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Stabilize the climate: Fish, people, economies benefit


In an article in The Guardian in May, a state park police officer is seen walking across the cracked, dry bed of O C Fisher Lake. This reservoir in Texas, though historically subject to large water fluctuations, has seen its water storage extremely low since the mid 1990s, at less than 10 percent full.

Its storage at around 80 thousand acre-feet in 1960s, as shown on a park website graphic, heat and droughts under the warming climate have decimated it to 20 or less, and empty several years, since the turn of the century.

The headline of the article, “Global warming will depress economic growth” reflects the damage to once thriving sports fishing and tourism activities associated with the lake, in that region. On a larger scale, a working paper published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond this year found seasonal temperatures to have large and systemic effects on the economy, with result that “global warming could significantly hamper U.S. economic growth.”

In searing heat, shop owners in Jonesborough may find their income low as few folks are visiting. The southern states, which have the hottest summertime temperatures, are expected to see these rise significantly if the global warming trend is not halted.

In the American Economic Journal in 2012 and other publications since then, a number of researchers have documented a strong relationship between temperature and Gross Domestic Product, and the negative effect on GDP as temperatures rise.

One recent study found that limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial level temperatures would likely save the global economy more than $20 trillion by the year 2100, as compared to 2°C warming. At cost of $300 billion, the benefits of thus limiting global climate change would exceed the costs by about 70-to-1.

In their historic agreement in Paris, 195 nations committed to limit the increase in global average temperature to “well below 2°C,” and preferably to 1.5°. Many sobering indications of what continued inertia on effective climate policy means – the hurricanes last year and scorching, deadly heat waves in many parts of the world recently – urge action. Thus, and as many studies now show, achieving the lower-increase goal (1.5°) of the Paris agreement and curbing the greenhouse gases in the most efficient manner will be hugely advantageous, even from an economic perspective alone.

The Climate Leadership Council, composed of major business leaders and Republican elder statesmen from earlier administrations, is calling for a carbon tax as most effective, fastest solution to climate change, as does the Citizens’ Climate Lobby organization. Both the Council’s and CCL’s policy plans, which would return all revenue to American households, would grow the economy. In the Citizens’ Climate Lobby plan, a net GDP increase of $1.3 trillion is expected, over 20 years.

For the sunfish, bass and other aquatic life in dwindling freshwater lakes, and for local and national economies worldwide, one hopes that the US Congress, with help from Representative Phil Roe, will pass an effective, carbon-pricing climate policy soon.