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Climate change: Humans are ruining their own habitat, Yahoo Finance's Rick Newman says

Yahoo Finance's Rick Newman reacts to the New York Times's "Postcards From A World On Fire" and comments on the messaging and legislation behind addressing a topic as large as climate change.

Video Transcript

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Well, while most of us can agree that climate change is real, our senior columnist, Rick Newman, is questioning whether some talk about climate change is really more alarmist than it deserves to be. He joins us now with what he calls climate change mistakes. And Rick, I can almost hear them tweeting at you right now. I want to begin with the piece sort of you're taking issue with, which is this "New York Times" piece. They recently published something called Postcards from a World on Fire. Tell us why that sort of got you going.

RICK NEWMAN: Well, this is a terrific piece of reporting on how climate change is causing problems in 193 different countries. But that phrase in the headline, "a world on fire," that was accompanied by this image of a spinning globe that is just in flames and spewing smoke. It reminded me of the Twin Towers on 9/11 right before they fell. There, you can see the image. That bothered me because I think almost anybody who stepped outside right now and looked around would say, huh, the world doesn't seem like it's on fire to me.

And, you know, I've been following climate change and reporting and talking and interviewing climate scientists. Some of the reporting on what's happening here says we're ruining the Earth. We're wrecking the planet. I think we just need to be clear about what's really happening here. Climate change is very real. Global warming is approaching crisis levels, but we're not ruining the planet. What we're ruining is our own habitat, the habitat humans live in and the habitat that many other creatures are living in.

There's a big difference because if we do completely wreck our own habitat and we go extinct, guess what? The Earth will continue to orbit the sun, and the Earth is still going to be here. And perhaps it will regenerate life in some other way. So to my mind, this distinction is important because when you get too alarmist about things like this, people just become skeptical, and they tune it out. And we need to mobilize a lot more public support for the funding and the investments we're going to have to make to really address climate change. And I don't think it's helpful to tell people that something is happening that's not actually happening.

KARINA MITCHELL: Hey, and Rick, I want to ask you. You know, maybe freaking out isn't the best way forward, but how about something like a carbon tax?

RICK NEWMAN: It usually is--

KARINA MITCHELL: Is that part of the solution?

RICK NEWMAN: Absolutely. So let's look at what President Biden wants to do. He wants to do the most of any president. And he's calling for about $300 billion to $400 billion in new spending in his Build Back Better program that would address climate change. That's nowhere near enough. I mean, reasonable estimates on the scale of this problem say we're going to need something like $5 trillion in green energy investments worldwide every year. That's every year, $5 trillion every year.

And if you just apportioned the US amount of that, that would be about $700 billion per year based on our share of global GDP. No one is even talking about that spending or investment at that scale. Now some of that is private investment. It's not all taxpayer money. But even that private investment is going to do-- require policy changes that we haven't even walked up to yet.

So we are only beginning to address climate change. And if we're really going to do something about it, it's going to take a massive global effort that we're not even close to yet. So this is going to be really expensive if we're going to do anything about it. And I think it's really important to give people a realistic understanding of what's happening, and not tell them that the whole world is on fire right now because it's not.