Climate change will wreck economic growth, major government report says

Climate change is a threat to Americans’ health and the country’s economic well-being, a major report issued Friday by 13 federal agencies said.

“Without substantial and sustained global mitigation and regional adaptation efforts, climate change is expected to cause growing losses to American infrastructure and property and impede the rate of economic growth over this century,” wrote the authors of the Fourth National Climate Assessment Volume II.

‘With continued growth in emissions at historic rates, annual losses in some economic sectors are projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century — more than the current gross domestic product (GDP) of many U.S. states.’


— Fourth National Climate Assessment Volume II

The report, authored by more than 300 experts, spells out a litany of impacts linked to climate change, including problems with human health, water quality, agriculture, tourism, and infrastructure.

Flooding will decrease crop yields, warming oceans will slow the shellfish industry, and heat stress will cause a drop in dairy production, the authors wrote, describing just a few of the economic effects.

If people don’t take action to lessen its effects, climate change is expected to affect import and export prices and U.S. businesses with overseas operations and supply chains, the report notes. “With continued growth in emissions at historic rates, annual losses in some economic sectors are projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century — more than the current gross domestic product (GDP) of many U.S. states,” the authors wrote.

Don’t miss: Climate change has already cost the government $350 billion—here’s how much it will cost you

The timing of the report’s release on Friday raised questions about whether the government was trying to bury the news on a day when some 164 million Americans were expected to be shopping for Black Friday deals either at stores or online.

“No matter how hard they try, the Trump administration can’t bury the effects of climate change in a Black Friday news dump — effects their own federal government scientists have uncovered,” said U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island and a vocal advocate of taking action to address climate change. “This report shows how climate change will affect every single one of our communities.”

The report comes as California has suffered its deadliest wildfires ever, and much of the East Coast is still recovering from an intense hurricane season.

“There’s no place you can hide from climate change in America today or tomorrow, the effects are everywhere,” said Benjamin Strauss, CEO and chief scientist at the New Jersey nonprofit Climate Central. “Whether it’s increasing wildfires in the West, increasing downpours in the East, or anything in between, we are already seeing climate changes effect quite clearly.”

Earth’s climate is changing faster than at any point in history of modern civilization, and that’s largely the result of human activity, the authors wrote in the report’s introduction. That idea is at odds with those who say climate change is either a hoax, or not related to human activity.

President Donald Trump questioned climate change this week, noting in a tweet that temperatures were at record lows. “Brutal and Extended Cold Blast could shatter ALL RECORDS – Whatever happened to Global Warming?” Trump wrote on Wednesday. One scientist criticized the comment as further evidence that the president shouldn’t be “taken seriously” when he discusses climate change.

A 2017 report by the U.S. Government Accounting Office found that climate change had cost U.S. taxpayers some $350 billion over the previous decade.

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Leslie Albrecht is a personal finance reporter based in New York. She worked previously as a local news reporter at the New York City neighborhood news website DNAinfo, and as a reporter at the Modesto Bee and Merced Sun-Star, two McClatchy newspapers in California’s Central Valley. She is a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Follow her on Twitter at @ReporterLeslie.

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