Written by Kalen Pruss, intern with the Energy Opportunity team at the Center for American Progress and a junior at the University of Michigan majoring in environmental studies and history, and Brad Johnson.
Our pollution-based economy threatens California with tens of billions of dollars in global boiling damages a year, a new report has found. To block plans for a clean energy economy, opponents are lying about the costs of change, but they — and the mainstream media — typically ignore the tremendous costs of inaction. A draft report by the California Climate Action Team (CAT) consolidates dozens of scientific research papers in a groundbreaking attempt to gauge the economic risks of unmitigated climate change. The biennial report argues for aggressive and immediate action for a green recovery, concluding that “any delay” in changing the status quo puts California’s “economic stability” at risk.
The Climate Action Team found that California is even more vulnerable to global warming harms than previously thought. Greenhouse gas emissions are currently outstripping 2006 projections, exacerbating the already significant costs created from climate change. Linda Adams, Secretary for Environmental Protection and Chair of the state’s CAT, concluded that “any delay in fighting global warming” puts her state’s economy in danger:
Any delay in fighting global warming would be detrimental to our economic stability — costing us billions of dollars and dampening the state’s most important economic sectors.
The impending costs of damages from inaction include:
— Rising sea levels: Sea levels could rise 11 – 18 inches by 2050, and 23 to 55 inches by 2100, from 2000 levels. The cost of replacing at-risk property could reach $100 billion, while building and maintaining seawalls and levees to protect vulnerable areas would cost $15.4 billion.
— Wild fires: Increased risk of wild fires could total $2 billion per year by mid-century, and up to $14 billion per year by 2100. Forests would burn at twice their current rate by 2085. California spent $1 billion fighting forest fires in 2008.
— Skyrocketing energy demand: Increased use of air conditioning due to higher temperatures would cost an additional $1.6 – $10.2 billion annually by 2100, more than offsetting any reduction in reduced heating costs.
— Diminishing agricultural returns: Water loss would greatly reduce the irrigated crop area in the Central Valley, resulting in declining yields that could cost farmers $3 billion annually by 2050.
— Widespread drought: Southern California could become up to 15% drier, and urban water scarcity could cost up to $427 million annually by 2085.
It is still possible to avert disaster. The report concluded that “climate change will impose substantial costs to Californians in the order of tens of billions of dollars annually, but that costs will be substantially lower if global emissions are curtailed” to a low-emissions scenario. The corporate beneficiaries of the status-quo pollution economy and their conservative allies are falsifying and exaggerating the cost of change. Their economic fearmongering would in reality saddle Americans with billions of dollars in global boiling damages.
Download the Climate Action Team draft report.