The benefits of a low-carbon future

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

The costs of early action on climate change are likely to be “several orders of magnitude below those of inaction” and are not just economic, writes Janet Sawin for the Worldwatch Institute.

The 26 September article outlines the benefits of addressing climate change now rather than leaving it until later. 

The non-economic costs of climate change range from disruption caused by drought, flooded coastal areas and loss of arable land to national security threats, explains Sawin. 

She asserts that a “small but growing number” of government and business leaders now recognise the benefits of choosing “a low-carbon path” offering “tremendous opportunities”, especially for those who act early. 

Sawin insists that the development of carbon markets, energy-efficient technologies and practices and renewable energy sources means that “the tools needed to achieve significant emissions reductions are at hand”. 

Energy efficiency and renewable energy has “enormous potential” and represents a “robust alternative to our current energy system”, capable of providing the diverse array of energy services that modern economies demand, she insists. 

Sawin highlights the rapid growth of wind and solar power and massive investment in clean energy technologies such as solar photovoltaics as a sign of a bright future for renewables. 

Moreover, she believes that “literally hundreds of technologies”, as well as buildings and public transport, could be made more efficient, often using options that are already available. 

Such technology also offers other benefits and “enormous opportunities”, such as job creation, healthier people and ecosystems, and cleaner air and water, which help to offset the economic costs of climate change mitigation, she believes. 

Sawin concludes that there is a large resource base for renewable and energy-efficient technologies, which is “ready to be scaled up rapidly to meet a far larger share of global energy demand”, claiming that although it will take time for renewables to replace fossil fuels, “the transition is already well underway”. 

Addressing climate change need not mean sacrificing economic growth and can instead help the world achieve sustainable development as well as better economic performance, she adds. 

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