The global coronavirus pandemic cost almost every country a significant chunk of their economies in record-breaking contractions of gross domestic product, but things could always be worse.
And they will be worse every single year in the future according to a new study from Oxfam and the insurance industry. They estimate that if the planet warms as much as we currently expect it to, climate change will cost more than the pandemic did every single year.
Some countries will suffer far more than others.
The G7 countries – the world’s biggest industrialized economies – will lose 8.5% of GDP a year, or nearly $5tn wiped off their economies, within 30 years if temperatures rise by 2.6C, as they are likely to on the basis of government pledges and policies around the world, according to research from Oxfam and the Swiss Re Institute.
The economies of G7 nations contracted by about 4.2% on average in the coronavirus pandemic, and the economic losses from the climate crisis by 2050 would be roughly on the scale of suffering a similar crisis twice every year, according to the research. The UK’s economy would lose 6.5% a year by 2050 on current policies and projections, compared with 2.4% if the goals of the Paris climate agreement are met.
Other nations will be hit much worse, including India, whose economy will shrink by a quarter owing to a 2.6C temperature increase, while Australia will suffer a loss of 12.5% of output, and South Korea will lose nearly a tenth of its economic potential.
Swiss reinsurance giant Swiss Re found that G7 countries aren't even doing enough to meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement that set a goal of limiting warming to +1.5 degrees Celsius. If that's the case, assuming temperatures will rise by 2.6 degrees Celsius as projected above does not seem like a stretch. It may not even take until the year 2050 for that to happen.
Here in the United States, Republicans are fighting to stop the Biden administration from passing infrastructure spending bills that will serve as a down payment on tackling climate change or at least adapting to it. They're doing this because they only care about the next election cycle; only care about regaining political power. They want to regain power and use it to do virtually nothing.
It feels like an exaggeration when I put it on those terms, but it really isn't. Republicans held full or partial control of Congress for eight out of the last ten years and the only thing they did of any significance was cut taxes for the rich. They want power just to sit on it like a dragon sleeping on a mountain of gold.