As aforementioned, this money is a way to make mining and burning fossil fuels cheaper. However, the paper’s authors note that this money is also paying for the related damage to the environment, the economy, and the public as a whole too.
Seeing as the impacts of fossil fuels are only getting more severe, this suggests that these subsidies are only going to get more costly over time – unless, of course, the government follows the lead of several major businesses and cuts these subsidies entirely as soon as possible.
The benefits are as clear as day. The IMF estimate that cutting them back in 2013 would have cut global carbon emissions by over a fifth and fossil fuel air pollution deaths by 55 percent, while boosting the global GDP by 4 percent in terms of pure revenue.
If governments want cleaner air and water, cheaper electricity, and a less scorched planet for their grandchildren to inherit, they should be subsidizing renewable energy sources instead.
A recent analysis shows that a rather modest expansion of solar farms and onshore wind turbines by 2050 would result in around $12.5 trillion being saved, compared to sticking with fossil fuels. Forget the billions of tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions they’d prevent from escaping to the atmosphere for a minute, the economic argument is compelling all by itself.
Right now, governments are mostly placing their bets on the wrong hand. It’s in everyone’s best interests to convince lawmakers to switch up and free themselves from the disproportionate control that the fossil fuel industry has on them.