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The Hidden Cost of Environmental Sustainability

Updated: Sep 11, 2023


Keith Jung

It would surprise few people to claim that climate change is negatively impacting the planet. However, few people realize how much of the global economy could be destroyed in the process of transitioning to renewable energy. Climate change is exactly what it sounds like, and in modern context, it means the releasing of too much carbon into the Earth’s atmosphere, progressively making it hotter and hotter. This would eventually lead to more problematic issues such as the melting of glacial caps and flooding of coastal regions. However, the current method of suddenly cutting climate change actually outweighs the current damages that climate change is already doing to the environment.

The economic aspects of reducing carbon emissions can be organized into two different categories: direct and indirect. The direct cost of powering the world using only renewable energy can be simplified into an example of “how many wind turbines would it take to power the U.S?” This, although completely theoretical, can help demonstrate the approximate cost of reducing carbon emissions into completely renewable energy. Roughly 3 years ago, Forbes calculated that “about 1.26 million covering about 0.01% of the land.” (Forbes) The strength/size of the wind turbine was not specified. However, it is reasonable to assume that each wind turbine would cost 3 million dollars based on wind turbines that the U.S. government produces. This alone would amount to roughly 3.78 billion dollars from just installment of all the wind turbines. This is totally excluding the upkeep cost of all 1.26 million wind turbines which would be extremely difficult for even the U.S. economy to handle. The next economic cost would be the removal of all non-renewable sources such as gas operated cars, gas stations, oil rigs, factories, and even animal farms. This cost would be immeasurable especially from the transition of gas cars to electric cars, as well as regular factories to something like nuclear energy which are, not only dangerous, but also difficult to make. Hedges and Company states that there are over 290 million gas cars in the U.S., all of which produce large amounts of carbon gasses. The sheer amount of gas cars required to change into renewable energy source cars would be not only extremely difficult, almost to the point of impossibility. Not to mention, this transition also completely destroys fossil fuel based car manufacturing companies which make up a not so insignificant portion of the U.S. economy. Overall, the economic strain that the U.S. would have to go through would be potentially devastating more so than just the environmental damages caused by greenhouse gasses.

The environment is important, and the potential destruction of entire habitats by climate change is no doubt disastrous. However, human life is widely regarded as something that is priceless and when an economy plummets as far as it will when carbon emissions are completely cut, millions will find themselves in economic ruin. It is difficult to weigh the two as both are extremely important, but there is a better approach to climate change than just abruptly cutting carbon emissions as fast as possible.

Much of the world’s economy is already based around non-renewable energy that damages the environment. These range from manufacturing of goods in factories to the average citizen who drives to work producing carbon through their vehicle. However, the economic damages caused by the sudden transition of the annihilation of carbon emissions into entirely renewable energy would be even more harmful than the current state of climate change, potentially removing millions of jobs and wiping out entire industries, as well as changing the very way of life millions of people live by.


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