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ACT’s goal is to explain climate change in a simple way. 

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The Economic Case for Climate Action in the United States

Climate change is happening now. It is already impacting our daily lives. It is also impacting the United States economy.

Action to address climate change is compatible and essential for economic growth. It also creates jobs. 

The Economic Case for Climate Action in the United States focuses on economic losses caused by extreme and frequent weather events influenced by human-induced climate change in the 1980s, 1990s and the last decade (2007-2016) and on health costs due to air pollution exposure caused by fossil fuel energy production. It is thus a partial assessment of the economic losses and costs of human-induced climate change and fossil fuel use on the United States economy. Based on these past trends, a projection for the next decade is estimated.  

These massive economic losses and costs are being borne mainly by individuals.

The opportunities to ensure economic growth and create jobs while taking climate action in the United States are presented.

Key Numbers


 

$240 billion
Economic losses from weather events influenced by human-induced climate change and health damages due to air pollution caused by fossil fuel energy production are currently causing an average of $240 billion a year –or about 40% of the current economic growth of the United States economy.
$360 billion
a year, on average, in economic losses, damages and health costs are estimated by the next decade –or about half of the expected growth of the economy.
80%
of the primary energy produced and used in the United States comes from coal, oil and natural gas –all fossil fuels. This percentage has not changed in the last two decades.
82%
of the United States greenhouse gas emissions are solely from carbon dioxide (CO2) from fossil fuel burning. CO2 emissions are primarily driving the observed changes in the climate.
1.9 million
workers in the energy industry extract and generate energy to power and fuel the residential, commercial, industrial and transportation sectors in the United States
15%
of the electricity used in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors is generated from renewable sources –solar, wind, bioenergy, hydropower and geothermal.
95%
of the fuel used for the transportation sector is fossil fuels –gasoline, diesel and jet fuel (92%) and natural gas (3%).
500,000
new jobs can be created by doubling the share of renewable energy, while reducing the share of electricity generation from fossil fuels by 23%.
250,000
new jobs can be created in the construction of carbon capture and storage plants which would allow the continuing burning of fossil fuels responsibly.
50,000
can be created in research, architecture and engineering to accelerate the identification, testing and deployment of innovative technologies to produce sustainable clean energy.
$200 billion
in potential revenues can be generated from a tax on carbon emissions to be re-invested in reducing emissions, promoting a more efficient use of energy and encouraging the transition away from fossil fuels.

What the authors say

  • Burning fossil fuels comes at a giant price tag which the U.S. economy cannot afford and not sustain.

    Sir Robert Watson
    Former Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
  • We can expect extreme weather events and economic losses and costs associated with them to continue increasing unless we make dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

    Dr. James McCarthy
    Professor of Oceanography, Harvard University
  • Clean and sustainable energy just requires smart decisions and smarter investments.

    Liliana Hisas
    Exectutive Director, FEU-US

Extreme weather events causing more than $1 billion in economic losses by state

See the interactive maps showing the increasing frequency of billion dollar events has impacted each state in the 1980s, 1990s and the last decade (2007-2016).

The Truth About Climate Change

Misunderstandings about climate change and the Paris Agreement explained in a simple way

Was the Paris Conference on climate change successful? What is the Paris Agreement’s goal? Why has it been so difficult to take climate action? Are the current pledges by countries adequate to tackle climate change? Will a transition to renewable energy address climate change?  How can net zero CO2 emissions be reached? What else needs to be done?  Why has the public misunderstood the urgency of climate change? When could the 2ºC target be reached?

The Truth About Climate Change answers these questions by synthesizing and explaining the conclusions from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and other key climate research in a simple way.

The Pledges

As part of the Paris Agreement, 165 climate pledges were made by 192 countries.

What the authors say

  • Climate change is happening now and much faster than anticipated. While the Paris Agreement on climate change is an important step in the right direction, what is needed is a doubling or tripling of efforts.

    Robert Watson
    Former Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, United Kingdom
  • All countries are finally together in the fight against climate change. Political action will be also required in all countries to approve policies, regulations and incentives for the implementation of the pledges at the national level.

    Carlo Carraro
    Scientific Director, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei and International Center for Climate Governance, Italy
  • The dependence on negative emission technologies as an option to control climate change is still unproven. Further delaying action to transition to a low-carbon economy and relying instead on these future technologies is not an option.

    Nebojsa Nakicenovic
    Deputy Director General of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Austria
  • We have to wipe out the misconception that reducing emissions is incompatible with economic development. It is just a matter of developing in a different way.

    Liliana Hisas
    Executive Director, FEU-US
  • Climate change is already causing harm. Although implementation of the Paris Agreement will slow the rate of change, we will still need widespread adaptation to reduce its risks.

    James J. McCarthy
    Professor, Harvard University Center for the Environment, United States
  • The key issue is the scale of impacts and risks we are willing to bear and the mitigation actions we are willing to implement in order to minimize those impacts.

    Pablo Canziani
    Senior Scientist at the National Scientific and Technical Research Council, Professor at the National Technological University, Argentina
  • It is not enough to agree on a temperature target. The current pledges are only initial steps, and many more ambitious steps must follow. Substantial and sustained action is needed.

    Thomas Stocker
    University of Bern, Switzerland
  • The success of the INDC approach will depend of what happens in the few countries that are responsible for the majority of the emissions.

    José Goldemberg
    Professor Emeritus of the University of São Paulo, President of the São Paulo Research Foundation, Brazil

The Truth About Climate Change is a joint effort by climate scientists and FEU-US.

In the News

The Truth About Climate Change and its global press release were covered by more than 600 news organizations around the world. Its three main messages are:

Global Temperature Could Reach the 2ºC Threshold by 2050

Pledges by 189 nations are inadequate to slow climate change

Without additional efforts by all major emitters, the 2ºC target could be reached even sooner.

Key Numbers

195
195 countries adopted the Paris Agreement on climate change. Except for a handful of countries, climate change has not been a priority for taking action for almost 20 years.
165
165 pledges, representing 192 countries, were made to combat and adapt to climate change, to be implemented from 2020 to 2030.
$100
83 percent of the pledges are in part or entirely conditional to the US$100 billion per year in financial assistance for their full implementation.
33%
If all pledges are implemented, global GHG emissions will be 33 percent above the level of what they should be in 2030 to stay below 2ºC above pre-industrial levels.
1ºC
Global average temperature has already reached 1ºC above pre-industrial times in 2015.
1.5ºC
Because of the lack of action to stop the increase in global GHG emissions for the last 20 years, an additional warming of 0.4-0.5ºC is expected. The 1.5 ºC could be reached by the early 2030s.
2ºC
The 2ºC target could be reached by 2050, even if pledges are fully implemented.
Double
Weather-related events due to climate change have doubled in number since 1990. Reaching the 2ºC target means an additional doubling in the number of climate change impacts already experienced everywhere.
Net Zero
To stay below 2ºC, CO2 emissions should be net zero by 2060-2075.
65%
CO2 accounts for 65 percent of global GHG emissions as a result of the burning of fossil fuels.
82%
About 82 percent of the energy (electricity, fuel and natural gas) in the world is produced by burning fossil fuels –31 percent oil, 29 percent coal and 22 percent natural gas.
30%
Non-fossil fuel electricity generation is 30 percent –16 percent from hydropower, 5 percent from renewables and 11 percent from nuclear power.
50%
The oceans, trees and plants remove about half of man-made CO2 emissions.
Double
Extensive reforestation and conversion of land into forest will not be enough to cut CO2 emissions to net zero. It would imply expanding the current world’s forest cover, at least, twofold.
0.1%
To reduce CO2 emissions to net zero, technologies such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) will be required. About a dozen CCS plants in operation capture less than 0.1 percent of CO2 emissions.
Zero
The production of energy by burning biomass coupled with CCS will also be required to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Currently, there are no such plants in the world.
40%
The demand for energy is estimated to double due to the anticipated 40 percent population increase by 2050. Changing the way energy is produced in the world will be critical. Adaptation to reduce the risks and the unavoidable impacts of climate change will be too.
2018
By 2018, all countries agreed to revise their pledges –sufficient time to significantly raise the ambition of actions to reduce GHG emissions in all countries.
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