Can Germany Pay the Price of Climate Change?

5 mins read

Germany can testify that with climate change comes a great price. As extreme heat, droughts, and floods inflict Germany, damages are predicted to cost between 280 billion euros and 900 billion euros by 2050, according to a Government-commissioned study.

The effects of climate change in Germany have been devastating. Germany is facing deadly floods that cost $40 billion worth of damages, a loss of agricultural yields, and regional droughts that have led to water scarcity.

The cost of climate change is difficult to quantify economically as climate change consequences include health impacts and loss of biodiversity — but, because of this, the study reported that the cost could turn out to be even higher than their model predicted. 

For the last three decades, Germany has tried to mitigate the effects of climate change. In 1992, Germany was one of 164 state signatories of an international environmental treaty established by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that aims to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions. Germany is committed to becoming greenhouse gas neutral by 2045 — five years earlier than the European Union target — through its Climate Action Law, which outlines stricter emission budgets on all sectors and annual reduction targets before 2030. 

If Germany and other countries are conscious of addressing climate change, why is it only intensifying? 

Despite Germany’s efforts, the Russian invasion of Ukraine earlier in Feb. 2022 and the ongoing energy crisis in Europe have stalled Germany’s climate action plan. The EU is extremely dependent on Russian gas, largely because it’s easy to transport and readily available; Germany is the most dependent on Russian gas. After Russia was hit with Western sanctions on oil for invading Ukraine, Russia cut most of its gas supplies to the EU, leaving several European countries to resort to using coal and other fossil fuels. Germany has since built new liquified natural gas (LNG) terminals for its energy supply — but this poses a new climate risk as LNG is carbon-intensive and increases the potential for dangerous leakage of methane.

While Germany reportedly no longer depends on Russian imports, its primary usage of fossil fuels is proof enough that Germany is neglecting its climate action plan altogether — made obvious by the fact that Germany has been the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide in Europe since the turn of the century and their carbon emissions are at the highest that they’ve ever been. The soaring price for climate damages in Germany demonstrates this idea. Unless Germany can quickly find an alternative to meet its energy needs, the cost of climate change will inevitably continue to climb, just as the model predicted.

An effective climate adaptation strategy is crucial, yet a shot in the dark, at this point. 

The Federal government of Germany affirms that the first step to amending this problem is passing legislation. Berlin is in the process of quickly putting together adaptation legislation and a climate adaptation strategy, soon to be presented to the environmental ministry. Through mitigation measures including investment in sustainable plant varieties, irrigation and public research funding, there’s a slight chance these could significantly reduce the cost of climate change before 2050. 

Regarding the effort to curb climate change, Germany should invest more in its wind energy industry and much less in fossil fuels. Renewable energy such as onshore wind power could reduce carbon emissions and air pollutants. 

It’s high time that Germany along with a number of other countries that are both contributing to climate change and suffering its repercussions take action to ensure the well-being, health, and prosperity of their citizens and set higher standards of living in the midst of our global climate catastrophe.

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