Internet has revelation that climate change action won't kill the economy after all
Acting to reduce the severity of global warming has long been presented as an "either/or" problem, in which economic growth is sacrificed in order to address a massive environmental and development challenge.
However, that appears to be changing in a big way, particularly with the U.N. Climate Summit in Paris, also known as COP21. That summit resulted in a historic global accord to cut emissions of greenhouse gases and send a signal to world economic markets that the end of fossil fuels is near.
Researchers have found that the global warming economics conversation has flipped, with the issue now being seen as beneficial for the economy if it is addressed.
A new analysis of more than 430,000 English language social media posts between 2013 and the end of COP21 on Dec. 12, 2015, shows a huge uptick — on the order of 700% — in the discussion of economic co-benefits of addressing global warming while boosting economic growth. This huge increase comes from comparing the period between January 2013 and June 2014 to the period between July 2014 and mid-December 2015.
The analysis by the New Climate Economy, an international project led by former Mexican President Felipe Calderón and British economist Nicholas Stern, found that negative social media commentary suggesting that acting to reduce climate change would be too costly declined during this period by nearly 15%.
It should be noted, though, that the group that conducted this analysis has an interest in portraying global warming as an economic opportunity, since that's been a key objective of its reports and outreach to business leaders, politicians and others since it released a major report last year.
The shift, according to the project, reflects the increasing realization in the business and policy-making communities that the transition away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and other emerging technologies constitutes an economic opportunity rather than an economic obstacle.
“The positive shift in how people are talking about climate action and economic growth is striking,” said Helen Mountford, program director of the New Climate Economy, in a statement. “And
the change in opinion on social media is just one part of the larger story.
Secretary of State John Kerry told Mashable at COP21 that the move away from fossil fuels, which cause global warming, will be an economic bonanza.
"I don’t, frankly, look to government to solve this problem over the course of the next few years. It’s not going to happen. I look to the private sector," Kerry said.
It’s the private sector, the next Elon Musk or Steve Jobs is going to find a way to do battery storage for alternative and renewable energy, or we’re going to find a way to burn energy, or maybe this dream of fusion is going to be accelerated and actually have a commercial viability. I don’t know the answer, but I have absolute confidence in the ability of capital to move where the signal of the marketplace says “go” after Paris.
The researchers in the analysis used Crimson Hexagon, a social media analytical software tool. Joel Jaeger, a spokesperson for the New Climate Economy project, told Mashable that there may be errors if the team selected the wrong keywords to search for — and because the algorithm was unable to detect sarcasm.
The social networks searched include Twitter, Facebook, blogs and online forums, according to a release.
We used the search terms that we felt were most directly used in discussions about economic growth and climate," Jaeger said in an email.
"One important point to note is that since this analysis is only looking at people who are engaged in the conversation about growth and climate," he added. "It won't capture all climate change deniers in the negative category; it will only capture those climate change deniers who argue that climate action will hurt the economy. Likewise, it won't capture all people who are for climate action unless they use economic terms in their post."
At and during the run-up to COP21, mayors and regional leaders from around the world discussed the actions their cities and states are taking to address global warming, while CEOs from companies like Dell, Apple and Facebook made commitments to reduce emissions while growing their businesses.