Published on: November 26, 2018
The US Government - specifically more than a dozen federal agencies, ranging from the Department of Agriculture to the National Science Foundation, including a team of more than 300 experts and guided by a a 60-member National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee - published a major report, as required by law, documenting and updating the impact of climate change, with a specific emphasis on the economic implications.Bloomberg
explains that “the fourth U.S. National Climate Assessment since 2000 (the last one was in 2014) … departs from predecessors in that it focuses on money, and how much of it America stands to lose to climate change. The costs assessed range from household expenses to the availability and pricing of food, energy and other goods people use in modern society … The report catalogs the observed damage and accelerating financial losses projected for a climate now unmoored from a 12,000-year period of relative stability. The result is that much of what humans have built, and many of the things they are building now, are unsuited to the world as it exists. And as time goes on, the added cost of living in that world could total hundreds of billions of dollars—annually.”
The New York Times
characterizes the report this way: “In direct language, the 1,656-page assessment lays out the devastating effects of a changing climate on the economy, health and environment, including record wildfires in California, crop failures in the Midwest and crumbling infrastructure in the South. Going forward, American exports and supply chains could be disrupted, agricultural yields could fall to 1980s levels by midcentury and fire season could spread to the Southeast, the report finds … All told, the report says, climate change could slash up to a tenth of gross domestic product by 2100, more than double the losses of the Great Recession a decade ago.”
Here’s one of the money passages from the report:
“In the absence of significant global mitigation action and regional adaptation efforts, rising temperatures, sea level rise, and changes in extreme events are expected to increasingly disrupt and damage critical infrastructure and property, labor productivity, and the vitality of our communities. Regional economies and industries that depend on natural resources and favorable climate conditions, such as agriculture, tourism, and fisheries, are vulnerable to the growing impacts of climate change.
“Rising temperatures are projected to reduce the efficiency of power generation while increasing energy demands, resulting in higher electricity costs. The impacts of climate change beyond our borders are expected to increasingly affect our trade and economy, including import and export prices and U.S. businesses with overseas operations and supply chains. Some aspects of our economy may see slight near-term improvements in a modestly warmer world. However, the continued warming that is projected to occur without substantial and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions is expected to cause substantial net damage to the U.S. economy throughout this century, especially in the absence of increased adaptation efforts. 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.”
writes that “such disasters will temporarily shutter factories both in the United States and abroad, causing price spikes for products from apples to automotive parts, the scientists predicted. So much of the supply chain for American companies is overseas that almost no industry will be immune from the effects of climate change at home or abroad, the report says.”
coverage goes on: “The report puts the most precise price tags to date on the cost to the United States economy of projected climate impacts: $141 billion from heat-related deaths, $118 billion from sea level rise and $32 billion from infrastructure damage by the end of the century, among others … But the new report also emphasizes that the outcomes depend on how swiftly and decisively the United States and other countries take action to mitigate global warming. The authors put forth three main solutions: putting a price on greenhouse gas emissions, which usually means imposing taxes or fees on companies that release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere; establishing government regulations on how much greenhouse pollution can be emitted; and spending public money on clean-energy research.”
The other US agencies that are part of the US Global Change Research Program, which published the report, include the Department of Commerce, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of the Interior, Department of State, Department of Transportation, Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics & Space Administration, Smithsonian Institution, and the US Agency for International Development.
While all of these agencies are part of the government’s Executive Branch, the Trump Administration said upon its release that the findings were “‘largely based on the most extreme scenario’ of global warming and that the next assessment would provide an opportunity for greater balance.”
Critics of the administration observed that while it did not appear that any alterations of the report’s findings had taken place, it was telling that it had been released the day after Thanksgiving, when press and public attention were likely to be minimal. And, the Times
notes, the report “is notable not only for the precision of its calculations and bluntness of its conclusions, but also because its findings are directly at odds with President Trump’s agenda of environmental deregulation, which he asserts will spur economic growth. Mr. Trump has taken aggressive steps to allow more planet-warming pollution from vehicle tailpipes and power plant smokestacks, and has vowed to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement, under which nearly every country in the world pledged to cut carbon emissions.”