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Climate report suggests the US economy will lose hundreds of billions

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trump visits paradise camp fire
From
left to right: California Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom, Gov. Jerry
Brown, Paradise Mayor Jody Jones, President Donald Trump, and
FEMA Administrator Brock Long tour the Skyway Villa Mobile Home
and RV Park during Trump’s visit of the Camp Fire in Paradise,
California on Saturday, November 17, 2018.

Paul Kitagaki Jr./The Sacramento Bee via AP,
Pool


  • A new report analyzes the impacts climate change is having in
    the US now, and what the country could look like by 2100.
  • The findings are dire, predicting severe sea-level rise, more
    insect-borne disease, and big increases in precipitation.
  • The report is mandated by a 1990 law, and some experts
    believe the Trump administration’s decision to release it on
    Black Friday was an attempt to hide these stark realities.

On Black Friday, as many Americans were shopping or spending time
with family, the Trump administration published a major report on
climate change.

The study, called the National Climate Assessment, is the
fourth in an ongoing series mandated by a 1990 law. It looks at
how climate change is affecting the US now and what the country
might look like by the end of the century.

The findings are dire.

The researchers found that the average temperature in
the US rose 1.2 degrees Fahrenheit from 1951-2010, and an
additional 2 degrees more is inevitable by 2050. 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. 

Sea levels on US coasts have already risen about 9 inches,
but 
we could see as much as 6 feet by 2100. About $1
trillion of wealth in coastal real estate could be threatened.

Deaths from heat-related causes are projected to increase,
as are the frequency and severity of allergic illnesses like
asthma. Changing temperatures will also expand the geographic
range of disease-carrying insects like ticks and mosquitoes,
leaving more people at risk of getting Lyme disease, Zika, West
Nile, and dengue. 

All of these changes, and the many others projected —
including more severe storms, changes in growing seasons, and
impacts on infrastructure — could majorly hurt the
economy.

“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 US
states,” the report says.

What the data shows

Over 300 scientists and other experts from academia, government,
non-profits, and the private sector helped write the
assessment. 

Andrew Light, a senior fellow at the World Resources Institute,
worked on the chapter focusing on mitigation. What’s
different about this report from the last one, he told Business
Insider, is how much clearer and more precise scientists are able
to get about the US-specific consequences of climate change.

“We can now say with more accuracy that by the end of the
century, the difference between the United States in a world
where we have achieved something like the goals that we undertook
for temperature stabilization in the Paris agreement and one
where we don’t is tens of thousands of lives lost annually and
potentially hundreds of billions of dollars lost annually,” he
said.


Miami flood sea level rise
Flooding
is seen on city streets in Miami Beach, Florida on November 5,
2013.

Zachary
Fagenson/Reuters


For example, the report predicts that in the years from
2070–2099, the US will see 20% more precipitation in winter and
spring for the north central US, and a 20% decrease in the
southwest in spring. And the area burned by
lightning-ignited wildfires each year is expected to increase by
at least 30% by 2060.

But the report doesn’t just make projections about changes that
may occur decades from now; it attributes trends and disasters
that we’re already seeing today to climate change as well. 

“With climate science now, we can tell you today how climate
change is impacting the world and the United States in particular
regions. We are better able to say that yes, particular extreme
weather events, the wildfires that are going on in California —
there is a climate change component to all of these things,”
Light said.

For example, the heaviest rainfall from intense storms,
including hurricanes, is 6% to 7% higher than it would have been
a century ago.


paradise california camp fire wildfire burned cars road stephen lam reuters 2018 11 09T221308Z_851036266_RC1741A3FA90_RTRMADP_3_CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES.JPG
The
Camp Fire left behind burned cars on the side of a road in
Paradise, California.


Stephen
Lam/Reuters



Why publish this on Black Friday?

The report was originally slated to be published in December, but
the Trump administration decided to publish it on Black Friday
instead — a day when many Americans are off work and spending
time with family, and therefore paying less attention to news and
politics. 

Light said it’s impossible not to conclude that the timing is
intended to hide the report from public view.

“Making an announcement on Friday is called taking out the trash.
This is not just taking out the trash, it’s trying to burn it,
bury it, scatter it to the four winds,” he said. “This
administration does not want anyone to understand that this
report is coming out. They don’t want people to come to the
absolutely reasonable conclusion that it contravenes everything
that this administration is doing on climate change. And that’s a
shame, because this should not be a partisan issue. This is a
public health crisis.”

With regard to human health, in fact, the report found that the
annual health impacts and costs would be approximately 50% lower
in a scenario in which we reduce emissions and limit global
warming than they would in a business-as-usual scenario.

‘There is a growing and increasing market for getting on the
right side’ of climate change

But despite these ominous predictions, Light said the report
gives us reasons for hope as well. 

“There is abundant evidence that this is not a negative-cost
proposition, that you can make tons of money, that there is a
growing and increasing market for getting on the right side of
pricing the pollution and then selling the alternatives to
high-carbon energy sources,” he said. 

That evidence includes the fact that, according to the US
Bureau of Labor Statistics
, the two fastest growing
professions in the US are in the renewable energy sector:
solar photovoltaic installers and wind turbine service
technicians.


Block Island Install_02 (credit Deepwater Wind   GE) (Blade2 24)
The Block Island Wind
Farm, which began operating in 2016, was the US’ first commercial
offshore wind farm.

Deepwater
Wind/GE


There is also growing interest in the tech community around ways
to suck carbon dioxide out of the air. Y Combinator, the largest
startup accelerator in Silicon Valley, put out a request in
October for companies working on such technologies.

“This is where markets are going. This is the new set of
technologies that people are starting to pay attention to,” Kate
Gordon, a fellow at Columbia’s Center on Global Energy
Policy, told Business Insider last month. “Otherwise we’ll be
buying it from somebody else, because someone’s going to do it.”

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