Look, I get it: Cleaning up your carbon footprint feels like a lot of work.
What with all the dividing up your plastics and cans and cardboard and glass and dragging that bright green or blue bin out to the curb once a week.
Hell, I'm not even sure what goes where at my co-working space:
And sure, maybe you'd buy an electric car if there were more options or if they weren't so much more expensive at the lot.
But as cool as your neighbor's solar panels look, you can't imagine that the maintenance and installation costs could really make it worth it. Besides, your standard electric bill is easier, and it's not even that bad anyway. Right?
But what if I told you that clean, green living will actually save you money?
I think it's fair to assume that most people think that greenhouse gases are cheap and easy, so they're willing to go along with the undeniable damage that they do to the planet because, hey, money's tight. I get that.
But guess who benefits from that belief? (Hint: It's the people making money off of it.)
As it turns out, renewable energy is significantly more cost-effective than fossil fuels.
And the price is only going down (which in turn makes the price of fossil fuels rise even more because the market says so — shout-out to all my free-market capitalist homies!)
So much so that it has cost us over $300 trillion — and counting! — for not doing the green thing.
A new economic study has valued the cost of our continued environmental destruction at a whopping $326 trillion dollars (over two centuries, but still).
Specifically, the study from the University of Cambridge and the National Snow and Ice Data Center applied theoretical economic models to predict the cost of climate change over the next 185 years on agriculture, air conditioning (to counter the rising global temperatures), human health care and medical coverage for new and evolving diseases, and more.
What's more, their model showed that if we don't find a way to slow the increasing thaw of Arctic permafrost and the resulting carbon emissions, it'll add an additional $43 trillion to that already hefty sum.
It should be noted that these numbers are ignoring the cost of inflation; presumably private colleges will cost $43 trillion per semester in the year 2100, but that's like comparing a nickel today to a nickel in 1830.
"We want to use these models to help us make better decisions — linking scientific and economic models together is a way to help us do that," Chris Hope, one of the authors of the paper, said in a press release. Ya know, better decisions like not destroying the planet while also paying out of pocket to subsidize our own demise.
At the end of the day, the facts are clear: Clean, green living is not a partisan problem. It's actually better for everyone.
"Reducing fossil fuel emissions and stopping climate change is not a stark choice between jobs and the environment," said Kevin Schaefer, another author of the paper. “Rather, we can simultaneously reduce emissions and grow the economy by harnessing the same market forces that created the problem in the first place. [...] This will create an environment where consumers will naturally choose the low-carbon option because it is the best economic choice available."
When you put it that way, it's kind of hard to argue. It is literally a win-win for everyone.
The return on investment for clean energy is worth it — but the benefits are that much better when we all work together.
Time for some real talk: One electric car or residential solar panel is not going to save us from the $326 trillion doom of our fiery future.
But if the world around us keeps going about things as they have been, these small pockets of change will only serve to slightly offset the inevitable — particularly when about 30% of the greenhouse gas emissions on the planet come from factories (including their share of emissions from electricity) — the largest contributor of any sector.
So as long as money talks, let's put our money where our mouths are and invest it in cleaner, greener lifestyles.
Let's pledge our support for a clean energy future — we can start by putting a stop to offshore drilling in the Arctic. By coming together and pledging ourselves toward a better future, we can implement greater and more far-reaching changes than me trying to understand the difference between the green and blue recycling bins.
But I'm still going to do that, of course. Because it still makes a difference.