By Tim King
MN350 volunteer

This article originally appeared on Central Minnesota Political.

Do you want to estimate the cost of Hurricane Dorian? There’s no way to measure the short- or long-term pain, suffering, and deep emotional trauma of the people of the Bahamas. It will resonate in their lives and their children’s lives in incalculable ways for as long as they live.

In addition to the immeasurable emotional and physical loss, there is the economic loss. How many billions of dollars has, and will, Dorian cost? Not all of the storm’s havoc is attributable to climate disruption, but a substantial portion is.

Survivor of Hurricane Dorian. Image: Getty Images.

When a politician such as Bernie Sanders, Jay Inslee, or Elizabeth Warren steps forward with a plan to address the crisis, their plan is always evaluated and measured by how much it will cost. Rarely is the price of inaction, or insipid action, measured.

As a recent article in The Nation noted, “The economic cost of allowing temperatures to rise even a couple of degrees above [the 2 degrees Celsius] target is simply staggering.” Four years ago, The Economist attempted to analyze the potential cost of inaction to investors, publishing a scholarly peer reviewed paper on the subject. Here’s the first paragraph from the executive summary of that report:

“The asset management industry—and thus the wider community of investors of all sizes—is facing the prospect of significant losses from the effects of climate change. Assets can be directly damaged by floods, droughts and severe storms, but portfolios can also be harmed indirectly, through weaker growth and lower asset returns. Climate change is a long-term, probably irreversible problem beset by substantial uncertainty. Crucially, however, climate change is a problem of extreme risk: this means that the average losses to be expected are not the only source of concern; on the contrary, the outliers, the particularly extreme scenarios, may matter most of all.”

The authors of the paper went on to say that by the year 2100, climate disruption could cause a loss of roughly $4.2 trillion, an amount equal to the total GDP of Japan, from the world’s stock markets. They point out that this amount only reflects the costs to privately held stocks. It doesn’t reflect the cost to other sectors of the economy.

For example, a recent study by economists at the University of Chicago reports that climate change could cost the U.S. up to 10.5 percent of its GDP by 2100 if average temperatures continue to rise at the pace of recent years.

So, the question is not, “What will a climate disruption plan of action cost?”  The question is: “Is this plan’s investment adequate to save humanity from global impoverishment?”

MN350’s campaigns work to secure the clean air, clean water, stable climate and equitable future that our children and grandchildren deserve – join us! 

Tim King is a farmer, journalist, and MN350 volunteer living west of Long Prairie, MN.