“It’s the Economy, Stupid”

Drought

On Black Friday (#ClimateFriday), Volume II of the National Climate Assessment was released (Volume I came out in 2017). The Natural Resource Defense Council calls it the most definitive report ever compiled on climate change in America. Once again, blink and it was easy to miss.

This report was mandated by Congress in 1990–in a 100-to-0 vote(!!)–to be delivered every four years by the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) to Congress and the President. The USGCRP was proposed in Reagan’s final budget and established during Bush 1’s administration.

More than 300 experts compiled the report, which was reviewed by more than 1,000 people in the scientific, business and public interest communities. Thirteen federal agencies helped author it, including NOAA, NASA, the EPA, the Department of Defense, the Pentagon and the State Department.

The report is more than a wake-up call, it’s a tally of the damage that’s already been done by a swiftly changing climate: billions of dollars in costs resulting from intensifying disasters like crop failure, fires, hurricanes and floods, the scale and frequency of which have never been seen before.

“Climate change puts many things Americans care about at risk, both now and in the future, and risks will intensify without action,” the report states. “Many options are available to reduce risks, and choices made today will determine the magnitude of future risks.”

Unlike the previous report I mentioned by the IPCC, this one was more focused on humanity’s role in extreme weather and how continued climate change will play out in terms of costs.

This is the report I like to call, “It’s the economy, stupid.” It puts dollar amounts on changing nothing. While making expensive changes to our energy grids and transportation methods now definitely sounds like a pain in the wallet, it’s just spending NOW vs. much more later. It’s in our economic self-interest down the road to cut greenhouse gases.

According to the report, climate change will cost the U.S. $500 billion per year in today’s dollars by 2100 if we stay on our current trajectory. Health care costs, infrastructure damage, agricultural failures and import/export prices (George Costanza’s favorite) are the primary contributors.

The authors recommend 3 primary solutions: carbon taxing; the government capping allowable greenhouse emissions; and researching clean energy with public funds.

Needless to say, but I’ll mention it anyway, radically cutting our greenhouse emissions makes more than economic sense. It will be saving the lives of future people (including ourselves) affected by food and water shortages, pollution, insect-borne diseases, heat stroke, and natural disasters.

Win-win!

Cover photo: Wikimedia Commons, by Jorge Franganillo

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