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Five things to take away from David Suzuki's latest article: the Economics of Global Warming

Scott Sutherland
Meteorologist/Science Writer

Wednesday, July 9, 2014, 1:07 PM - Dr. David Suzuki is one of Canada's foremost scientists, with a keen interest in protecting the natural environment of our planet and taking action against climate change. In his latest article on EcoWatch.com, he discusses the economics of global warming, and makes several key points that we need to consider when thinking about the future.

1. "Climate change poses a severe risk to global economic stability."

Whenever we hear it suggested that we delay action, or simply do nothing about climate change, because it will be damaging to the economy of the countries who act, remember these words from Jim Yong Kim, the president of the World Bank Group:

"Climate change poses a severe risk to global economic stability," he said, in a recent press release regarding a new report released by the World Bank.

Whatever the cost to our current economy from taking action now against fossil fuel burning and climate change, the economic impact of taking action later, and indeed the impact from the changes to the climate themselves, have the potential to be far, far worse.

2. Fossil fuels are limited and limiting.

Focusing on fossil fuel production is to focus on short-term benefits instead of long-term survival, and on small-scale benefits rather than large-scale prosperity. It's a fact that, no matter how many new sources of oil we find, there is always going to be a finite supply in the ground. As production drops and consumption continues to rise, this will financially benefit only those who control production, along with the people they pay to help them continue producing (including those who, even now, expend considerable effort to sew doubt and confusion about the reality of climate change). Rather than catering to the interests of such a small number of people at the expense of the rest of us, it is in the best interests of everyone for us to abandon fossil fuels while they are still relatively abundant (and thus inexpensive), and switch to other, more long-term energy solutions that will carry our civilization far into the future.

3. This isn't just about the economy.

While the focus of recent discussions seem to be on the economic impacts from all this, climate change is going to have an enormous impact on the health of our planet's ecosystem, and in turn, on our health as well. High carbon dioxide levels may be touted as "plant food" by some, but according to science, those high carbon dioxide levels result in a lower level of key nutrients in the crops we grow for food, specifically in iron, zinc and protein levels from wheat, rice, peas and soybeans. Deficiencies in those nutrients are already having a large impact on the world population, and this will grow worse, adding to other problems such as droughts, famines and the spread of disease.

4. Solutions to the problem of climate change include solutions to economic impacts.

During Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott's visit to Ottawa, he and Prime Minister Stephen Harper took a stance against taxing carbon, with Harper saying: "No matter what they say, no country is going to take actions that are going to deliberately destroy jobs and growth in their country."

However, this ignores the fact that the solutions we enact to curb fossil fuel burning and reduce the future impacts of climate change will mean more research, new technologies and increased development in the energy sector. This will create new jobs and drive new economic opportunities and growth.

5. We're all in this together.

This is as much as warning as it is a rallying call. Changes to the climate will affect us all, no matter where we live on this planet, so it is an issue that should be important to all of us. Also, while individual nations may have a limited ability to make a large impact on their own, if we work together towards solutions we can overcome anything. We did so in the '70s, by coming together to reduce the amount of sulphur dioxide and similar chemicals into the atmosphere, to address the growing problem of acid rain. We did so again in the '80s to phase out chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and we still have an ozone layer to show for it. It all comes down to having the right people as our elected officials, who will come together in this time of crisis, to act for the benefit of everyone, and that puts all the power squarely in our hands and in our votes. Put the right leaders into power, and let's get on the road to a long-term and sustainable future.

Take heed Canada: Climate risks outlined in new report about U.S. economy won't be stopped at the border
U.S. Climate report: Time is now for Canada to take action on climate change
New U.S. Clean Energy Plan may spur global action against climate change
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