By the Blouin News Business staff

Climate change and its toll on the U.S. economy

by in U.S..

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks as he unveils a climate plan June 25, 2013. AFP/Getty Images

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks as he unveils a climate plan June 25, 2013. AFP/Getty Images

What measurable impacts on the United States’ current assets and ongoing economic activity will climate change have? Some of them are visible today and will be palpable tomorrow, such as the current drought in California – among the worst in its history – which will likely burn thousands of agricultural jobs and will push food prices higher this year (the large state produces nearly half of the nation’s fruits and vegetables). Some of the impacts are measurable already and have left a high toll on the economy such as hurricane Sandy in 2012 which cost the country $65 billion.

As confronting global warming is among today’s top economic imperatives, business and policy leaders from around the country are raising flags that the worst is yet to come. A new report, titled Risky Business and commissioned by a group chaired by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Secretary of the Treasury (under George W. Bush’s presidency) Henry Paulson sheds some light on the gloomy outlook. Some of the haunting predictions included in the report say:

  • the annual price tag for property losses from hurricanes and other coastal storms is $35 billion in the U.S.
  • some Midwestern and Southern counties could see a decline in yields of more than 10% over the next 5 to 25 years should they continue to sow corn, wheat, soy and cotton, with a 1-in-20 chance of yield losses of these crops of more than 20%.
  • residential and commercial ratepayers will pay up to $12 billion per year for electricity due to greenhouse gas-driven changes in temperature.

The paper, a climate risk assessment for the United States, “uses a standard risk assessment approach to determine the range of potential consequences for each region of the U.S. – as well as for selected sectors of the economy – if we continue on our current path”  and focuses on climate impacts from today out to the year 2100.

Key findings in the report underscore the reality that if we stay on our current emissions path, our climate risks will multiply and accumulate as the decades tick by. Among the top risks the largest economy in the world faces from the changing climate are:

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It’s clear that climate change affects key sectors and regions of any national economy and the global one. Not recognizing such a reality and acting effectively soon would push the U.S. atop the list of countries most damnified. President Barack Obama’s mission to cut greenhouse gas emissions is a way to start. A delay in not acting means future generations “will be stuck paying off the cumulative interest on the greenhouse gas emissions we’re putting into the atmosphere now, with no possibility of actually paying down that ’emissions principal.'” It’s the route to follow for a more secure and more certain economic future.