Inaction is a luxury that humanity can no longer afford. It is a luxury as global warming has already started changing our planet and it will continue to do so. This is going to be extremely expensive.
Insurance companies were the first to identify the phenomenon: as the years have gone by, they have noticed an increase in the number of payouts they have had to make to their customers because of Hurricane Katrina, heatwaves like the one that occurred in Europe in 2003 and floods in Central Europe and Asia… Experts have since tried to fully evaluate the phenomenon. According to one of them, Nicholas Stern, an economist working for the British government, global warming will cost about 5% of the world GDP today and in coming years. If we take a wider range of risks and consequences into account, the damage could go up to 20% of the GDP. This is the equivalent of 5000 billion dollars or the combined cost of the two world wars and the 1929 recession.
And yet, again according to Nicholas Stern, preventive measures are 10 to 20 times less expensive. What a saving! Even if the current crisis is taking its toll on the economy, the investments we need to make to re-orientate our society will therefore be profitable. Moreover, the longer we wait to act, the more the situation will become difficult, the more the necessary steps will be restrictive and the more it will cost. According to experts, we have about ten years to act. After that, it will be very difficult to turn back.
Humanity can react. But new methods will have to be found to make decisions and share out the effort as the current system has not managed to do this. As Nicholas Stern writes: “Climate change presents a unique challenge for economics: it is the greatest and widest-ranging market failure ever seen”.