Taking action on climate can create millions of jobs, drive economic growth, and make the United States more secure and competitive.
Before I was an environmentalist, I was an economist: Seven years as a World Bank economist, another four as executive director of the Bank Information Center, and a few years as a strategy consultant taught me the importance of business, policy, and finance in solving the world’s biggest problems.
Today, there’s no doubt that climate change is an economic issue. Climate-related disasters inflicted more than $145 billion in damage to the U.S economy in the last year alone, according to NOAA. That’s on top of an estimated $820 billion in climate-related health costs each year, as NRDC has found. The good news is that we can blunt these costs by expanding clean energy and taking other climate action. And in doing so, we can create millions of jobs, drive economic growth, and make America more secure and competitive.
That’s the point of a new book by Bob Keefe, executive director of NRDC’s E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs) affiliate: Climatenomics: Washington, Wall Street, and the Economic Battle to Save Our Planet. For more than 20 years, NRDC has partnered with E2 to engage business leaders from every sector of the economy to advance climate and clean energy policies. As E2’s 11,000 members and supporters know, policies that are good for our environment are also good for our economy.
As I wrote in the preface to Climatenomics, the interconnected elements of policy, business, and finance are poised to create a new growth story for the United States. And there’s never been a better or more important time for that than right now.
The American West is on fire again—and even earlier this year—once again threatening lives, homes, businesses, and the economies of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and other states. In the East, hurricane season is right around the corner. Food and gas prices are soaring, due to Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine and to prolonged drought and other climate-related agriculture disasters in our nation’s heartland.
On the other side of the coin, solar and wind are now the cheapest electricity available in most parts of the country, as Climatenomics points out. Every automaker is now shifting to electric vehicles as consumers grow increasingly fed up with perpetually rising gas prices. Energy efficiency innovations in recent years—programmable thermostats, LED lighting, better appliances and building materials—are saving consumers billions of dollars on their electric bills.
All of this is hopeful. But we must do much more to avoid the worst environmental, social, and economic costs of climate change. We must push lawmakers to pass policies—and do it now—to expand clean energy and reduce carbon and other forms of pollution.
As Bob’s very timely book points out, we can start by passing the legislation sitting in Congress right now that would invest some $550 billion over 10 years into critical clean energy investments and climate resilience, and do it with a focus on equity and climate justice. This policy package will not only help slow the economic costs of climate change but also create millions of jobs, cut energy bills for our families, help drive innovation, and make our nation more secure. And it will cost us far less than the impacts of climate change are already costing us.
That’s not only critical environmental and public health policy—it’s smart economics. Put simply: we can no longer afford not to act. We don’t have time for Washington to delay any longer while the costs and risks of climate inaction continue to rise. Our environment, our health, our children can’t wait any more.
Climatenomics makes it clear. We need our lawmakers to act—and act now. For the good of our environment, and the good of our economy.