Climate change is inescapably a social justice issue. It’s not just about how much climate change will cost the global economy, it’s also about who will pay that price. Rich-nation inaction on climate change will most likely condemn many of the world’s poor to continuing poverty, homelessness and even death. We pollute, they pay.
Two studies released by GDAE at Tufts University illustrate the highly unequal economic and human implications of climate change inaction.
The first, The Cost of Climate Change: What We’ll Pay if Global Warming Continues Unchecked is a study of the costs of inaction for the U.S. economy by Frank Ackerman and Elizabeth A. Stanton. They conclude that a ‘business as usual” approach will cost the U.S. economy around 3.6% (and probably more) of GDP by 2100.
The key conclusions of the second study, The Caribbean and Climate Change: The Costs of Inaction, by Ramón Bueno, Cornelia Herzfeld, Elizabeth A. Stanton, and Frank Ackerman, make grim reading for the – generally much poorer – people of the region:
- The costs of inaction will amount to 22 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) for the Caribbean as a whole by 2100;
- The costs of inaction will reach an astonishing 75 percent or more of GDP by 2100 in Dominica, Grenada, Haiti, St. Kitts & Nevis and Turks & Caicos;
- The Caribbean’s largest island, Cuba, faces a nearly 13 percent economic hit by mid-century, and a 27 percent loss by 2100, unless there is swift action to address climate change;
- Losses from inaction would be less severe but still significant in Puerto Rico, reaching nearly 3 percent by 2050 and 6 percent by the end of the century;
- The nation of Colombia, with its long Caribbean coastline, faces permanent flooding of 1,900 square miles in low-lying coastal areas, affecting 1.4 million people.