In a study published in the journal Nature last month, researchers found that temperature increases related to human-caused climate change could account for a 23 percent reduction in global GDP by the end of the century, and those are conservative projections based on historical data; real economic losses in a future of environmental uncertainty could in fact be much greater.
Add sea level rise, storm surge, more common extreme weather events like Sandy, which caused $65 billion in damage, healthcare costs related to more extreme heat days, and necessary repairs to our overburdened infrastructure, and we’re looking at an expensive problem that will only get worse the longer we ignore it.
Nature isn’t alone in sounding the alarm; the E.P.A., various financial institutions, and even the Pentagon have been warning of the economic and national security ramifications of climate change for quite some time. Yet at Tuesday’s debate perhaps five minutes total were dedicated to the topic, and nothing the candidates offered was particularly reassuring.
When asked if it was possible to continue the U.S.’s current energy boom while pursuing a “meaningful” climate change program, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky stated that the first thing he’d do as president is “repeal the regulations that are hampering our energy…including the Clean Power Plan,” which reduces carbon pollution from power plants.
He then downplayed humanity’s role in the planet’s warming, parroting the “climate is always changing” argument so popular within his party. It would have been nice to hear Lindsey Graham’s and George Pataki’s thoughts - two Republicans who’ve shown the courage to speak sensibly on climate change - but unfortunately they didn’t poll high enough to qualify for the event.
Poll after poll continue to find that a majority of Americans accept the science behind climate change, and that most, including nearly half of all Republicans, support government action to address the problem. It’s time the Republican presidential candidates acknowledge that. Marco Rubio may insist the GOP is the party of the 21st century, but on this issue they’re stuck firmly and stubbornly in the past.
Chris Barrett is a resident of Jackson Heights.