The Cost of Climate Action Distraction: $5.3 Trillion Annually

Enough talk about electric cars, solar panels and planting a tree.

The solution to global climate change isn't to be found in any personal greening behaviors; activities and discussions about them I have previously dubbed "climate action distraction." It's a personally comforting illusion that is making some companies lots of money - as they capitalize on your feelings of guilt, frustration, and fear - but it won't do a thing to help the problem.  In fact, while you waste your time and money on greening yourself, the problem is actually getting worse.  Why you ask?  Because YOU are funding the destruction of planet Earth, to the tune of trillions of Dollars yearly, and you don't even know it.

Keep your money.  Drive your car.  Plant a tree if you want more shade in the yard.

The ICTSD (International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development) has a troubling climate change reality-check for you.  Let's begin...

"Recent estimates indicate that G20 countries spend (through direct spending and tax breaks alone) an average of US$78 billion per year on fossil fuel production subsidies. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimated the total value of fossil fuel consumption subsidies worldwide at US$325 billion in 2015. Some analysts consider fossil fuel subsidies to be even larger. Cody et al. for instance estimate that fossil fuel subsidies amounted to $US5.3 trillion in 2015 (6.5% of global GDP) when taking into consideration negative externalities otherwise not compensated for. These subsidies harm the environment by encouraging the over-extraction and wasteful consumption of fuels and undermining the competitiveness of renewable energy. The continued subsidization of fossil fuels will lock the world into decades of fossil fuel dependency and related high greenhouse gas emissions."

Did you get all that?  You actually pay the polluters to destroy the Earth.  That's how deep the rabbit hole goes.

The IMF (International Monetary Fund) in Washington, D.C. - cited therein above - has a bit more to add to this revelation...

"Estimated [fossil fuel production] subsidies are $4.9 trillion worldwide in 2013 and $5.3 trillion in 2015 (6.5% of global GDP in both years)."

I assure you no community fund drive is going to match those numbers and the power of that money to derail your meaningless greening efforts.

"Undercharging for global warming accounts for 22% of the subsidy in 2013, air pollution 46%, broader vehicle externalities 13%, supply costs 11%, and general consumer taxes 8%. China was the biggest subsidizer in 2013 ($1.8 trillion), followed by the United States ($0.6 trillion), and Russia, the European Union, and India (each with about $0.3 trillion)."

So, the fossil fuel corruption is massive and global.

"Eliminating subsidies would have reduced global carbon emissions in 2013 by 21% and fossil fuel air pollution deaths 55%, while raising revenue of 4%, and social welfare by 2.2%, of global GDP."

I assure you there are no other climate change mitigation topics or proposals that could instantly address 21% of global carbon emissions or 55% of the global air pollution deaths per year.

Now, ponder for a moment the dangers of letting these polluters into your Universities, their endowments, boards of directors, and - if you are really crazy - your "Low Carbon" Energy Initiatives.

For even greater danger, think of the lunacy of actually partnering with them.

These are the real topics for ClimateX to address and take action on.

MIT needs to focus on developing a comprehensive plan to expose and identify all of these counterproductive and wasteful fossil fuel development subsidies and channel them (through meaningful legislation) to subsidizing federal mandates requiring the production and use of renewable fuels.  The technology already exists for renewable jet fuel that can drastically reduce carbon and other noxious emissions from aircraft.  The arguments against its widespread adoption have been the costs relative to its fossil fuel-derived counterpart.  I think $5.3 Trillion annually could turn that around quite nicely.  Consider that if total annual global aircraft emissions were a country, they would be the 7th largest polluter, just after Germany.

Internal combustion engines are not all going to magically disappear overnight. The surface of the planet is littered with them. Any means to address climate change is going to have to be applicable to existing gas and diesel engines.  That means use of less-polluting biofuels.

In short, these are the discussions and efforts to be had in addressing the real source of the problem.

There is no place better to begin than at MIT; home of the MITEI (MIT Energy Initiative) founded by, and dominated by, Big Oil.

See.. for more details.


Rick Shankman's picture


See... (Oil Change International - exposing the true cost of fossil fuels)

Oil Change International is a research, communication, and advocacy organization focused on exposing the true costs of fossil fuels and facilitating the coming transition towards clean energy. We focus on the fossil fuel industry because we view the production and consumption of oil, gas and coal as sources of global warming, human rights abuses, war, national security concerns, corporate globalization, and increased inequality. We also see fossil fuel industry’s interests behind every major barrier to a clean energy transition.

This organization is run by (among others) Managing Director Elizabeth Bast, MCP '04, an MIT alumna.

Now there's a guest for a Climate Conversations podcast!

See also... Fossil fuel subsidies: G20 spends billions to push us closer to climate disaster

"Take Action to Stop Polluters

While our governments talk about the need for climate action, they’re handing out massive amounts of public money making the problem worse. Global giveaways to oil, gas, and coal companies total more than $444 billion per year. That’s nearly $1 million every minute.

Send your message demanding world leaders stop funding fossils! The time for talk is over – we need action."