JAMES BUTLER | CLIMATE CHANGE ADVOCATE

Jun 14, 2017

On today’s Show, we speak with James Butler from Climate Change the New Economy (CCTNE), about the business, politics and frightening imperative of Global Warming. Not since cigarettes in the 1950’s has scientific fact been so muddied by political and industry power brokers.

“As human beings, we are vulnerable to confusing the unprecedented with the improbable. In our everyday experience, if something has never happened before, we are generally safe in assuming it is not going to happen in the future, but the exceptions can kill you and climate change is one of those exceptions”. – Al Gore

Valuable Links and References

Background – Global Warming

Global warming is the term used to describe a gradual increase in the average temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere and its oceans, a change that is believed to be permanently changing the Earth’s climate. There is great debate among many people, and increasingly in the news, on whether global warming is real (some call it a hoax). But 97% of climate scientists looking at the data and facts agree the planet is warming. While many view the effects of global warming to be more substantial and more rapidly occurring than others do, the scientific consensus on climatic changes related to global warming is that the average temperature of the Earth has risen between 0.4 and 0.8 °C over the past 100 years. The increased volumes of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases released by the burning of fossil fuels, land clearing, agriculture, and other human activities, are believed to be the primary sources of the global warming that has occurred over the past 50 years. Scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate carrying out global warming research have recently predicted that average global temperatures could increase between 1.4 and 5.8 °C by the year 2100. Changes resulting from global warming include rising sea levels due to the melting of the polar ice caps, as well as an increase in occurrence and severity of storms and other severe weather events.

The Paris Climate Accord

The Paris Climate Accord, is an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) dealing with greenhouse gas emissions mitigationadaptation and finance starting in the year 2020. The language of the agreement was negotiated by representatives of 196 parties at the 21st Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC in Paris and adopted by consensus on 12 December 2015. As of June 2017, 195 UNFCCC members have signed the agreement, 148 of which have ratified it.

In the Paris Agreement, each country determines, plans and regularly reports its own contribution it should make to mitigate global warming. There is no mechanism to force a country to set a specific target by a specific date, but each target should go beyond previously set targets.

USA Withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord

On 1 June 2017, President Donald Trump justified pulling the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord largely, he said, because it would hurt the United States economy. “As of today, the United States will cease all implementation of the nonbinding Paris accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country,” Trump said at the 1 June news conference.

But the idea that the Paris Agreement will harm the economy is nonsensical, said Jonathan Koomey, a lecturer in Earth Systems at the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences at Stanford University. For one, the agreed-upon emissions cuts are nonbinding; the only legal obligation is that the United States report its carbon emissions. So, if the required cuts are too damaging to the economy, the United States is free to revise its emissions goals, he said.

“You can’t have nonbinding standards that are draconian,” Koomey told Live Science.

Beyond that, most economic analyses suggest that environmental regulations may actually boost the economy, both because they spur innovation and because they prevent harm, Koomey said.

In his speech, Trump cited statistics from a coal-industry-funded think tank, called the National Economic Research Associates, which claimed that the burdens from the nonbinding climate agreement would cost about $2.7 million in total jobs lost by 2025. He claimed it would cut production in the paper industry by 12 percent, the cement industry by 23 percent, the iron and steel industry by 38 percent, and the coal industry by 86 percent. He also cited a $3 billion pledge the United States made to help developing countries reduce their carbon emissions. (The annual United States budget is $3.8 trillion, meaning the pledge amounts to less than 0.1 percent of yearly expenditures.)

The idea that environmental regulation hurts the economy is not a new one, Koomey said. With almost any new regulation, entrenched interests say the costs will harm the economy and eliminate jobs. “In virtually every case that’s been false,” Koomey said.

The reason is simple: Environmental pollution costs money, reduces productivity and kills people, so reducing it typically has financial benefits for society. For instance, because carbon dioxide acts as a lung irritant,, fully implementing the Clean Power Plan set up by President Barack Obama would lead to about 3,500 fewer deaths by 2020, according to a 2015 study in the journal Nature Climate Change. A peer-reviewed study conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2001 found that the Clean Air Act, which was passed in 1990, prevented 160,000 premature deaths in 1990, 130,000 heart attacks, 86,000 emergency-room visits and 13 million lost days of work due to the negative health consequences of air pollution. The benefit-to-cost ratio, according to the EPA, was 30 to 1. [5 Ways Climate Change Will Affect Your Health].

“Environmental pollution costs society money and it kills people,” Koomey said. “So, if you fix that problem, then society is better off.”

That’s not even addressing the trillions of dollars that will be spent if climate change leads to some combination of coastal flooding, droughts, water shortages, heat waves, crop loss, famine and war, he added. According to a 2015 study by Citigroup, negative effects from climate change could total $44 trillion if the United States fails to shift to more renewable energy sources.

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