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MYTH #100: Carbon limits will harm the economy


Cutting carbon emissions will cut growth, cut the GDP and destroy our modern civilization.


The worst thing we can do for our economy is sit back and do nothing about climate change.

If we don't do anything about climate change, we will have serious economic problems on our hands. By one estimate, each ton of carbon pollution we put in the air costs society at least $85. Humans put about 35 billion tons of carbon pollution into the atmosphere every year! Here's the good news: A shift to a low-carbon economy could add $2.5 trillion to the world economy annually. That's why we need to stop changing the climate with carbon pollution from fossil fuels like oil and gas. Storms, droughts, sea level rise and the other impacts of climate change are terrible prospects for human beings and will put a heavy burden on the world economy.

Additional info from The Climate Reality Project

Coal, oil and gas have been our main sources of energy for over 100 years. So it’s understandable that the thought of switching from those dirty sources of fuel causes a bit of panic. But here’s the thing: These sources of energy release carbon pollution, which is causing dangerous changes in our climate. Climate change has costs that don’t show up at the gas pump or on our electricity bills, but that we pay nonetheless. 

For example, carbon pollution makes us more vulnerable to extreme weather events like heat waves or strong storms. In 2011, the U.S. experienced a record 14 weather disasters that each caused at least $1 billion in damages. The total price tag for this string of extreme weather? More than $60 billion

Here's our choice: We can continue to rely on dirty fossil fuels, with substantial financial and human costs. Or, we can power our economy with clean, renewable energy. In fact, clean energy is already contributing to the global economy. In 2011, global investment reached a record high of $257 billion; investment in solar energy alone increased by more than 50% in just one year.  

If we look at just the U.S., a limit on carbon pollution could expand just the U.S. GDP by more than $155 billion a year (PDF). Limiting carbon pollution will create jobs and create new opportunities for businesses and entrepreneurs. We’ll reduce financial burdens on households when we end our dependence on fossil fuels. And new technologies will help consumers reduce heating and air conditioning bills and the cost of filling the gas tank. 

But don’t take our word for it. Just look at places that are already cutting their carbon pollution and reaping the economic benefits. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), launched in 2008, is a program to reduce carbon pollution in several Mid-Atlantic and Northeast states. In just a few short years, the program has injected $1.6 billion into the regional economy and created 16,000 jobs! For example, New York’s incredibly successful clean energy and energy efficiency programs have resulted in numerous new companies, thousands of new jobs and millions in private investment dollars. And in Vermont, RGGI helped generate an additional $24 million in economic growth. There aren’t many job programs that can boast that kind of success rate. 

Policies that promote low-carbon technologies help create jobs and build a better future. Reducing carbon pollution and switching to clean, renewable energy will help the economy grow.