New report on climate change shows bleak future for U.S., world

06/24/2014 11:54 AM

06/24/2014 11:54 AM

A new report issued by George W. Bush’s former treasury secretary warns that the “U.S. faces significant and diverse economic risks from climate change.”

Hank Paulson, chair of the Paulson Institute, teamed up with former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and others to produce the report, saying business as we know it will be altered if climate change goes unchecked. Rising seas will claim shorelines in the U.S. and worldwide, storm damage will increase and extreme heat will be a fact of life.

The report is titled “Risky Business: The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States.” Agriculture production will be hurt, and higher temperatures will affect worker productivity and public health, the report notes. It projects conditions out to the hear 2100.

Midwestern and southern counties could see agricultural yields drop more than 10 percent in the next five to 25 years with the continued planting of corn, wheat soy and cotton “with a 1-in-20 chance of yield losses of these crops of more than 20 percent,” the report notes. In 15 years, higher sea levels and storm surge will increase the average annual cost of coastal storms on the Eastern Seaboard and the Gulf of Mexico by $2 billion to $3.5 billion.

With potential hurricane activity, the increase in annual losses could be up to $7.3 billion. The total annual price for hurricanes and other coastal storms could grow to $35 billion because of climate change.

The numbers seem extreme, but the credibility of the people behind the report should be enough to make climate change deniers pay attention.

By 2050, $66 billion to $106 billion in “existing coastal property will likely be below sea level nationwide with $238 billion to $507 billion worth of property below sea level by 2100.” By the end of this century, more than $701 billion of additional property will be at risk during high tide.

By mid-century, the average American will likely experience 27 to 50 days above 95 degrees every year — two to three times the average annual number of 95 degrees days that we’ve experienced in the past 30 years. By the end of the century it will likely grow to 45 to 96 days above 95 degrees.

“Over the longer term, during portions of the year, extreme heat could surpass the threshold at which the human body can no longer maintain a normal core temperature without air conditioning,” the report says. That will cause an increase demand for electricity production, necessitating construction of up to 95 gigawatts of new power generation capacity in the next five to 25 years. That’s the equivalent of 200 average coal or natural gas-fired power plants “costing residential and commercial ratepayers up to $12 billion per year.”

But that would only add to the global warming problem. “With this report, we call on the American business community to rise to the challenge and lead the way in helping reduce climate risks,” the report says.

“This is only a first step, but it’s a step toward getting America on a new path leading to a more secure, more certain economic future.”

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