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Words May M. El Ali

The emission of greenhouse gases, which translates into an increase in temperature, is negatively impacting every living thing on the planet.  It has become a race with time to slow down or reverse the damage that is being caused by the unprecedented rise in temperature.  The economic impact of climate change could be severe, and we are already seeing the damage in the numbers.

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The impact on GDP

The global average temperature is expected to be 4oC higher than it was in preindustrial times by the end of the century. Implementing a portion of the Paris Agreement (COP21) could limit the increase to 2oC or even 1.5oC. High temperatures will cause economic damage that will eventually cause a decrease in economic growth. This means less business activity, lower incomes, a decrease in government revenues, and an increase in government costs. The impact on GDP growth is actually five times greater than the direct impact of droughts, storms, and higher temperatures. It is necessary to make people understand the economic effects of climate change, so as to motivate them to reduce greenhouse gases emissions on the one hand, and to prepare for changes in climate on the other hand. It is only when people realize that the benefits of taking action outweigh the costs that they will take action. In other words, the cost of taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is far less than the cost of doing nothing.

Nobody on this planet

is going to be untouched by the impacts of

climate change.”

Rajendra K. Patchauri

The price paid by different sectors

Only when we start thinking about what climate change is going to cost households, businesses, and communities, do we begin to see action. The effects of climate change on Lebanon’s different economic sectors are better understood through data. The data show us how each person, worker, family, business, and community in Lebanon is incurring costs from climate change, which affects agriculture, food, water, electricity, and biodiversity. It causes land degradation, impacts workers and migration, and promotes an increase in violence. Climate change has a very negative effect on human health, which is suffering the most from this phenomenon.

Information from ministries and research studies from the Eastern Mediterranean region show that climate change is already killing about 30,000 to 35,000 people per year in Lebanon, and that 15 percent of the population is already experiencing diseases and disabilities as a result of it. The second highest cost of climate change is paid by the agricultural sector, amounting to around 300 million dollars. In addition, global food prices are increasing and households have to pay more (almost 500 million dollars), which adds up to around a billion dollars in the food-agriculture sector alone.

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The need for sustainable energy

Integrated assessment models that take into account carbon dioxide from emission and the related economic cost, have found that every ton of CO2 imposes a $250 cost somewhere in the world. Lebanon’s share of that right now is about 2 billion dollars a year. The 2oCand 1.5oC increases in global average temperature are important targets because if they’re not met, the costs of climate change are going increase further. Nonetheless, even if we meet the 2o C target, the costs of climate change could still go out of control.

Energy is associated with higher standards of living, and as we generate more GDP, the energy per unit goes down. Nature has limits, and the ability of ecosystems to support farming and agriculture is going to collapse, leading to the collapse of the energy system, because we simply cannot continue to generate enough energy to support the growth in areas of living.  Simply put, everyone must be involved in making sustainable changes that will cost everyone less in the long run.