National Journal’s Coral Davenport has written a wide-ranging new piece laying out the myriad ways climate change, driven by human carbon emissions, is threatening the American economy. The point is backed up by myriad scientific reports: The draft of the upcoming Fifth Assessment report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change determined that, by more than a 95 percent probability, human activities are to blame over half the observed increase in the global average surface temperature since the 1950s.
The draft of the Federal Advisory Committee’s Climate Assessment Report concluded that most of the United States is in for 9 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit of warming given the current path carbon emissions are following, with with ever-worsening extreme weather, sea-level rise, heat waves, deluges, droughts, storms, flooding, and ocean acidification as the result.
Using specific stories ranging from Norfolk, Virginia, to Netarts Bay in Oregon, to St. Louis, Missouri, Davenport illustrates the ways these impending upheavals in the climate and ecosystems can and already are undermining Americans’ chances of recovering from the Great Recession — or of prospering in future decades.
The Economic Costs Of Extreme Weather
Globally, extreme weather and climate change are already shaving 1.6 percent off worldwide gross domestic product — or about $1.2 trillion per year — according to a study by DARA. By 2030, it will be up 3.2 percent of global GDP, costing the United States over 2 percent of its GDP and India over 5 percent.
In the U.S. specifically, the heat waves and droughts that continue to sweep through Texas, Oklahoma and the Midwest have driven crop yields down a food prices up, resulting in record payouts for crop-insurance claims. Davenport cites a 2011 study by the consulting firm Mercer that warned climate change could increase investment-portfolio risk by 10 percent over the next two decades, by disrupting supply chains.
The country is suffering larger and more frequent wildfires, storms are damaging infrastructure and causing power outages and fuel-price spikes, and relief aid for Superstorm Sandy alone cost the federal government over $60 billion:
2011 and 2012 were the two most extreme years on record for destructive weather events. A record 14 weather disasters occurred in 2011, sustaining more than $1 billion each in economic losses for a total of $60.6 billion. Last year brought 11 weather disasters that each cost $1 billion or more; while the total economic loss has not been determined, experts say the dollar figure is almost certain to exceed 2011’s. Meanwhile, the insurance industry estimates that its losses from 2012’s natural disasters will total $58 billion—more than double the average yearly losses of $27 billion from 2000 to 2011.
Alternating droughts and floods have even disrupted shipping traffic on the Mississippi River, and lowered water levels on the Great Lakes have raised shipping companies’ costs by an average of up to 22 percent.
Ocean Acidification And The Marine Industries