On our last, full day here at the White House, here is the Obama Administration’s 388th — and final — episode of our weekly round-up video, West Wing Week. For 388 weeks in a row, we have produced a zippy, zingy wrap-up of everything the President’s been up to that week, and it has been such fun doing so. Thanks for tuning in, and all the best, from all of us to all of you.
Today, the President granted commutation to 330 individuals. The President has now granted commutation to a total of 1,715 individuals, including 568 people who had been sentenced to life in prison. The vast majority of these men and women are serving unduly long sentences for drug crimes. With today’s action, the President has granted more commutations than any president in this nation’s history and has surpassed the number of commutations granted by the past 13 presidents combined. The President set out to reinvigorate clemency, and he has done just that.
In 2014, the President directed officials at the Department of Justice to undertake an ambitious effort: encourage federal inmates serving sentences imposed under outdated laws to apply for clemency. With assistance from the Clemency Project 2014 and volunteer attorneys throughout the country, federal inmates applied for clemency in staggering numbers. The Deputy Attorney General and the Pardon Attorney – and their respective offices – worked vigorously to review these applications. Less than three years later, the President has now granted commutation to more than 1,700 individuals, the overwhelming majority of whom were serving sentences under outdated and overly harsh drug sentencing laws. Many of these individuals were assisted by Clemency Project 2014, and many will be assisted by the Stanford Justice Advocacy Project in their reentry efforts. The President’s vision could not have been realized without this support.
To the President’s 1,715 commutation recipients and 212 pardon recipients – you have been granted a second chance because the President sees the potential in you. After reviewing each of your stories, the President concluded that you have taken substantial steps to remedy your past mistakes and that you are deserving of a second chance. You and your stories have been essential to the President’s successful exercise of his clemency authority. Stories of rehabilitation and growth, of families reunited, and lives turned around – these are the stories that demonstrate why our nation is a nation of second chances. As the President has written to you, your example will influence whether someone in similar circumstances will get his or her own second chance in the future. Make the President proud with how you use your second chance.
Neil Eggleston is Counsel to the President.
Editor’s note: President Obama sent this final message to the White House email list this morning.
My fellow Americans,
It’s a long-standing tradition for the sitting president of the United States to leave a parting letter in the Oval Office for the American elected to take his or her place. It’s a letter meant to share what we know, what we’ve learned, and what small wisdom may help our successor bear the great responsibility that comes with the highest office in our land, and the leadership of the free world.
But before I leave my note for our 45th president, I wanted to say one final thank you for the honor of serving as your 44th. Because all that I’ve learned in my time in office, I’ve learned from you. You made me a better President, and you made me a better man.
Throughout these eight years, you have been the source of goodness, resilience, and hope from which I’ve pulled strength. I’ve seen neighbors and communities take care of each other during the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes. I have mourned with grieving families searching for answers — and found grace in a Charleston church.
I’ve taken heart from the hope of young graduates and our newest military officers. I’ve seen our scientists help a paralyzed man regain his sense of touch, and wounded warriors once given up for dead walk again. I’ve seen Americans whose lives have been saved because they finally have access to medical care, and families whose lives have been changed because their marriages are recognized as equal to our own. I’ve seen the youngest of children remind us through their actions and through their generosity of our obligations to care for refugees, or work for peace, and, above all, to look out for each other.
I’ve seen you, the American people, in all your decency, determination, good humor, and kindness. And in your daily acts of citizenship, I’ve seen our future unfolding.
All of us, regardless of party, should throw ourselves into that work — the joyous work of citizenship. Not just when there’s an election, not just when our own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime.
I’ll be right there with you every step of the way.
And when the arc of progress seems slow, remember: America is not the project of any one person. The single most powerful word in our democracy is the word ‘We.’ ‘We the People.’ ‘We shall overcome.’
Yes, we can.
Over the past eight years, the President, the First Lady, and the Obama White House have used social media and technology to engage with people around the country and the world on the most important issues of our time. From the very beginning, our mission has been to reach people on the channels and platforms where they already spend their time. This work began before President Obama took office in 2009, and, now, this work will continue.
As this Administration draws to a close, we wanted to share how you can continue to follow and engage with President Obama, the First Lady, and other Obama White House officials, as well as how you can find content posted over the past eight years after January 20, 2017. Moving forward, the President and First Lady can be followed on familiar handles: @BarackObama and @MichelleObama.
In October, we laid out plans to preserve and pass on the digital legacy of the Obama administration and have been working to ensure this unprecedented digital transition meets three key goals. First, we are preserving the material we’ve created with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Second, we are working to ensure these materials continue to be accessible on the platforms where they were created, allowing for continued access to the content posted over the past eight years. Finally, we are working to ensure that the next White House and future administrations can continue to use and develop the digital channels we have created to connect directly with the people they serve.
We are grateful to the people around the country and the world who have engaged with us online over the past eight years. We listened to you, we learned from you, and we strove to create opportunities for you to play an active role in your government by fulfilling the most important role in our government: the role of citizen.
Digital assets that will remain with the White House
We are working to ensure that the next White House and future administrations can continue to use and develop the digital channels we have created to connect directly with the people they serve. The following assets will remain with the institution:
- Twitter (handle and followers, with no tweets on the timeline): @WhiteHouse, @POTUS, @VP, @FLOTUS, @PressSec, @LaCasaBlanca, @WHLive, @VPLive, @Cabinet
- Facebook (username and followers, with no posts on the timeline): Facebook.com/WhiteHouse, Facebook.com/whitehouse.espanol
- Instagram (handle and follower, with no posts on the timeline): Instagram.com/WhiteHouse
- Snapchat (username and followers): WhiteHouse
- YouTube (username and subscribers, with no videos): YouTube.com/WhiteHouse
- Medium (username and followers, with no posts): Medium.com/@WhiteHouse
- Tumblr (username and followers, with no posts): Tumblr.com/WhiteHouse
- Flickr (username and subscribers, with no photos): Flickr.com/WhiteHouse
Where you can access archival Obama White House content
After January 20, 2017, materials will continue to be accessible on the platforms where they were created, allowing the public continued access to the content posted over the past eight years.
WhiteHouse.gov becomes ObamaWhiteHouse.gov
The Obama White House website – which includes press articles, blog posts, videos, and photos – will be available at ObamaWhiteHouse.gov, a site maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), beginning on January 20, 2017. If you are looking for a post or page on the Obama administration’s WhiteHouse.gov from 2009 through 2017, you can find it by changing the URL to ObamaWhiteHouse.gov. For example, after the transition, this blog post will be available at ObamaWhiteHouse.gov/obama-administration-digital-transition-moving-forward.
President Obama, Vice President Biden, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Dr. Biden
Archived content posted to these social media accounts during the Obama administration will be maintained by NARA at the following handles:
- President Obama:
- Vice President Biden:
- First Lady Michelle Obama:
- Dr. Jill Biden:
White House Social Media
Archived content posted to institutional White House social media accounts during the Obama administration will be maintained by NARA at the following handles:
- @WhiteHouse on Twitter will be archived at @ObamaWhiteHouse
- Facebook.com/WhiteHouse will be archived at Facebook.com/ObamaWhiteHouse
- Instagram.com/WhiteHouse will be archived at Instagram.com/ObamaWhiteHouse
- @LaCasaBlanca on Twitter will be archived at @LaCasaBlancaObama
- Facebook.com/whitehouse.espanol will be archived at Facebook.com/LaCasaBlancaObama
- Medium.com/WhiteHouse will be archived at Medium.com/@ObamaWhiteHouse
- Flickr.com/WhiteHouse will be archived at Flickr.com/ObamaWhiteHouse
- YouTube.com/WhiteHouse will be archived at YouTube.com/ObamaWhiteHouse
- Tumblr.com/WhiteHouse will be archived at ObamaWhiteHouse.tumblr.com
How you can keep following the President, First Lady, and other White House Officials:
After January 20, 2017, President Obama will use the following accounts:
- @BarackObama on Twitter
- For updates on the Obama Presidential Center, you can follow @ObamaFoundation on Twitter
First Lady Michelle Obama
You can follow First Lady Michelle Obama after January 20, 2017 at the following accounts:
- @MichelleObama on Twitter
- Snapchat: MichelleObama
Vice President Biden
You can follow Vice President Biden after January 20, 2017 at the following accounts:
Dr. Jill Biden
You can follow Dr. Jill Biden after January 20, 2017 at the following accounts:
White House Officials (You can follow an twitter list of Obama White House officials here):
- Denis McDonough: You can continue to follow Denis at @DenisMcDonough on Twitter. Archived content will be available at @Denis44.
- Valerie Jarrett: You can continue to follow Valerie at @ValerieJarrett on Twitter. Archived content will be available at @VJ44.
- Josh Earnest: You can continue to follow Josh at @JoshEarnest on Twitter. Archived content will be available at @PressSec44.
- Susan Rice: You can continue to follow Susan at @AmbassadorRice on Twitter. Archived content will be available at @AmbRice44.
- Ben Rhodes: You can continue to follow Ben at @brhodes on Twitter. Archive content will be available at @Rhodes44.
- Jason Goldman: You can continue to follow Jason at @Goldman on Twitter. Archived content will be available at @Goldman44.
- Brian Deese: You can continue to follow Brian at @BrianCDeese on Twitter. Archived content will be available at @Deese44.
- Jason Furman: You can continue to follow Jason at @JasonFurman on Twitter. Archived content will be available at @CEAChair44.
- Cecilia Muñoz: You can continue to follow Cecilia at @cecmunoz on Twitter. Archived content will be available at @Cecilia44.
- DJ Patil: You can continue to follow DJ at @dpatil on Twitter. Archived content will be available at @DJ44.
- Jen Psaki: You can continue to follow Jen at @JRPsaki on Twitter. Archived content will be available at @Psaki44.
- Megan Smith: You can continue to follow Megan at @SmithMegan. Archived content will be available at @USTO44.
- Pete Souza: You can continue to follow Pete at @PeteSouza on Twitter and @PeteSouza on Instagram. Archived content will be available at @petesouza44 on Twitter and @petesouza44 on Instagram.
- Brandi Hoffine: You can continue to follow Brandi at @brandihoffine on Twitter. Archived content will be available at @Hoffine44.
- Charlie Anderson: You can continue to follow Charlie at @EconCharlie on Twitter. Archived content will be available at @Charlie44.
- Ed Felten: You can continue to follow Ed at @EdFelten on Twitter. Archived content will be available at @EdFelten44.
- Eric Schultz: You can continue to follow Eric at @ericschultz on Twitter. Archived content will be available at @Schultz44.
- Jay Shambaugh: You can continue to follow Jay at @JayCShambaugh on Twitter. Archived content will be available at @CEAJay.
- Jesse Lee: You can continue to follow Jesse at @jessecharleslee on Twitter. Archived content will be available at @jesseclee44.
- Joanna Rosholm: You can contine to follow Joanna @jojorosholm on Twitter. Archived content will be available at @Rosholm44.
- Katie Hill: You can continue to follow Brandi at @KatieMHill. Twitter. Archived content will be available at @Hill44.
- Kori Schulman: You can continue to follow Kori at @KoriSchulman on Twitter. Archived content will be available at @ks44.
- Kristin Lee: You can continue to follow Kristin at @kristindlee on Twitter. Archived content will be available at @Lee44.
- Liz Allen: You can continue to follow Liz at @LizMarieAllen on Twitter. Archived content will be available at @LizAllen44.
- Ned Price: You can continue to follow Ned at @NedPrice on Twitter. Archived content will be available at Price44.
- Patrick Rodenbush: You can continue to follow Patrick at @pnrodenbush on Twitter. Archived content will be available at @Patrick44.
- Paulette Aniskoff: You can continue to follow Paulette at @PAniskoff on Twitter. Archived content will be available at @Paniskoff44.
- R. David Edelman: You can continue to follow David at @R_D on Twitter. Archive content will be available at @rD44.
- Shaun Donovan: You can continue to follow Shaun at @Shaun_Don66 on Twitter. Archived content will be available at @ShaunOMB.
- Tara McGuinness: You can continue to follow Tara at @taradmcguinness on Twitter. Archived content will be available at @Tara44.
Today, 273 individuals learned that the President has given them a second chance. With today’s 209 grants of commutation, the President has now commuted the sentences of 1,385 individuals – the most grants of commutation issued by any President in this nation’s history. President Obama’s 1,385 commutation grants – which includes 504 life sentences – is also more than the total number of commutations issued by the past 12 presidents combined. And with today’s 64 pardons, the President has now granted a total of 212 pardons.
Today, 209 commutation recipients – including 109 individuals who had believed they would live out their remaining days in prison – learned that they will be rejoining their families and loved ones, and 64 pardon recipients learned that their past convictions have been forgiven. These 273 individuals learned that our nation is a forgiving nation, where hard work and a commitment to rehabilitation can lead to a second chance, and where wrongs from the past will not deprive an individual of the opportunity to move forward. Today, 273 individuals – like President Obama’s 1,324 clemency recipients before them – learned that our President has found them deserving of a second chance.
While the mercy the President has shown his 1,597 clemency recipients is remarkable, we must remember that clemency is an extraordinary remedy, granted only after the President has concluded that a particular individual has demonstrated a readiness to make use of his or her second chance. Only Congress can achieve the broader reforms needed to ensure over the long run that our criminal justice system operates more fairly and effectively in the service of public safety.
Neil Eggleston is Counsel to the President.
This week, President Obama delivered his final weekly address thanking the American people for making him a better President and a better man. Over the past eight years, we have seen the goodness, resilience, and hope of the American people. We’ve seen what’s possible when we come together in the hard, but vital work of self-government – but we can’t take our democracy for granted. Our success as a Nation depends on our participation. It’s up to all of us to be guardians of our democracy, and to embrace the task of continually trying to improve our Nation. Despite our differences, we all share the same title: Citizen. And that is why President Obama looks forward to working by your side, as a citizen, for all of his remaining days.
At the White House FinTech Summit in June 2016, Cabinet Secretaries and senior officials from across the Administration engaged with stakeholders about the potential for fintech to further myriad policy goals, including small business access to capital, financial inclusion and health, domestic growth, and international development. At the same event, industry and other stakeholders conveyed the need for a framework that articulates the U.S. government’s perspective on fintech. Today, after sustained stakeholder engagement, we are proud to publish a whitepaper, A Framework for FinTech, that takes our work one step further to provide that perspective. This whitepaper expresses the forward-leaning posture of this Administration to innovation and entrepreneurship, generally, and fintech in particular.
Policy Objectives and FinTech Principles
This document sets forth Administration policy objectives that reflect widely-shared values and practical expectations for the financial services sector and the U.S. government entities that interact with the sector. It then provides ten overarching principles that constitute a framework policymakers and regulators can use to think about, engage with, and assess the fintech ecosystem in order to meet these policy objectives. Similarly, industry and other stakeholders can use the framework to understand how they can contribute to a well-functioning and inclusive financial system, and to examine their products and services against articulated principles.
The ten principles encourage stakeholders to:
- think broadly about the financial ecosystem;
- start with the consumer in mind;
- promote safe financial inclusion and financial health;
- recognize and overcome potential technological bias;
- maximize transparency;
- strive for interoperability and harmonize technical standards;
- build in cybersecurity, data security, and privacy protections from the start;
- increase efficiency and effectiveness in financial infrastructure;
- protect financial stability; and
- continue and strengthen cross-sector engagement.
Federal Government Engagement
Federal policymakers and regulators have accomplished a lot in the fintech space. Executive agencies across the government – including the Department of Commerce (Commerce), the Small Business Administration (SBA), the Department of State (State), the Department of the Treasury (Treasury), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and others – and independent regulators have engaged with stakeholders across the industry through events, Requests for Information (RFIs), whitepapers, technical assistance and research, and informal outreach and conversations, to better understand the industry and determine the appropriate role for government in fintech development. The White House FinTech Summit, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency’s (OCC) Responsible Innovation initiative, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) Project Catalyst, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) Fintech Working Group, Commerce’s Open for Innovation events, Treasury and USAID’s Financial Inclusion Forums, and Treasury’s whitepaper, Opportunities and Challenges in Online Marketplace Lending, are just a few examples.
The Road Ahead
Significant work remains, however. The United States should continue developing a policy strategy that helps advance fintech and the broader financial services sector, achieve policy objectives where financial services play an integral role, and maintain a robust competitive advantage in the technology and financial services sectors to promote broad-based economic growth at home and abroad.
Additionally, policymakers, regulators, and the private sector should continue engaging with one another to foster innovation in fintech while protecting consumers and the financial system. This whitepaper is both a product of ongoing public-private cooperation and a roadmap for future collaboration. As the fintech ecosystem continues to evolve, this statement of principles should serve as a resource to guide the development of smart, pragmatic, and innovative cross-sector engagement.
Adrienne Harris is a Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy. Alex Zerden is a Presidential Management Fellow.
It rests on the land chosen by a revolutionary. It was designed by an Irish immigrant, it was built by slaves, and it has been home to every president since John and Abigail Adams first came through its doors. It is the White House, the People’s House, and it belongs to all who call this country home.
So today, in a collaboration with Oculus and Felix & Paul Studios, the President and First Lady are using virtual reality to bring the history of the White House directly to you. Narrated by the President, “the People’s House” offers an intimate, 360-degree exploration of rooms in the White House residence and the West Wing, as well as a look back at some of the most significant moments that took place there over the past eight years. It’s a first-ever virtual reality experience with the President and First Lady in the White House. Here’s a preview:
The tour takes viewers through rooms in the White House like the Old Family Dining Room, as well as places that many Americans have never seen before: the Oval Office, the Situation Room, the Rose Garden, and the Treaty Room (the President’s private office). Through it all, you’ll hear the President and First Lady’s personal reflections on historic moments that occurred in each place, whether that’s the response to the economic crisis, the raid on Osama bin Laden, or his statement on the Supreme Court’s decision to make marriage equality the law of the land.
All of this reflects what President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wanted to do when they first step foot in the White House eight years ago. In 2009, they made it their particular mission to open wide the doors of this museum of American history to everyone, near and far. They invited the Girl Scouts to camp out on the South Lawn, they opened up the Old Family Dining Room on the White House tour, they got rid of the ban on photography for visitors, and more so the American people could see – and share – what it’s like to live here. Virtual Reality is the latest technology they can use in service of this mission.
After all, as the President said, each First Family is merely a “renter.” This house, and the history made here, belongs to you.
The final open enrollment period of this Administration started on November 1, and since then, more than 11.5 million people nationwide have signed up for health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace. As part of our Administration’s ongoing efforts to reach the remaining uninsured, the White House launched the Healthy Campus Challenge in September, hoping to engage college and university campuses in enrollment efforts. Campuses opted in by agreeing to undertake a series of best practices, like emailing all students and faculty with information about open enrollment, amplifying deadlines on social media, holding enrollment events, and producing creative online content to reach community members.
White House staff members worked with administrators, students, faculty, staff, alumni, local community leaders, and elected officials across the country to spread the word about open enrollment and the Marketplace, sharing best practices with them honed over the last four years.
More than 350 campuses from all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico participated in the Challenge and carried out some enrollment activities, with nearly 100 campuses completing all the criteria.
Today, leaders from nearly 60 of those campuses will attend Healthy Campus Challenge Day at the White House. We can’t wait to congratulate them for their hard work during the ongoing open enrollment period, hear creative ideas from these schools, and brainstorm ways for them to work together moving forward. Our hope in holding the Challenge was to institutionalize these enrollment practices on campuses nationwide for future open enrollments.
Healthy Campus Challenge Day will be streamed live from South Court Auditorium at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, January 13 at www.whitehouse.gov/live, and here’s the program agenda, if you’re tuning in from afar:
Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President, the White House
Panel I: Healthy Campuses Share What Works
Moderator: Bess Evans, Senior Associate Director and Senior Policy Advisor, White House Office of Public Engagement and Domestic Policy Council
Stephanie Blaisdell, Ph.D, Assistant Vice President, University of Memphis
Jessica Koscelnak, Director of Health Services, Keystone College
Jessica Lauritsen, Director of Student Life & Career Development, Hennepin Technical College
Alyssa Padilla, Special Projects Coordinator, University of Arizona
Susan Quinn, Director of Student Health Services, Santa Rosa Junior College
Jodi A. Ray, Director of the College of Public Health, University of South Florida
Brett Rowlett, Director of Governmental & Community Relations, Lane Community College
Presentation of Certificates
Kristie Canegallo, Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff for Implementation, the White House
Panel II: National Organizations Working to Impact Local Efforts
Moderator: Bess Evans, Senior Associate Director and Senior Policy Advisor, White House Office of Public Engagement and Domestic Policy Council
Amaris Bradley, MPH, RD, Senior Manager of Partnerships, Partnership for a Healthier America
Erin Hemlin, National Director of Training and Consumer Education, Young Invincibles
Kyle Lierman, Senior Associate Director and Senior Policy Advisor, White House Office of Public Engagement and Domestic Policy Council
Ebonee Rice, National Director of Strategic Partnerships, Enroll America
Bess Evans, Senior Associate Director and Senior Policy Advisor, White House Office of Public Engagement and Domestic Policy Council
The following schools will attend Healthy Campus Challenge Day:
Ashland University (Ashland, OH)
Augsburg College (Minneapolis, MN)
Bakersfield College (Bakersfield, CA)
Bethune-Cookman University (Daytona Beach, FL)
Bowie State University (Bowie, MD)
Bunker Hill Community College (Boston, MA)
California State University, Los Angeles (Los Angeles, CA)
Concord University (Athens, WV)
Cottey College (Nevada, MO)
Delta College (University Center, MI)
DePaul University (Chicago, IL)
Durham Technical Community College (Durham, NC)
Florida Memorial University (Miami Gardens, FL)
George Mason University (Fairfax, VA)
Harold Washington College (Chicago, IL)
Hennepin Technical College (Brooklyn Park, MN)
Kean University (Union, NJ)
Keystone College (Factoryville, PA)
Los Angeles Pierce College (Los Angeles, CA)
Lane Community College (Eugene, OR)
Livingstone College (Salisbury, NC)
Long Beach City College (Long Beach, CA)
Mansfield University of Pennsylvania (Mansfield, PA)
Mercy College (Dobbs Ferry, NY)
Millersville University of Pennsylvania (Millersville, PA)
Missouri State University (Springfield, MO)
Monroe Community College (Rochester, NY)
Nash Community College (Rocky Mount, NC)
Norwalk Community College (Norwalk, CT)
Notre Dame De Namur University (Belmont, CA)
Orange Coast College (Costa Mesa, CA)
Pacific Lutheran University (Tacoma, WA)
Pierpont Community & Technical College (Fairmont, WV)
Princeton University (Princeton, NJ)
Rider University (Lawrence Township, NJ)
Santa Rosa Junior College (Santa Rosa, CA)
Southern California University of Health Sciences (Whittier, CA)
Spencerian College (Louisville, KY)
Sullivan University (Louisville, KY)
The University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ)
The University of New Orleans (New Orleans, LA)
The University of Southern Mississippi (Hattiesburg, MS)
Trocaire College (Buffalo, NY)
United Tribes Technical College (Bismarck, ND)
University of Delaware (Newark, DE)
University of Hawaii at Hilo (Hilo, HI)
University of Memphis (Memphis, TN)
University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI)
University of South Florida (Tampa, FL)
University of Wisconsin – River Falls (River Falls, WI)
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (Milwaukee, WI)
Upper Iowa University (Fayette, IA)
Virginia Commonwealth University (Richmond, VA)
Western Michigan University (Kalamazoo, MI)
Western Washington University (Bellingham, WA)
William Rainey Harper College (Palatine, IL)
Xavier University of Louisiana (New Orleans, LA)
Kristie Canegallo is the White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Implementation.
As the President wrote this week in the journal Science, the last eight years demonstrate that carbon emissions can decline while the economy is growing. This is in contrast to centuries old reality that increased economic output entailed increased carbon emissions. Emissions did, in fact, drop during the Great Recession. But due to trends in the energy system and policies pursued by President Obama, carbon pollution has continued to fall while our economy has recovered from that shock. From 2008-2015, U.S. CO2 emissions from the energy sector fell by 9.5 percent while the economy grew more than 10 percent.
The decoupling of carbon pollution and economic growth in the United States is underway, and recent data from the International Energy Agency suggests that this trend is going global, as emissions have stayed flat in 2014 and 2015 while the global economy grew. When the Paris Agreement took effect in December 2015, the world took an important step toward avoiding the most dangerous impacts of climate change. But Paris alone is not enough to avoid average global surface temperature increases that climate scientists say are very risky — additional policies that reduce CO2 emissions are needed, in the United States and elsewhere, to ensure that these damages are avoided.
Moreover, as we consider the interaction of climate change mitigation policies and the economy, it is important to remember that the counterfactual to serious mitigation is not free – the absence (or even delay of effective climate policy can be very costly over time. The figure below graphs estimates of the annual economic damages from climate change, expressed as a fraction of global gross domestic product (GDP), from mid- to late-century, under different climate policy scenarios. We can think of this as a “climate damage cost” that world nations will pay each year as the climate changes, in terms of lost economic output. This cost includes impacts of increased temperature on agricultural productivity, sea level rise, and deaths and illnesses related to heat, pollution and tropical diseases. In the reference curve (in blue), no action is taken to address climate change. Each of the other curves incorporate different assumptions about how much emissions mitigation the world will achieve, and how quickly. If countries meet their individual nationally-determined contributions (INDCs) agreed to in Paris and go no further, moving the world from the blue to the purple curve, we can avoid significant economic damages. To move to the red curve, countries must meet the Paris INDCs and continue to decarbonize beyond 2030 at about the same rate represented in the INDCs. If we achieve net-zero global GHG emissions in 2080, we can reduce climate damage impacts on the level of global GDP from more than 4 percent to less than 1 percent by 2100.
Failing to make investments in climate change mitigation could leave the global economy, and the U.S. economy, worse off in the future. And the estimates graphed above are uncertain and may be conservative; they do not account for damages that are difficult to monetize (such as increases in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather), or for the possibility that we may cross critical greenhouse gas concentration thresholds that cause catastrophic damages (such as the melting of Greenland ice sheets and associated sea-level rise), or for the chance that climate change will reduce the rate of economic growth in some countries, rather than just the level of output.
We may have become used to reading about the predicted physical impacts of climate change, like inundated coasts and lower crop production. But the economic impacts, and their fiscal consequences, will be severe, as well. For example, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget recently estimated that a reduction in annual global economic output of 4 percent—well within the range of what economic models suggest could happen by 2100 without further climate action—could translate to lost U.S. federal tax revenue of $340 to $690 billion per year (about 0.5 percent of expected U.S. GDP in 2100).
In deciding how much to reduce carbon pollution, and how quickly to act, countries must weigh the costs of policy action against estimates of avoided climate damages. But we should be clear-eyed about the fact that effective action is possible, and that the economic and fiscal costs of inaction are steep.