By s4n_bl0g. Global Warming. Published at Tuesday, January 08th, 2019 - 14:00:04 PM.
Turning Point: A landmark climate report from the United Nations described a world of worsening food shortages and wildfires, and a mass die-off of coral reefs as soon as 2040.
The attitude that nature is a static element at the service of humanity has long prevailed. The more enlightened among us, however, have realized that this outlook will lead to our ruin. The environment is no longer a secondary concern; it is, in fact, nothing less than the imperative that should guide all future questions about long-term development.
As industrialized nations like Brazil and China continue to grow, and their middle classes continue to expand, and in the wake of the U.S. rejection of the Paris Agreement, it is more vital than ever for smaller nations like Chile — who are often the ones to bear the brunt of coastal damage from climate change — to work toward preserving the environment while maintaining forward economic momentum.
The good news is that the urgency of our current environmental plight has accelerated our awareness. The bad news is that we’re already late. We are the last generation of decision makers that can act in time to avoid a planetary catastrophe. The decisions we make today could lead us toward a more climate-resilient future, or they could undermine food, water and energy security for decades to come.
Grasping the significance of environmental issues in any discussion on development inevitably leads to questions about its costs. Mitigation and, above all, adaptation and the transitional process away from outdated productive models require a considerable allocation of resources. Once we accept the notion that short-term economic growth cannot be our only guiding principle, the next questions are: How much do we want to invest in this? How much are we willing to sacrifice?
There is no simple answer. But the key here is understanding that any economic reading must acknowledge the comparatively low cost of going down this path, especially when taking into account the effects of rising CO2 levels.
Every day, new studies provide evidence of the price of inaction: droughts, forest fires, severe storms or extreme rainfall, with a strong impact on crops, livestock or infrastructure. The price of inaction is also visible in the forced displacement of millions of people, and in public health systems suddenly under pressure to respond to new epidemiological scenarios.
According to the World Bank, the impact of extreme natural disasters is the equivalent of a $520 billion loss in annual consumption. In fact, climate change could force 100 million people back into extreme poverty by 2030. As experts have pointed out before, if we do not manage climate change, we are simply undoing development.
This is a task we began to undertake, at least partially, in Chile. Thanks to an aggressive energy agenda set in 2014, during my second term as president, we have tripled the quantity of renewable energies in our matrix and lowered prices from $130 to $32 per megawatt hour. Before 2014, not only were we dependent on energy imported from other countries, we were also at the mercy of long, severe droughts. Since then, we have harnessed the power of the sun and the wind in our deserts and along our coastlines, and made use of steam from deep inside our volcanoes via geothermal plants. We increased the area of ocean waters under state protection to preserve our fishing resources and the coastline ecosystem. By working with the private sector, we were also able to increase land protection to an area the size of Switzerland, which opens up enormous possibilities in the development of sustainable tourism. We are also investing in the future with the first green taxes in the region, and the prohibition of plastic bags.
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