How can we incentivize climate-conscious behavior?

While many people may be on the fence about combatting climate change, one Columbia professor suggests appealing to people's wallets not hearts may motivate environmentally conscious action.

“People respond to dollar figures. Even people who don’t have any emotional link to the environment can be persuaded if you tell them that investing in environmental conservation actually gives a very good rate of return,” said Geoffrey Heal, the Donald C. Waite III Professor of Social Enterprise and professor of economics and finance at Columbia Business School.

Heal says that for every dollar spent on climate change prevention, probably five to six dollars are saved in the long term. Renewable energy is now competitive with fossil fuels, and it's cheaper to produce power from solar energy than natural gas. Investing in renewable energy now will help offset the costs of climate change later.

Rising sea levels caused by climate change risk much of the world’s infrastructure, including airports, highways, train lines, and homes. It would be much cheaper to curtail climate change now than replace or move these massive structures later. Heal recommends financial incentives such as subsidies for buying electric vehicles and requiring businesses to generate certain fractions of energy from renewable sources, stopping more damage from fossil fuels. Learn more.

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