Climate Change and Beyond in a Carbon Economy
Just two years ago, the Climate Vulnerability Forum and DARA created a partnership to raise the profile of the impacts of climate change and with it the benefits of transitioning to a climate resilient low-carbon economy. Released in September, the 2nd edition of the Climate Vulnerability Monitor was developed to measure the global impact of climate change and the carbon economy at a national level. This latest monitor uses 34 climate and carbon related indicators to calculate and compare the vulnerability of 184 countries in 2010 and 2030, and covers four impact areas (environmental disasters, habit change, health impacts and industry stress).
Some climate inactivity findings include:
- Human Dimension: Nobody is spared the global climate crisis. Twenty more years of inaction could lead to up to 1 million climate-related deaths per year by 2030.
- Economics: Climate action is a worthy investment, yet financial outlays to adapt to climate change are underestimated.
- Social Value: Climate inaction jeopardizes global development and poverty reduction efforts.
- Regulation: Today’s regulatory decisions are mandated by outdated estimates of the negative effects of climate inaction.
To add some perspective, based on the latest U.N. population projections, five billion people will live in urban areas by the year 2030. These cities of the future will not only bear the burden of climate change and its symptoms, including an increasing demand for power, transportation and sewage, but in another 20 years the population is estimated to almost double.
In recent months, the focus on the carbon economy has swelled following reports of extreme weather conditions. Although this climate issue has been recognized for years, it has been a challenge of translating information into action. Bloomberg has provided a list of sustainability indicators around energy investment, the growing cleantech sector and climate change, among others. The list also provided insight into how these areas are perceived by consumers. Here is a snapshot:
- 78%: polled investors who recognize that climate change is a threat to the environment.
- 75,000: total workers currently employed by the U.S. wind power industry.
- $10 billion: annual savings on U.S. electric bills due to new light bulb standards.
- 5 percentage points: the increase in climate change beliefs since March.
- 75%: world’s surface that had unusually hot summers each year over the last decade.
Following the growth of urbanization and the requisite consumerism that built our economy, to reverse that direction is an endeavor. While the impacts of climate change are continually being explored, proactive ventures to implement cleantech, reduce electricity demand and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, and create jobs are growing. From its early emergence in the 1990s, cleantech was used to describe a group of emerging technologies. Since then, it has defined the shift from business as usual to the evolution of second-generation products or services to accommodate 21st century energy requirements. In 2007, this area received a record $148 billion in new funding in the midst of rising oil prices and climate change policies encouraging the focus on renewable energy.
An example of job creation is found in Sacramento where over $250 million in federal funding has been secured for clean technology and energy efficiency over the past 13 years through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. A leader in cleantech job creation, the region currently sustains over 14,000 jobs and has demonstrated success as an engine for job development and economic growth. By 2018, it is forecast that three clean technology sectors will amass revenues in excess of $325 billion, these include solar photovoltaics, wind power and biofuels. The increasing use of the natural resources of wind, sun and water will offer renewable energy opportunities as well as avenues to invest in the growing cleantech revolution. Investing in the resilience of our environment is essential, yet it will take a consolidated effort to implement clean technologies, create jobs and encourage economic growth.