Government must support climate change initiatives now, speaker notes

Megan Strickland

Unless governments invest heavily in climate finance immediately, 600 million people could lose their homes, while governments lose $200 billion in assets in developing countries in the future, said Gevorg Sargsyan, program coordinator for Climate Investment Funds at the World Bank.

Sargsyan’s talk was a part of the UT Energy Symposium, a series of weekly talks hosted by the UT Energy Institute that aims to comprehensively explore the energy industry, “I personally believe that climate change, along with the unsustainable exploitation of the environment, is the biggest threat that human civilization is facing,” Sargsyan said.

“It’s a result of the largest market failure of supporting funds.”

Sargsyan said investment in climate finance to support technologies and initiatives that reduce carbon emissions is a necessary measure that should be taken as soon as possible. If comprehensive global participation in carbon reduction is delayed for 20 years, the cost of avoiding a two degree Celsius increase in global temperatures will double. Sargsyan said the cost of avoiding the two degree increase is not yet known, but is greater than the current $8 billion set aside annually for climate finance. The United States must contribute to climate finance and reduce emissions if global climate goals are to be met, Sargsyan said.

“If the U.S. is not part of the deals, the increase of cost will be 60 percent more for everyone else,” Sargsyan said.

In addition to human and economic costs of maintaining the status quo, Sargsyan said the fate of the Amazon rainforest, the Arctic tundra, coral reefs and existence of half of the world’s species depend on initiating climate reforms.

The solution to the climate issues will come from investing in new technologies to reduce carbon emissions, Sargsyan said.

“To act differently is just a mind-set issue,” Sargsyan said. “We need to come up with innovative ideas that will be transformational. Business as usual, even in areas of the clean energy sector just will not help us.”

Varun Rai, coordinator of the Energy Symposium and assistant professor in the LBJ School of Public Affairs, said UT is working to explore solutions to climate change.

“There is a lot of work being done at UT to explore changing science, technology, legal and policy issues and the business aspect of climate change,” Rai said. “We as a university must discuss what the problems are and how we find solutions to them.”

Jinyu Zhang, an energy and earth resources graduate student, said he believes today’s generation is responsible for solving the climate change issue.

“I think it has a big influence on our daily lives as Earth becomes hotter,” Zhang said. “It think it’s our job to solve it. It’s our duty.”