It’s not just the nearly 150 world leaders gathering in Paris at the 2015 U.N. Climate Change Conference, including President Barack Obama, or most of the world’s climate scientists who are sounding the alarm about climate change. Two months ago six of the biggest U.S. banks called for governments to adopt policies that will help accelerate investment and innovation in low-carbon energy sources, and this week one of those banks, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, published a 332-page report calling for solutions.
“We view climate change as one of the defining issues of our time,” costing ”unprecedented damage to financial stability,” states the report, noting that 2015 is the hottest year on record and 14 out of 15 of the earth’s warmest years have occurred since 2000.
Among the global costs it lists are:
- $4 trillion in weather-related losses and 2.5 million lives lost over the past 30 years
- Nearly $200 billion in annual economic losses due to natural disasters over the past 10 years, up from $50 billion in the 1980s
- 1.6% loss in annual GDP, equivalent to $1.2 trillion
- 5 million deaths per year – 400,000 due to hunger and disease and 4.5 million due to air pollution, cancer and hazardous jobs.
The outlook grows even dimmer if no action is taken to change global policies to address climate change, according to the report, “A Call to Action – Climate Change Solutions Primer.”
Global GDP growth will be reduced by 1% to 5% a year; millions more will die from weather-related storms, pollution and disease; and investment portfolios will lose as much as 45% of their value as early as 2020. Emerging economies would suffer the most but developed economies would also be hurt.
“Doing nothing could be catastrophic,” the report says. “Those who argue that reducing emissions will be too expensive ignore the long-term costs of climate change — economic studies have consistently shown that mitigation is several times less costly than trying to adapt to climate change.”
The actual losses in lives and economic growth will depend, of course, on how much temperatures actually rise. The key number that scientists and policymakers are focusing on is 2 degrees Celsius — whether global temperatures rise an average 2 degrees Celsius above the temperatures that prevailed in the late 1800s when the burning of fossil fuels became widespread.