Earth warms 2.5° Celsius (4.5° Fahrenheit), according to the study, which was released Wednesday during the U.N. climate conference in Marrakesh.
The report shines a light on the business case for climate action at a time when world leaders and businesses anxiously await the beginning of climate denier Donald Trump’s tenure in the White House. According to the report, if warming is not limited to 1.5° C and climbs as high as 2.5° C, the global gross domestic product could decline by as much as $33 trillion by 2050.
That’s because holding global warming to 1.5° C would have widespread, positive impacts for business sectors like agriculture and tourism. 1.5° C of warming would lessen the risk of serious crop failures for staple crops like wheat, especially in developing regions, by 10 to 15 percent through 2050. It would also reduce the magnitude of coral reef die-offs, preserving about 10 percent of the world’s coral reefs, as opposed to higher warming scenarios where coral reefs practically disappear. Limiting global warming also helps countries whose economies depend on industries that take place outdoors — agriculture, for example — because it will limit the number of heatwaves suffered each year.
Moreover, working to limit global warming to 1.5° C will require massive deployment of renewable energy, which will create more jobs. According to the report, policies consistent with 1.5° C of warming “would require an estimated 68 percent increase in jobs relating to energy operations and maintenance, manufacturing, construction, and installation by 2030.”
In his final big climate speech as Secretary of State, John Kerry underscored the idea that addressing global warming would help boost the global economy by unlocking investments in green technology and renewable energy. He warned that any country that chooses not to participate in climate action runs the risk of missing out on the wave of jobs, and economic benefits, that are likely to follow the clean energy revolution.
“No nation will do well if it sits on the sidelines, handicapping its new businesses from reaping the benefits of the clean-tech explosion,” Kerry said from Marrakesh. “Millions around the world are currently employed by the renewable energy and if we make the right choices, millions more people will be put to work. The market is clearly headed towards clean energy and that trend will only become more pronounced.”
With President-Elect Donald Trump making promises to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement, businesses are appealing to economic arguments to convince Trump that it is in the United States’ best interest to remain in the agreement. On Wednesday, 365 businesses signed a letter addressed to President Obama, President-Elect Trump, and world leaders, imploring them to support the Paris agreement.
“We want the U.S. economy to be energy efficient and powered by low-carbon energy,” the letter read. “Cost-effective and innovative solutions can help us achieve these objectives. Failure to build a low-carbon economy puts American prosperity at risk. But the right action now will create jobs and boost U.S. competitiveness.”
Businesses that signed the letter range from family-owned businesses to Fortune 500 companies. Global corporate giants like Intel, DuPont, Unilever, eBay, and Nike, also joined the letter.
In addition to urging world leaders to adhere to the commitments outlined by the Paris Agreement, businesses that signed the letter pledged to continue with their own science-based emission reduction targets, regardless of the policies enacted by Trump.
“It is vital that the business community demonstrates its ongoing commitment to tackling climate change,” Barry Parkin, Chief Sustainability and Health and Wellbeing Officer at Mars Incorporated, said in a statement. “This is an important moment in global political and economic history, and we absolutely must come together to solve the immense challenges facing the planet.”