Climate change will cost the U.S. economy hundreds of billions of dollars

Cristina Cross
November 26, 2018

The United States is already feeling the heat from climate change - and the damage could cost hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of century if more preventive measures aren't taken now, a new federal report has found. On a press call, officials suggested the new release date was timed so the report would come ahead of two important climate-related conferences in December: the United Nations climate change conference in Poland and the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

The tragic Camp Fire in California serves as a stark illustration of how climate change is loading the dice for more extreme events that devastate people, homes and the economy.

That is despite the fact an overwhelming majority of climate scientists around the globe agree that the burning of fossil fuels drives global warming, and is leading to rising seas, flooding, droughts, and more frequent powerful storms. The changes highlighted in the report "threaten the health and wellbeing of the American people" and "further disrupt many areas of life, exacerbating existing challenges and revealing new risks", says David Easterling, a report author and scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

US President Donald Trump dismissed last year's report, and just this week appeared to confuse weather with climate change when he tweeted: "Brutal and Extended Cold Blast could shatter ALL RECORDS - Whatever happened to Global Warming?"

The federal report is mandated by law.

That includes worsening air pollution causing heart and lung problems, more diseases from insects, the potential for a jump in deaths duringheat waves, and nastier allergies.

"The message is loud, clear and undeniable: climate impacts are here and growing, World Resources Institute US Director Dan Lashof told IANS".

Nevertheless, such a best case-scenario will still leave Americans in a country where they are paying tens of billions of dollar more annually to address the fallout of accelerating climate change.

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Achieving either of these temperature targets will require transformations in many aspects of our society, including the way we use and produce energy, the way we grow and consume food, and how we transport ourselves.

For example, the report predicts that in the years from 2070-2099, the USA will see 20% more precipitation in winter and spring for the north central U.S., and a 20% decrease in the southwest in spring.

"With continued growth in emissions at historic rates, annual losses in some economic sectors are projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century - more than the current gross domestic product of many U.S. states", according to the report.

"Decisions made today determine risk exposure for current and future generations and will either broaden or limit options to reduce the negative consequences of climate change", reads the report.

But despite these ominous predictions, Light said the report gives us reasons for hope as well. But if we continue business-as-usual (and don't change our energy or agriculture systems to emit less heat-trapping greenhouse gases), the average temperature could go up by as much as 11 degrees by the end of this century. Legacy power technologies, such as water-cooled power plants, will continue to work for decades, however, and will be less effective as temperatures make cooling sources too hot.

The studies clash with policy under Trump, who has been rolling back Obama-era environmental and climate protections to maximise production of domestic fossil fuels, including crude oil, already the highest in the world, above Saudi Arabia and Russian Federation. And mankind is to blame: "It is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century", reads the report.

"The impacts of climate change are already being felt in communities across the country".

"There are no credible alternative human or natural explanations supported by the observational evidence", the report says.

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