Climate change the “biggest” economic risk facing the world

Former US Treasury chief Hank Paulson leads call for US politicians to take global warming seriously

Former US Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson (Pic: Weather Channel)

Former US Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson (Pic: Weather Channel)

By Ed King

What do the former heads of the CIA, EPA, US Treasury and an assorted group of ex Admirals, Generals and scientists have in common?

They all think climate change is one of the most serious challenges facing the world.

Politicians on Capitol Hill may be split on partisan lines over the need to address greenhouse gas emissions, but the Climate 25 project from the widely-viewed Weather Channel aims to show how wide the support is for a global climate agreement.

Below we’ve picked out five compelling arguments from the participants.

Watch the full 25 at the Weather Channel, which had the highest national distribution of any US cable network in 2015 – received by over 97 million American households.


Christine Todd Whitman, US EPA chief 2001-2003

“I don’t see this as something that means necessarily you’re going to lose economic growth. Take 1980 when the regulations were in effect, when the Clean Air and Clean Drinking Water Act were being implemented. Our economy between 1980 and 2011 grew pretty well. Our population grew 30%, energy use grew, and we reduced pollutants by over 67%. GDP in real dollars almost doubled. You can’t say environmental regulation automatically causes the economy to stop.”


Hank Paulson, US Treasury Secretary 2006-2009

“Climate change poses a massive threat to the world. It’s a huge economic risk, and like any other major economic risk and I think this is the biggest the planet faces, climate change deserves to be understood and managed as the risk it is. Just take the coastal areas, the East Coast. We’re going to see significant sea level rise and storm surges. If we don’t act we’re going to have billions of dollars of real estate property literally underwater.”


General Charles H Jacoby (Ret), former head, United States Northern Command

“The issue of climate change is foremost in our minds at NORTHCOM. We’re going to have more intense, more frequent and more dramatic events caused by weather on large populations, large geographic areas than we’ve had in the past. Because we define our interests globally, we have to take these things into account. Many conflicts throughout our history have been based on resource competition. Increasingly in the future we’ll be defining some of our national security interests in those resource contests.”


Rear Admiral David Titley (Ret), former chief naval oceanographer

“I don’t believe in climate change. I’m convinced by the evidence. Literally the nation’s defence is at stake… unfortunately all we have to look at is the events of the day – Crimea and Ukraine – and we see that the Russians are making noises about – well – maybe the Arctic is another place where we should compete rather than cooperate? And that’s one of the reasons why it really is on our interests… it’s in everyone’s interests to be ready.”


Bob Inglis, US Representative for South Carolina (R) 1993-1999 & 2005-2011

“Our challenge is to explain why conservatives would want a new tax, especially a tax on carbon dioxide, and my fellow conservatives break out in hives when they hear the word carbon and go into anaphylactic shock when they hear the world tax. The idea is to put a tax so we charge to put emissions into the trash dump in the sky.

“You fix the economics – the environment will take care of itself. But if you let me get away with dumping into the trash dump in the sky I’ll do it all day long. Doing something on climate change wasn’t seen as a party orthodoxy. Maybe it’s still not. But it’s going to change – it’s going to be the Republican orthodoxy I believe.”

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