Climate change and post-pandemic economic recovery

It doesn’t make economic sense to ignore the climate in our recovery from COVID-19.

Climate and economy post pandemic

Anna Skarbek, Monash University

It will be tempting for some to overlook the climate change challenge in the rush to restart the economy after the pandemic.

Federal energy minister Angus Taylor has flagged he wants to develop Australia’s gas-fired power to help boost the economy. And conservative political strategist Sir Lynton Crosby recently argued business survival is more important than environment, social and governance matters.

In the United States, the Trump administration is reportedly contemplating a coronavirus rescue package tailored specifically to oil and natural gas producers, while the Chinese government is trying to stimulate its economy by allowing polluters to bypass environmental regulations.

But the pandemic is not a reason to weaken the commitments to net zero emissions. In fact, climate action is a vital protection against further global shocks, especially as governments plan their post-pandemic stimulus packages.

The economic shock from climate change
The devastation the virus has inflicted is a reminder of our vulnerability and the importance of prevention and mitigation.

It’s a point bolstered by fresh evidence about the scale of economic shock we might face if we fail to meet the targets of the Paris Agreement.

A major study published in Nature Communications last month put a dollar value on the cost of climate inaction. If we don’t prevent the planet warming, we can expect a bill of between $US150 trillion and $US792 trillion by 2100. That’s up to $1,231 trillion in Australian dollars.

The predicted ‘global shock’ would be even more financially catastrophic than coronavirus.

The research, however, also points out some good news. The limitation of global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius would deliver a corresponding boost, with the global economy growing by $US616 trillion compared to inaction.

Big businesses on board
The economic cost of the shutdowns imposed to address the coronavirus pandemic have not been compared to the value of the lives saved.

Climate change action, on the other hand, has repeatedly been found to pass traditional cost-benefit tests. The solutions are known to already be available and effective if deployed in time.

What’s more, new research – with Nobel prize winner Joseph Stiglitz and leading climate economist Nicholas Stern at the helm – shows climate mitigation actions deliver maximum economic growth multiplier benefits from a stimulus perspective.

It found spending on new green energy projects generates twice as many jobs for every dollar invested, compared with equivalent allocations to fossil fuel projects.

Climate action, then, is vital for the economy. That’s why a remarkable list of business leaders have just added their names to a call for stimulus funds to be invested in what they call “the economy of the future”.

This includes chief executives, chairs and senior executives from major organisations including Rio Tinto, BP, Shell, Allianz and HSBC, together with the Energy Transitions Commission (a global group of companies and experts working towards low-carbon energy systems).

They’re urging for massive investments in renewable power systems, a boost for green buildings and green infrastructure, targeted support for innovative low-carbon activities and other similar measures.

In Europe, a coalition of chief executives, politicians and academics is calling for major investment in projects to make the European Union the “world’s first climate-neutral continent” by 2050.

They say the need for state intervention in the wake of the pandemic provides an unparalleled chance to build economies that are sustainable, resilient and dynamic.

Representatives of global companies have signed the “green recovery” platform. These include PepsiCo, Microsoft, Enel, E.ON, Volvo Group, L'Oréal, Danone, Ikea and more.

Technology is getting better
Boosting the economy with climate action is a message our recent research from ClimateWorks Australia reinforces. It shows how we can achieve the Paris targets with technologies already available.

But we can only do it if government, business and consumer decisions support the accelerated deployment of these technologies, and only if we roll out mature zero-emissions technology solutions more quickly across all sectors (not just electricity), and invest in development and commercialisation of emerging solutions in harder-to-abate sectors.

Across all sectors of the Australian economy, technology provides opportunities to decarbonise, and has rapidly improved.

For example, advances in lithium ion technology mean high-tech batteries cost only a fifth of what they did 10 years ago. So it’s easier and cheaper to store electricity than ever before – even as renewables now offer a consistently cheaper source of generation than fossil fuels.

Lithium ion batteries have come a long way in a short time. Shutterstock

Innovations like that have changed the game. A new Australian Energy Market Operator study makes clear that, within five years, Australia can run a power grid in which 75 per cent of electricity comes from wind and solar.

A clean stimulus package
Measures these pathways involve are ideally suited to a stimulus package. Governments could create jobs and spur industry, while modernising the economy for the challenges ahead.

How? By building charging infrastructure to support electric vehicles powered by renewables; encouraging investment in sustainable agriculture, fertiliser management and carbon forestry; deploying PV and battery systems across city buildings; or embracing any number of other ‘shovel ready’ solutions.

Through this pandemic we’ve witnessed how people have learned new approaches and switched mindsets almost as quickly as the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns and social distancing restrictions began.

Just as we’re remembering to wash our hands more than we used to, coming out of the pandemic, it will pay to be more attentive about remembering to choose the zero-emissions option at every step.

We stand at a crossroads. If government stimulus packages around the world favour carbon-intensive practices and miss the moment to modernise and decarbonise, we will lock ourselves into a warming future.

If, however, we rise to the challenge, we can use the recovery from one crisis to simultaneously address another.The Conversation

Anna Skarbek, CEO at ClimateWorks Australia, Monash University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons licence. Read the original article.

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    COMMENTS

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    panos
    18th May 2020
    3:44pm
    Here we go, coal, gas and big oil ready to make our lives misery again....

    They just keep pushing and pushing and buying politicians to push their barrows......

    and we have to keep paying
    Ardee
    18th May 2020
    4:12pm
    Suggest people to watch Michael Moore’s doco” Planet of Humans”and have a look at the
    actual behind the scenes action being foisted upon us.
    Jennie
    18th May 2020
    5:05pm
    YES! The 3 blunders MM makes in the movie are minor. The three correct analyses he makes are major and the elephant in the room is world overpopulation. We humans are an infestation on this beautiful planet.
    Do you remember the movie Dick Smith made quite some years ago about overpopulation? It was actually quite diplomatic.
    panos
    18th May 2020
    5:10pm
    Dont worry COVID 19 will eventually take care of over population, that's the plan
    Buggsie
    18th May 2020
    4:34pm
    I've always known that being able to lie successfully is a political prerequisite but now it seems that "dog in the manger stupid" is also a quality inherent in our political masters. It's obvious to us that things have to change, the first and most important being the government! We need a whole new attitude - Australia and Australians first, stop kowtowing to others no matter who and a developing Aussie pride in innovation and self sufficiency. A government that can get us moving again needsan active partnership between itself, industry, unions and workers, a fair go for all. Won't happen in my lifetime!
    mogo51
    18th May 2020
    5:05pm
    Buggsie, we are on same page. A total reformation for our economy, Australians first and become self sufficient, revive manufacturing. Change foreign ownership laws etc. MAKE AUSTRALIA GREAT AGAIN.
    john
    19th May 2020
    12:11pm
    Do you know your right Buggsie, do you also realise that fossil fuels is the only way we in Australia can develop back our Australian manufacturing industries power/energy is too costly only fossil fuel can help that, and save us, renewables is a pipe dream right now.
    But I think you understand that , I wonder about others brainwashed into false fears.
    Saying that reminds me of the stupidity of the working mans party , not a shadow of the party it is meant to represent, they should be fighting for every industry fossil fuel mining and everything to do with manufacturing in Australia, and selling our good, and also NEVER KOWTOWING TO CHINA AGAIN, Re-establish and strengthen our ties with our friend the USA, we already have the Kiwis'.
    And build up the defence forces , close down the idiotic mess of the French submarine deal, cut our losses and over 5 to 10 years purchase a couple of American nuclear subs, and develop clean nuclear energy as well as clean fossil fuels, this is the only way out for this nation , a bit of pain to get rid of reliance on China, make Australia great again, cause we aren't that great right now!
    If we don't do these things, we will no longer be Australia, we will be Paul Keatings banana republic, kowtowing to all! We also have a few mates in S.E.Asia don't forget!
    Horace Cope
    18th May 2020
    4:57pm
    This is a discussion that has certainly polarised people and for every argument for human intervention in trying to stop climate change there is an argument against the results of human intervention. What annoys me is that when the hard questions are asked such as "How much will all of the changes cost to implement?" there is a non-answer along the lines of "To do nothing will be more costly!"

    Those who want net zero emissions are hoodwinking us. To achieve net zero emissions doesn't mean that we stop producing harmful gases into the atmosphere, it means that we still produce harmful gases into the atmosphere but we pay another impoverished country to grow trees to off-set the emissions of the rich countries.

    I would like some answers to the following questions:
    How many jobs will be lost when we stop mining, fossil fuelled vehicles and reduce the national herd by 2/3rds?
    How many jobs will be created by renewable energy installations?
    Nuclear power is the most efficient, low cost and low polluting energy provider available but why doesn't Australia embrace it?
    What is the range of an electric car towing a caravan?
    What is the range of an electric semi-trailer or farm machinery?
    When the battery is getting low on an electric vehicle, does it maintain top speed or drive slower?
    An aluminium smelter has stated that it will run for 8 minutes on batteries, what will be done to keep that industry in Australia.

    All of these are simple questions and perhaps may be treated lightly but I consider them an important part of living the way we have become accustomed to. Just as today's pandemic has governments running a balance between health and the economy, any actions to try and change the climate must also run a balance between climate action and the economy.
    panos
    18th May 2020
    5:12pm
    Alcoa get get rid of em..... power wasters
    sainter
    18th May 2020
    5:27pm
    You've got a balance between climate and the economy Horace Cop,you left one out the health situation we need to seriously start to think about that to.
    sainter
    18th May 2020
    5:27pm
    You've got a balance between climate and the economy Horace Cop,you left one out the health situation we need to seriously start to think about that to.
    john
    19th May 2020
    12:19pm
    People who say to do nothing will make it worse, is absolute nonsense and politic/speak Bill Shorten made a fool of himself saying it as dod Albanesi a few weeks back.
    We need to do this , re establish our clean coal industry , gas and oil, or we will be living in a misery far worse than the climate change fools think as they spray around their nonsense, as they say STOP ALL FOSSIL FUELS!!!
    They actually do not know what that would lead to.
    Rosret
    18th May 2020
    6:50pm
    My wish is that netflix improves its content so when COVID is over and the ABC revives its never ending Climate change vitriol I can switch them off.
    sainter
    19th May 2020
    7:49am
    Watch the anti vitriol on climate change on fox Rosret,you'll never switch it off,plus all the other rubbish they go on about.I wasted my time watching it once and that was once too many times.
    sainter
    19th May 2020
    7:49am
    Watch the anti vitriol on climate change on fox Rosret,you'll never switch it off,plus all the other rubbish they go on about.I wasted my time watching it once and that was once too many times.
    john
    19th May 2020
    12:21pm
    The ABC is the worst thing we have for propaganda at this time, for sure, they are rabid liars half the time.
    The ABC leave A. Bolts bias dead in the water, he actually finds things out, while they simply run full bore left wing lies.
    Franky
    19th May 2020
    6:19am
    The worst death rates from the virus are in the most heavily polluted areas of the world. That's also where the virus originated. Could it be that it's nature giving us a wake up call?
    john
    19th May 2020
    11:50am
    Climate change is simply not a problem. We have no say in it what so ever. I'm sorry to all the climate warming fanatics, but unfortunately, throughout the history of this bit of rock we inhabit, the climate has heated, cooled become moderate again and then gone into ice ages etc!
    These things have all happened before we ever burnt coal for energy. The climate changers are politically led and driven and have used all sorts of disputed scientific statistics to convince the regular over-worried citizens of the world to became as fanatical about a phenomenon that is part of the natural set up of this planet. Panos coal gas and big oil or just plain oil this is how we survive in a modern world, renewables are not up to scratch, they do not deliver to the degree needed, going hell bent for leather to stamp out fossil fuels is the first step to disintergration of our modern society, if we lose the mod cons of this planet we will return to the dark ages .
    We almost have with coronavirus, and here we go again the politically driven climate socialists raving about the disaster the world faces when the evidence is scrappy sometimes proven false other times or grossly exxagerated and even temperatures in other places around the world are showing "the" coldest month periods for many years in their stats.
    Now the doom sayers may think well that's a lie, we could say the same about the doomsayers couldn't we? And the hottest day on record somewhere, that the stats mad warmers put out could be rubbish too.
    I'D LIKE TO KNOW HOW YOU MEASURE SEA LEVEL AND TEMPERATURE WHEN THE THING 70 % OF THE WORLD WATER AND MOVES ALL THE TIME.
    When the true official information is that Pacific islands are not sinking, when the real menace is the pollution of rubbish and filth that is dropped in our oceans rivers lakes bushlands plains cities , not what we put in the air.
    Then the warmers abuse children putting them on strike, then a poor girl from Europe Greta Thunberg is lead through a [propaganda commentary like she was some religious messanger! She is a misinformed child!
    I 'd like you all to think about the coronavirus without fossil fuel??????? How do we get the base power needed to run EVERYTHING!!! EVEERYTHING.... that has to do with helping saving lives of sufferers OF THIS PANDEMIC?
    Ever thought about the electricity in hospitals and nursing homes in households where people are locked away, can you imagine the new needs now for base power because of the restarting of world communities. And business.
    How can anyone with even the slightest amount of common sense understand that nature controls us, we don't control us, we do with what we've discovered as a human animal living on planet earth and doing our best with the evolution nature has provided in us, Homo Sapiens WE DO NOT CONTROL THE EARTH AND IF WE DO THINGS THAT ARE DETRIMENTAL, THEN WE WILL DISAPPEAR INTO EXTINCTION. LIKE EVERY OTHER LIFEFORM IN WORLD HISTORY DOES, EVERYTHING GOES EXTINCT!
    It's called nature, we are ants on this planet, intelligent ones yes, perhaps, but we are so small in our numbers (8 Billion) to be that arrogant that we think we can control nature and think we are so dangerous to the planet, we live on.
    Then, we all need to look at this thing we live on, it is so big the human with all its intelligence just can't see it. Also that same human thinks we can change , well we can be cleaner with our filth and waste, but we will need fossil fuels to survive like we try to now. If not we will be in a place that all the warming fanatics seem to have no idea what so ever , it means to go backwards, especially with a most violent predatory animal to live with in our midst, the bleeding human being.
    So have a think? You fanatics! And grow a brain without blatant biased fake reports that you believe but in reality will ruin your world. Surely the bulldust has to stop after this!
    john
    19th May 2020
    12:01pm
    There's Jennie with world over population? NO we're not! We are ants on this huge planet, we are like 10 billion tiny dessert ants, living in the Sahara, no affect barely seen.
    Massive cities with millions of people , are little spots on the planets maps, we are nothing.
    Humans cannot grasp the size of planet earth. We really can't, and that is why this panic ridden climate nonsense is with us, all the warmers can see is crowds , just imaginative crowds , which we humans tend to gather in, ever thought about the open spaces of the planet. Climate has always been with us, before fossil fuels and it has changed to hot and cold for all of time. There is no more to say! But the world knows inside each individual the gut feeling on it, its politics. Those who only see tunnel vision inside their heads are really a minority with an agenda to follow. Article above is left wing fear mongering, and at this time in our corona history we better smarten up.
    floss
    19th May 2020
    12:19pm
    Would any one trust Angus Taylor he is on record as being a liar.Take the time out to check on what he tried to pull on Clover Moore.
    KSS
    19th May 2020
    3:46pm
    I'll just raise a couple of points in this circular debate:

    1. Since the world went into lockdown, coal and oil were still mined (indeed the price of oil dropped), coal-fired generators still produced energy, people still used electricity, bought stuff, ate meat, the same amount of renewables were used, more people used more electricity because they were at home more, and what happened? Skies cleared, air cleared, smog and pollution lifted, bike sales soared things were 'better'! And all in about 8 weeks. So the main issue seems to be travel whether domestic in various vehicles and international air travel.

    So what is the cause of climate change? Clearly not coal mining or coal fired electricity!

    2. The Greens ae now demanding a further $300 BILLION of debt to be borrowed to prop up their green policies. We already have 1.5 million who lost their jobs during the lockdown and another 6 million on financial support. How many jobs would be lost of we followed the Greens' policies?

    3. There were reports just yesterday of a study of the giants that roamed the Australian tropics between 40,000 and 60,000 years ago. Why did these megafauna become extinct? "The time frame of their disappearance coincided with sustained regional changes in available water and vegetation, as well as increased fire frequency. This combination of factors may have proven fatal to the giant land and aquatic species.....Major environmental change and extinctions are not an unusual part of our geological past" Now given that 40,000 to 60,000 years ago, there was no coal fired generators, there were far fewer people populating the planst, not one of whom had cars, phones, were meat echewing vegans, can we just accept that climate change is real and an evitable condition of earth, that it is in constant states of warning and cooling and has been for millenia. Man has little to do with it and a windmill or two will make absolutely no difference!
    Bigben
    22nd May 2020
    11:23am
    Just a few comments on your post
    1. Electricity production has dropped considerably because industry and commerce has been in lock down. It is true to say that this in part has been compensated for as result of people being at home during the daytime but it is only a drop in the ocean. Travel does comprise a large part of our co2 emissions and the absence of travel due to the lock down and the closure of borders has resulted in there being less emissions.
    2. You need to explain which of the Greens policies give you concern.
    3. It is true to say that the earth's climate has undergone previous changes. It is however true to say that over the last 100 years co2 emissions from human activity has given rise to a temperature increase of 1c and sea level rise of 300mm. It should of course be noted that the earth's population has increased by over 450% during the last 100 years and by 55% over last 30 years. Such an increase in population is the reason for the increase in co2 emissions and is not sustainable.
    Couldabeen
    27th May 2020
    8:10pm
    Bigben, You will have to come up with some dodgy recordings to find your sea level rise of 300mm as here in Australia with records in Sydney and Hobart habours showing no appreciable level change in over 120 years of consistent and continual readings.
    The claim of 1 degree C increase (in over 100 years) is less than half of what was being predicted by the increase in CO2 concentrations. Interpretations of CO2 levels from ice cores and sediment beds show that there have been times when the level was more than 10 times what it is now. Life thrived in that environment.
    What the reductions in emissions have done is uncertain apart from particle contamination. The CO2 readings at Muana Loa in Hawaii have not shown any appreciable reduction.
    Many industries have continued unabated as that's what they do.
    The increase in global population is not to be feared as there is no real danger to anyone. None of the shortages in resources that have been predicted for over 200 years have eventuated and when viewed away from a political agenda, are very unlikely to occur within the next few centuries.


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