Manmade global warming could permanently flood the streets of New York City, it might be linked to an increase in worldwide conflict, it may cause people around the world to starve and die, and—maybe worst of all—it looks like it's already killing polar bears. But as if that wasn't enough, if you're a millennial, a new report says it's also about to hit you right in the wallet.
"The millennial generation will lose approximately $8.8 trillion in lifetime income if we fail to act on climate change," according to a new report from NextGen Climate, titled "The Price Tag of Being Young." NextGen's report is based on a UC Berkeley projection from October 2015, which said that the average person's income in the year 2100 will be 23 percent lower than it would be in a world without global warming. In the US alone, the report says, there'll be 5 percent relative loss in income by 2050, followed by a drastic spike to a total of 36 percent by 2100.
The picture of a future economy painted by the report is quite general by design, NextGen spokesperson Suzanne Henkels told VICE. "It only looks at macroeconomic changes—that is, changes in GDP—in scenarios with and without climate change." In other words, rather than projecting economic output by sector, or taking into account corporate profits and losses, it charts two lines on two drastically different graphs: GDP assuming there's no global warming, versus GDP assuming we do nothing to fix global warming and temperatures skyrocket.
"This report makes clear that millennials literally can't afford to wait to address climate change," said Henkels. She noted that millennials overwhelmingly support climate action and said her organization hopes to "make sure millennials show up on November 8 to elect climate champions up and down the ballot."
NextGen Climate was founded by California hedge fund billionaire and environmentalist Tom Steyer, who has fashioned himself into a
NextGen Climate contrasts the loss from global warming with the other economic plagues faced by the class of 2015. The lingering effects of the great recession stand to cost the young $112,000 per person over a lifetime, and student debt will be another huge hit, at $113,000 per person. Still, those both pale in comparison to the lifetime cost of climate change, which the report tallies at $187,000 per person—40 percent more than the cost of student debt.
Lifetime wealth may seem like an odd concern for a generation increasingly convinced its going to spend its life poor, but Henkels encourages a certain brand of optimism (despite the obviously pessimistic takeaway of the report). "Right now, [millennials] might be thinking, How can I lose $187,000 in savings because of climate change when it doesn't seem like I'll ever have $187,000 in savings to lose? But the average worker—and particularly the average college grad—does indeed end up with savings, assets, and a house eventually," she said.
So young people will feel the hit in their pocketbook, Henkels argues. She says the pain will really set in "as climate change begins to accelerate at millennials' peak earning years: their 50s."
Switching to 100 percent clean energy is not exactly a pipe dream, and would simply involve a vast global engineering project focused on actually implementing existing technologies—imperfect as they are, at least according to our colleagues at Motherboard." But that effort isn't just one big annoying ecological chore that we all have to deal with, according to Henkels. "Transitioning to a clean energy economy is one of America's biggest economic opportunities," she said.
And the cost of not doing it isn't just the "majesty of nature" and "biodiversity" and whatnot. According to Henkels, it could be your livelihood.
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