The effects of climate change are not limited to the natural world. While humans are impacted by the natural changes in their environment and climate, climate change causes negative economic impacts to increase. The effects of escalating temperatures, wildfires, deforestation, drought, and rising sea levels will continue to creep into all sectors of the economy. These events force communities to relocate, but also to lose their livelihoods and their homes, creating economic distress. And it seems that no country will be spared.
According to the World Bank, worker productivity declines by two percent for every degrees celsius above room temperature. A report by the International Labour Organization found that by 2030 a decrease in productivity will reach 2.2 percent of global working hours because of heat stress.
High temperatures put workers at risk of dehydration, stress, and heat stroke – which is a major concern for those who work in direct sunlight such as construction workers and farmers. It is estimated that by 2028 (just nine years away) heatwaves and other effects of climate change will cost the USA $360 billion per year in health costs.
The multiple and large-scale impacts of climate change lead many to think that individual actions alone won’t solve the problem entirely. Businesses, if not compelled by the law to change their practices, are unlikely to take meaningful action. So to truly curb global warming and its effects, it is clear that governments need to step up, and make changes at a higher level.
The UN Climate Report 2018 outlines a number of changes governments can make. The report advises that we transition out of dirty sources of energy (such as fossil fuels) and instead opt for low-emission energy produced by renewable sources. It also suggests that we alter our diets to lower our dependence on land and water-intensive agricultural practices (such as beef and soy consumption), and encourages the use of green roofs on buildings. However, these solutions remain financially out of reach for many individuals without the help of government support.
Some positive initiatives have been taken by governments hand in hand with citizens. This was the case recently in Ethiopia, when volunteers from the Green Legacy Initiative planted a record of 50 million trees in just 12 hours. The Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said he envisions a total of four billion trees to be planted in an effort to tackle deforestation in the country, mainly caused by a growing population and unsustainable farming.
In addition to policy changes, we need to see more initiatives like this happen.
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