How Unchecked Climate Change Will Impact the US Economy

(3BL Media/Justmeans) — The biggest obstacle standing in the way of prioritized, coordinated, effective action against cataclysmic climate instability over the coming years and decades is the US Republican party. These individuals and their ideological followers stand in defiance of reason, science and a global consensus on the need for urgent action in the name of protecting the fortunes of their patrons.

Since the only criteria that this group deems worth considering are economic, this newly released report jointly authored by distinguished faculty from Rutgers, Berkeley, Princeton and the University of Chicago could potentially attract their attention. The report, “Estimating Economic Damage from Climate Change in the United States,” integrates climate science, econometric analyses, and process models “to construct spatially explicit, probabilistic, and empirically derived estimates of economic damage in the United States from climate change.” In other words, these are deeply researched projections of what this is going to actually cost us, in dollars and cents terms. These results are quite dramatic

According to the analysis, published in the journal Science, “the combined value of market and nonmarket damage across analyzed sectors—agriculture, crime, coastal storms, energy, human mortality, and labor—increases quadratically in global mean temperature, costing roughly 1.2% of gross domestic product per +1°C on average.” Here in the US, today, that would be equivalent to $223 billion or about 37% of last year’s military budget per degree.

What quadratically means, is that the economic impact is proportional to the temperature increase squared. That means that damages associated with a three-degree increase would be nine times higher than a one degree rise, etc.

The team used state-of-the-art statistical methods and 116 climate projections developed by scientists around the world to price the real-world costs and benefits focusing on areas such as: agriculture, crime, health, energy demand, labor and coastal communities, and how they will be affected by higher temperatures, changing rainfall, rising seas and intensifying hurricanes.

This is not the first study showing that costs will be potentially very high. What’s new here is the revelation that poorer areas, both states and counties, will be disproportionately impacted. For example, by the end of this century, the poorest third of all counties, could experience economic damage equivalent to as much as 20% of their income. A number of maps contained in the report show highly disproportionate impacts across the Southeast into the lower Midwest in areas such as mortality, energy expenditures, coastal damage, and total direct damages. A few categories, such as agricultural yield, showed increases across the upper Northwest into the Northern Plains states, while at the same time showing severe decreases in southern Texas, Louisiana, Arizona, as well as Iowa, eastern Kansas and Missouri.

There’s no small irony in the fact that a number of these areas that are projected to be hardest hit have exhibited strong support for the Trump administration and their anti-climate agenda.

According to lead author, Solomon Hsiang of the University of California, Berkeley, “Unmitigated climate change will be very expensive for huge regions of the United States. If we continue on the current path, our analysis indicates it may result in the largest transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich in the country's history."

Gulf Coast states will require investments to strengthen their resilience. Says co-author Professor Robert Kopp of Rutgers University, “exposure to sea-level rise—made worse by potentially stronger hurricanes—poses a major risk to its communities. Increasingly extreme heat will drive up violent crime, slow down workers, amp up air conditioning costs, and threaten people's lives."

What had previously been called “hidden costs” associated with climate change are no longer hidden, thanks in large measure to the availability of “big data,” which allowed 29,000 individual simulations to be run in order to paint a detailed picture of what the meteorological and financial future is likely to be.

Hopefully, this study will find its way into the hands of administration officials who, to date, have only been concerned with the costs of taking action, and not the costs of inaction, which are, as this paper clearly shows, considerably higher.