On Friday, when families in the United States were still recuperating from Thanksgiving dinners, the federal government decided to release a detailed report on how climate change will change our lives over the coming century.
The Trump Administration was required to release the National Climate Assessment by law, but the report itself wasn’t due until December. It's been speculated that the decision to release a damning climate change report on the annual shopping extravaganza of Black Friday was an intentional effort to suppress its findings.
The report focuses on the devastating impact climate change will have on the U.S. economy in the coming decades. In particular, it finds that climate change will likely cost the U.S. hundreds of billions of dollars per year if it fails to curb green house gas emissions.
The snowballing costs are the consequence of dozens of combined factors, all the result of global warming. For instance, warming temperatures, droughts, and flooding in the Midwest will devastate crops, crippling farms across the region. By the end of the century, corn and soybean yields could fall by 25 percent, the report found.
Droughts impacting the agricultural sector will also make life harder for millions of Americans who don’t have easy access to drinking water. Water shortages in many parts of the country will become more common, leading to a multitude of difficulties stemming from prolonged droughts. According to the report, climate change is primed to throttle multiple sectors of the economy: “Regional economies and industries that depend on natural resources and favorable climate conditions, such as agriculture, tourism, and fisheries, are increasingly vulnerable to impacts driven by climate change. Reliable and affordable energy supplies, which underpin virtually every sector of the economy, are increasingly at risk from climate change and weather extremes."
As if that wasn’t enough, climate change will make disasters like hurricanes and wildfires more common. The cost of any one of these disasters can reach into the billions, and with multiple disasters happening nearly every year, the cleanup costs will quickly skyrocket. According to the report-which cited a 2017 study published in Science probing the effects of climate change on the economy-the US GDP will recede by 1.2 percent for every 1 degree celsius increase in the global temperature. According to the research, this means annual losses stretching into the hundreds of billions.
While the economic costs of climate change will be severe, the cost to human life might be even worse. Rising temperatures mean disease-carrying mosquitoes will range further north, and more people could be exposed to Zika, dengue, and West Nile. Food borne diseases-like the current outbreak of E. coli affecting romaine lettuce-will also occur more frequently. With more people suffering from these diseases, healthcare costs will conceivably skyrocket.
None of this is particularly surprising: Scientists and other climate change experts have predicted most of these effects before, and the report merely adds to the already huge body of research attesting to the realities of human-induced climate change. The value of this report is in confirming those predictions and providing details, like precise estimates of how much money we’ll waste and how many lives will be lost as a consequence.
Avery Thompson, From Popular Mechanics