Climate change will cost US billions of dollars, says govt report
26 November 2018
A US government report has said climate change will affect the United States most as it will affect everything from farm to infrastructure and cost the US economy hundreds of billions of dollars - and, in the worst-case scenario, more than 10 per cent of its GDP -- by the end of the century.
The Trump administration that dumped the United Nation’s climate action report and declined to support a global initiative to bring down global warming, however, said the report issued on Friday is inaccurate.
The congressionally mandated report, written with the help of more than a dozen US government agencies and departments, stands in direct contrast with the Trump administration’s pro-fossil-fuels agenda.
“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 (GDP) of many U.S. states,” the report, the Fourth National Climate Assessment Volume II, said.
Global warming would disproportionately hurt the poor, broadly undermine human health, damage infrastructure, limit the availability of water, alter coastlines, and boost costs in industries from farming, to fisheries and energy production, the report said.
David Eastering, director of the Technical Support Unit at the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, emphasised that there was "no external interference in the report's development." He added that the climate change the Earth is experiencing is unlike any other.
"The global average temperature is much higher and is rising more rapidly than anything modern civilization has experienced, and this warming trend can only be explained by human activities," Easterling said.
The Fourth National Climate Assessment report was compiled by US Global Change Research Programme - a team of 13 federal agencies – that put together 1,000 people, including 300 leading scientists.
It's the second of two volumes; the first one, released in November 2017, concluded that there is "no convincing alternative explanation" for the changing climate other than "human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases."
President Donald Trump, who was consistent in his stance against the UN climate action report, on Wednesday tweeted, “Whatever happened to Global Warming? as some Americans faced the coldest Thanksgiving in over a century.
Humans are living with the warmest temperatures in modern history. Even in the best-case scenario greenhouse gas emissions were to drop to nothing, the world is on track to warm 1.1 degrees Fahrenheit.
As of now, not a single G20 country is meeting climate targets, research shows.
Without significant reductions in greenhouse emissions, the annual average global temperature could increase 9 degrees Fahrenheit (5 Celsius) or more by the end of this century, compared with preindustrial temperatures, the report says.
According to the report, the US Southeast alone will probably lose over a half a billion labor hours by 2100 due to extreme heat.
Farmers will face extremely tough times. The quality and quantity of their crops will decline across the country due to higher temperatures, drought and flooding. In parts of the Midwest, farms will be able to produce less than 75 per cent of the corn they produce today, and the southern part of the region could lose more than 25 per cent of its soybean yield.
Heat stress could cause average dairy production to fall between 0.60 per cent and 1.35 per cent over the next 12 years -- having already cost the industry $1.2 billion from heat stress in 2010.
Higher temperatures will also kill more people, the report says. The Midwest alone, which is predicted to have the largest increase in extreme temperature, will see an additional 2,000 premature deaths per year by 2090.
There will be more mosquito- and tickborne diseases like Zika, dengue and chikungunya. West Nile cases are expected to more than double by 2050 due to increasing temperatures.
Wildfires could burn up to six times more forest area annually by 2050 in parts of the United States. Burned areas in Southwestern California alone could double by 2050.
Rising temperatures will threaten dependable and safe water for the Hawaii, the Caribbean and others.
Along the US coasts, public infrastructure and $1 trillion in national wealth held in real estate are threatened by rising sea levels, flooding and storm surges.
Energy systems will be taxed, meaning more blackouts and power failures, and the potential loss in some sectors could reach hundreds of billions of dollars per year by the end of the century, the report said.
The number of days over 100 degrees Fahrenheit will multiply; Chicago, where these days are rare, could start to resemble Phoenix or Las Vegas, with up to two months worth of these scorching-hot days.
Sea levels have already gone up 7 to 8 inches since 1900. Almost half that rise has been since 1993, a rate of rise greater than during any century in the past 2,800 years. Some countries are already seeing land underwater.
By midcentury, it's likely that the Arctic will lose all sea ice in late summer, and that could lead to more permafrost thaw, according to the report. As the permafrost thaws, more carbon dioxide and methane would be released, amplifying human-induced warming, "possibly significantly."
The report was created to inform policy-makers and makes no specific recommendations on how to remedy the problem. However, it suggests that if the United States immediately reduced its fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions, it could save thousands of lives and generate billions of dollars in benefits for the country.