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Professor, co-author of U.N. report says fighting climate change is good for the economy

The world has just more than a decade to prevent catastrophic climate change, according to a recent United Nations report

President Donald Trump said in a 60 Minutes interview last week that he no longer believes climate change is a hoax, but has resisted large-scale changes to combat climate change—not wanting to give up "trillions and trillions of dollars" and "millions and millions of jobs." Trump also doubted that climate change was manmade and permanent. 

One of the report's co-authors, Drew Shindell—also the Nicholas Professor of Earth Sciences—said addressing the potential impending crisis of climate change could boon the economy. These actions include increasing renewable energy to at least half of the world's power supply by 2030 and to phase out coal entirely by 2050. 

"It is true that if you get rid of 80 percent of the world's coal power by 2030 there will be fewer jobs in coal, but they will be more than replaced by job gains in renewables," Shindell said. 

He also noted that climate change will increase the economic damage done by freak weather events, and that pollution increases healthcare costs as well as leading to warming.

"It's like we're taxing the entire rest of the country with higher health insurance, disaster insurance and public taxes to pay for the fossil fuel companies," he said. 

Shindell said that California is on the track to meet the goals established in the report The state gets roughly 30 percent of its energy from renewable sources and is set to increase to 50 percent by 2030. 

"Consumers in California save money by having more energy efficiency, more energy choices and cleaner energy," Shindell said. "It works really well."

Shindell said that emphasizing the benefits of fighting climate change is an effective way to push for change. 

"The net is that this is actually good for the American economy," he said.

The report by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change examines the impacts of an optimistic projection of world warming to 1.5 Celsius or more above pre-industrial levels, as opposed to an increase of two degrees. Two degrees of warming was the target set the 2015 Paris Agreement, from which the United States withdrew in June of last year. 

The report finds that even 1.5 degrees of warming will lead to heat-related deaths, the spread of disease and rising sea levels. It concludes that a warming of two degrees would increase all of these impacts and cause "substantially lower economic growth" for both developed and developing countries. 

"There really are noticeable differences between the two targets," Shindell said. 

For example, he said that 1.5 degrees of warming will lead to the deaths of three-quarters of the world's coral reefs. At two degrees of warming, all of the world's coral reefs will die. He added that two degrees of warming will cause an additional 10 centimeters of sea level rise by the end of the century.

The world has already seen one degree warming—the effects of which are beginning to become noticeable, Shindell said. 

"We're seeing more of the really strong hurricanes in the North Atlantic," Shindell said. "That gets even worse at 1.5 degrees, but it doesn't get as much worse as if we get to two."

In order to have a 50 percent chance of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees, the world must have zero net carbon emissions in about 35 years, the report said. In order to have a two-thirds chance of doing so, the timeline shrinks to 25 years

According to Shindell, reaching these targets would require taking action long before the deadlines for carbon neutrality.

"We have to make huge strides within the next decade to be on the path to zero net emissions by the middle of the century," he said. 

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